Bayer has posted a 63.1% rise in net income for the first quarter to 693 million euros, but the Leverkusen-based firm’s pharmaceutical sales were disappointing.

Earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortisation (and before special items) climbed 13.2% to 1.92 billion euros, while group turnover increased 5.3% to 8.32 billion euros. Sales at Bayer’s healthcare division were pretty much flat at 3.87 billion euros, and pharmaceutical revenues slipped 2.2% to 2.53 billion euros.

Sales of Betaferon/Betaseron (interferon beta 1b) for multiple sclerosis fell 5% to 283 million euros due to a decline in Europe but Bayer’s biggest problem was a decrease of 10.2% suffered by its Yaz/Yasmin/Yasminelle (drospirenone and ethinyl estradiol) contraceptive franchise to 287 million euros.

The company said the fall was due to demand in the USA suffering particularly from “the discussion surrounding the thrombosis risk of contraceptives containing drospirenone”. However, Bayer added that it continues to believe that the risk profile is comparable to that of other combinations and “Yaz and Yasmin remain good choices for contraception when used as directed”.

On the positive side, Mirena, the firm’s levonorgestrel-releasing intrauterine contraceptive system, contributed 143 million euros, up 16.5%, while the antibiotic Avelox (moxifloxacin) climbed 8% to 135 million euros. Nexavar (sorafenib), which is approved for liver as well as advanced kidney cancer, contributed 155 million euros, up 16%.

Sales of the hypertension treatment Adalat (nifedipine) were down 5.5% to 146 million euros, and the erectile dysfunction drug Levitra (vardenafil) increased 5.1% to 86 million euros. The antibiotic Cipro/Ciprobay (ciprofloxacin) fell 4.7% to 80 million euros as a result of generic competition, while the haemophilia agent Kogenate (recombinant antihaemophilic factor) was flat at 244 million euros,

Bayer lowered its sales guidance for the healthcare unit for 2010 to 3% from 5% but lifted its EBITDA forecast for the full year for the group, before special items, to “more than” rather than “towards” 7 billion euros. Chairman Werner Wenning noted that “the global economic recovery is likely to continue this year,” but prospects remain uncertain, which means 2010 will not be an easy year either. However, “we are optimistic about the future and intend to build on the positive developments prior to 2009”, he concluded.