Third quarter sales saw a major slide for Bristol-Myers Squibb as the US firm deals with a raft of patent expires.

Sales were down a mammoth 30% for the third quarter, down to $3.7 billion following the US patent expiration of blood pressure drug Avapro (irbesartan) in March, and the firm’s big seller, the antiplatelet drug Plavix in May.

In fact Plavix, which BMS co-markets with Sanofi, saw its sales reduced by 96% to just $64 million, as generics flood the US market. Excluding Plavix and Avapro, net sales grew by 7% compared to the third quarter of 2011, according the firm.

Unsurprisingly, US net sales decreased by nearly half (43%) to $2 billion in the quarter – but international net sales also decreased, down 6% to $1.8 billion compared to last year.

The firm will now be bracing the strong headwinds as many other pharma firms have been, but can rely on key new drugs – including melanoma treatment Yervoy and blood thinner Eliquis – to help offset the loss.

Yervoy sales were up 48% to $179 million, confirming a good trajectory, but there was no sales data for Eliquis as it is still awaiting European and US approval to treat patients with atrial fibrillation to help reduce the risk of stroke.

The drug has seen peak annual sales predictions of between $2 and $4 billion, but is being held up by the US regulator that wants more information from the firm. The CHMP last month backed the drug for approval, meaning it could be available in Europe by early next year. 

BMS was also forced to drop a hepatitis C drug, BMS-986094, earlier this year because of safety concerns surrounding a Phase II trial of the treatment. This was a bitter blow as the drug was a key part of its $2.5 billion acquisition of hep C specialist Inhibitex, a deal it finalised in January.

Lamberto Andreotti, chief executive, Bristol-Myers Squibb, said: “Bristol-Myers Squibb faced challenges in the third quarter, including the discontinuation of BMS-986094 for the treatment of hepatitis C. I am proud of how we worked through these challenges and made the right decisions for patients.