Novartis has posted financials for the fourth quarter which show that net profit slumped 47% to $1.21 billion, hit by previously-disclosed charges of $900 million due to a likely decline in sales of the antihypertensive Tekturna.

Sales reached $14.78 billion (+4%), while pharmaceutical turnover also rose 4% to $8.31 billion. Novartis' biggest-seller was once again the blood pressure lowerer Diovan (valsartan), though sales were down 16% to $1.32 billion, due to generic competition in Europe. Turnover from Glivec/Gleevec (imatinib), for chronic myeloid leukaemia and gastrointestinal stromal tumours, was up 8% to $1.24 billion, while the successor to Glivec, Tasigna (nilotinib), also approved for CML, contributed $207 million, up 64%.

Femara (letrozole), for women with hormone-sensitive breast cancer, fell 62% to $134 million, due to generic competition, while Zometa (zoledronic acid) for cancer complications slipped 7% to $368 million. Turnover of the acromegaly therapy Sandostatin (ocreotide) rose 7% to $374 million.

As for Novartis’ newer products, the cardiovascular drug Exforge (amlodipine plus valsartan) brought in $323 million, up 29%, while Exjade (deferasirox), for treating patients with iron overload, was up 10% to  $229 million.

Tekturna sales down 19%

Tekturna/Rasilez (aliskiren) fell 19% to $108 million, hurt by the news that a clinical trial of the drug was halted at the end of 2011 over concerns it was linked to an increased risk of stroke and kidney problems in certain patients. Sales will fall further now that Novartis has ceased promotion of aliskiren-based products.

Better news came from sales of Lucentis (ranibizumab) for the treatment of age-related macular degeneration, which shot up 40% to $550 million, while kidney cancer drug Afinitor (everolimus) brought in $133 million, up 66%. Turnover from Galvus (vildagliptin) for type 2 diabetes soared 63% to $199 million, while Novartis’ new oral multiple sclerosis drug Gilenya brought in $203 million.

As for Novartis' other units, vaccines and diagnostics shot up 86% to $671 million while its generics unit Sandoz saw turnover fall 5% to $2.29 billion. Consumer health sales fell 7% to $1.08 billion, while eye unit Alcon brought in $2.43 billion, up 6%.

Chief executive Joe Jimenez (pictured) said "we maintained our innovation momentum this year, achieving 15 key approvals and expanding our already robust pipeline". He acknowledged that "we experienced some disappointments in the fourth quarter, with Tekturna and with the need to improve our quality standards at some manufacturing sites" but claimed that Novartis "is well positioned as we face the expected patent expirations".