Novartis of Switzerland has reported double-digit gains in sales and profits in the first nine months of this year, head of expectations and driven by strong demand for its cancer, central nervous system and cardiovascular medicines.

Sales came in at $27 billion, up 14%, with the pharmaceutical division enjoying a 10% rise to $16.5 billion, helped by good showings from Diovan (valsartan) for high blood pressure and cancer drug Glivec/Gleevec (imatinib).

Diovan franchise sales advanced 17% to $1.98 billion, while Glivec rose nearly 20% to $653 million, a solid growth performance albeit a little slower than in previous quarters.

Vaccine and diagnostic sales were $501 million, accrued since the acquisition of Chiron in April to create the division. On a pro forma basis vaccine sales rose 60% year-on-year, according to Novartis, on the back of demand for its seasonal and pre-pandemic H5N1 flu vaccines.

However, sales at generics unit Sandoz fell 4% to $1.4 billion, although Novartis said this was a result of the first-time consolidation of sales from two businesses it acquired in the third-quarter of 2005 – Hexal and Eon Labs – which ‘distorted the underlying good performance’.

Third-quarter operating profit rose 11% to $2.1 billion, slower than the rate of sales growth as a result of the costs association with Novartis purchase of Chiron. Excluding these charges operating income would have risen 24%.

Novartis also said it was on track to bring a new crop of products with blockbuster sales potential to market in the next year, including Galvus (vildagliptin) for diabetes, as well as renin inhibitor Tekturna (aliskiren; formerly known as Rasilez) and Exforge (amlodipine and valsartan) for hypertension.