Boehringer Ingelheim has posted a 9.7% increase in sales for 2009 to 12.72 billion euros and a 13.1% rise in operating income to 2.24 billion euros, which the German firm claims made it “the fastest growing company of the world’s 15 largest pharmaceutical companies”.

Prescription drug sales were up 10.4% to 9.11 billion euros, driven again by Spiriva (tiotropium) for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, which is partnered with Pfizer and brought in 2.40 billion euros, up 16.2%. Sales of the drug in the USA topped the 1 billion euro mark for the first time.

The blood pressure drug Micardis (telmisartan) had sales of 1.39 billion euros, an increase of 14.3%, while revenues from Flomax/Alna (tamsulosin) for the treatment of benign prostatic hyperplasia, reached 1.41 billion euros, up 31.5%. Mirapex/Sifrol (pramipexole) for Parkinson’s disease brought in 801 million euros, up 6.6%.

Sales at Boehringer’s consumer health care unit grew 2.8% to 1.26 billion euros, while its animal health business leapt 30.6% to 610 million euros.

Speaking at the company’s annual press conference, chairman Andreas Barner noted that “in view of the difficult economic environment, we believe that the success of 2009 confirms that our entrepreneurial approach was right”. Last year, the R&D spend for medicines increased by more than 100 million euros to 2.2 billion euros, or 21% of sales, which has resulted in “five therapeutically promising, innovative medicines”.

These are headed by Pradaxa (dabigatran etexilate), an oral direct thrombin inhibitor which was approved last year in Europe for the prevention of venous thromboembolic disorders following hip or knee replacement surgery. However the big bucks will come if Pradaxa is approved in two other indications – prevention of stroke associated with atrial fibrillation and treatment of acute venous thrombosis.Also creating much interest is Girosa (flibanserin) for female hypoactive sexual desire disorder.

However, Prof Barner is expecting flat sales for 2010 as a result of generic competition in the USA to Flomax and Sifrol. Operating income will also be hurt because Boehringer “has made a conscious decision to further increase expenditure for R&D”.