Bristol-Myers Squibb saw its net income for the first quarter of 2006 jump almost 32% to $714 million, or $0.36 a share.

Total sales climbed 3% to $4.68 billion, despite a 2% unfavourable currency exchange effect. Global pharmaceutical sales were up 3% at $3.7 billion, as a 17% increase in US sales buffered a 10% fall (including a 5% negative currency effect) in international revenues.

Sales in international markets were hit by increasing generic competition to the cholesterol-lowerer Pravachol (pravastatin), and just a few days ago Teva Pharmaceutical Industries became the first drugmaker to win US approval for its own copycat version of the drug.

But B-MS’ key growth drivers, both old and young, performed exceptionally well during the period, with the blood thinner Plavix (clopidogrel) leaping 21% to $986 million, the hypertension therapy Avapro/Avalide (irbesartan) increasing 19% to $233 million, the cancer drug Erbitux (cetuximab) rocketing 59% to $138 million, the antipsychotic Abilify (aripiprazole) jumping 51% to $283 million, and the HIV drug Reyataz (atazanavir) up 39% to $207 million.

“This was another solid quarter for Bristol-Myers Squibb, as we continued to grow our key products, execute our strategy and advance our pipeline,” said Peter Dolan, Chief Executive Officer of the firm.

But he predicted lower sales and profits for 2006, with earnings per share in the $1.15-$1.25 range, on increasing generic competition to Pravachol in the USA. Dolan said the company would return to 'sustainable' earnings and sales growth in 2007, helped by new rheumatoid arthritis treatment, Orencia (abatacept), which was launched in its first markets during the first quarter.

Sustiva filed in US

Meanwhile, B-MS and Gilead announced that they have filed their HIV pill Sustiva with US regulators.

Sustiva combines B-MS’ Sustiva (efavirenz) and Gilead’s Truvada (emtricitabine and tenofovir disoproxil fumarate) in a once-daily single tablet regimen.

If approved, Sustiva will be the first and only product that contains a complete Highly Active Antiretroviral Therapy (HAART) regimen in this dosing format, and has been designed to treat HIV-1 infection in adults as a complete regimen or in combination with other antiretrovirals, the firms noted.

The product was developed by co-formulating the antiretrovirals as individual layers in one tablet under a joint venture, the first of its kind in the area of HIV therapy, announced in December 2004.

Two earlier bioequivalence studies of the combination, reported in April and August 2005, failed to show that blood levels of the drugs were the same as if the products had been dosed individually, scuppering plans to file for approval of the new product. But, earlier this year, the companies said they had obtained new data supporting bioequivalence of a new fixed-dose combination treatment for HIV, prompting this filing with the Food and Drug Administration.