Swiss drug giant Novartis has beaten analyst expectations with a 6% fall in second-quarter earnings to $3.36 billion, or $1.38 a share.

The Basel-based group had been expected to post a profit of $1.33 a share, according to an average of 12 estimates collected by Bloomberg, but continued strength by its new drugs helped offset dwindling sales of its veteran blockbusters Gleevec and Diovan, which are being hit by generic competition.

Overall, second-quarter sales dipped 4% to $14.3 billion, while turnover of its pharmaceutical segment slipped 1% to $8.3 billion, dragged down by a 16% fall in sales of the blood pressure drug Diovan to $1.3 billion.

But this masked solid growth by recently launched (since 2007) medicines, which collectively grew 8% to bring in $4.1 billion for the period.

Notably, sales of the first oral multiple sclerosis drug Gilenya (fingolimod), rocketed 268% to $283 million; eye drug Lucentis (ranibizumab) leapt 20% to $604 million; and Tasigna (nilotinib), for chronic myeloid leukemia, jumped 45% to $237 million.

Elsewhere, while revenues at its Alcon unit inched up 1% to $2.6 billion, led by strong Surgical sales growth of 3%, Sandoz saw its net sales drop 13% to $2.1 billion, after taking a 7 percentage point hit due to price erosion, the firm said.

Pharmaceuticals and Alcon delivered solid financial performance and operating leverage in the second quarter, underpinned by our continued focus on portfolio rejuvenation, with recently launched products now representing 29% of Group net sales compared to 25% last year," said chief executive Joseph Jimenez.

Looking forward, Jimenez noted that Novartis had racked up eight "significant regulatory milestones" in the second quarter, including the approval Afinitor (everolimus) in advanced breast cancer, further enhancing its future growth prospects.

But near-term, the firm said its 2012 performance is "on track" and that its outlook for the year remains unchanged. Group constant currency net sales should fall in line with 2011, while core operating income margin in constant currencies is expected to fall slightly under that for last year, it noted.