Sanofi-Aventis has posted a strong set of figures for the first quarter this morning, which reveal that net income rose 8.6% to 1.71 billion euros, or 1.31 euros per share (+8.3%). Sales were up 3.9% to 7.39 billion euros.

Growth was driven by the French firm’s diabetes division which contributed 971 million euros (+11%), and Lantus (insulin glargine) made up 790 million euros of that, a rise of 10.4%.Turnover of the antithrombotic Lovenox (enoxaparin) was up 4.7% to 769 million euros and the cancer drug Taxotere (docetaxel) edged up 1.9% to 531 million euros.

The bloodthinner Plavix (clopidogrel), partnered with Bristol-Myers Squibb, brought in 535 million euros to Sanofi’s coffers, down 21.3%, and sales of drug in Europe fell 43.5% due to the introduction of generic competition. Loss of patent protection battered revenues for colorectal cancer drug Eloxatin (oxaliplatin) which sank 80.8% to 66 million euros.

However Sanofi’s vaccines division soared 56.0% to 944 million euros, boosted by 413 million euros of sales of A/H1N1 influenza vaccines. Its over-the-counter business brought in 491 million euros (+42.5%) and generics revenues leapt 259.1% to 343 million euros, helped by the acquisitions of the Czech firm Zentiva, Brazil’s Medley and Mexico’s Kendrick.

Speaking about the new anti-arrhythmic Multaq (dronedarone), which the firm hopes will be a blockbuster, Sanofi chief financial officer Jerome Contamine said the drug delivered more than 20 million euros of sales in the first quarter in the USA. It has now been launched in several European countries, and he said the uptake in Germany has been good, while the company can only benefit from having just received a positive recommendation from the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence in the UK.

In terms of pipeline, Mr Contamine made special mention of Jevtana (cabazitaxel) for prostate cancer, which could be approved in the third quarter, and BSI-20I, a late-stage treatment for metastatic triple-negative breast cancer and lung cancer. He also spoke about the diabetes drug lixisenatide, a once-daily GLP-1 agonist that has impressed in Phase III trials.

Mr Contamine said the latter product is being tested with Lantus “to create a unique combination which is now in Phase I, which we expect to come into Phase III as early as the fourth quarter 2010”.