Novartis is unlikely to target any major acquisitions as it waits for new products to help soften the blow of patent expiries, most notably on its blood pressure drug Diovan.

These were a couple of the points made by chief executive Joe Jimenez in an interview with  the Swiss newspaper Sonntags Zeitung. He noted that "defending the dividend is a priority," so a deal of the size of Novartis' $12.9 billion purchase of the eye specialist Alcon in 2010 looks unlikely.

Mr Jimenez (pictured) noted: "We want to conduct medium-sizes acquisitions to boost our growth," and "In the foreseeable future, we're most probably not going to do any mega takeovers". He added that loss of exclusivity on Diovan (valsartan), sales of which fell 16% in the second quarter to $1.3 billion, means that Novartis faces three 'very challenging quarters'.

He added, however, that sales should rise "markedly" in the second-half of 2013.