Swiss giant Novartis this morning cut its full-year sales forecasts saying that generic competition in the USA will affect the second half performance of its blood-pressure-lowering drug Lotrel (almodipine/benazepril) and the antifungal Lamisal (terbinafine), while it also expects to see some fallout following the market withdrawal of the irritable bowel syndrome drug Zelnorm (tegaserod) after it was linked to possible heart attacks and strokes. The three products combined reeled in 2006 sales of $2.5 billion.

Feelings were also slightly dampened on news that the US Food and Drug Administration had extended the review period by three months for an important new anticancer drug coming through the pipeline, Tasigna (nilotinib), which would delay its approval in the world’s number one pharmaceutical market. However, no new clinical trials are required.

Sales for the full year 2007 have been revised downwards slightly and Novartis says it now expects growth in the mid-single digits for the group, and low-single-digit growth in drug sales.

But despite the cloud on the horizon, the company still put in a sterling effort, with strong revenues coming from key drugs. Number one blood pressure lowerer Diovan (valsartan) put in a stellar performance, with sales up 19% for the first half of the year to $2.4 billion and Novartis believes it has the potential to become one of the world’s top five selling pharmaceuticals. Meanwhile, Glivec/Gleevec (imatinib) also did well during the first half with sales up 14% to $1.4 billion, and oral anticancer drug Femara (letrozole) saw growth of 30% to $439 million.

Coming up behind, new medicines have also seen a healthy showing, with Tekturna (aliskiren), Lucentis (ranibuzumab), Exjade (deferasirox) and Exforge (amlodipine plus valsartan) all “performing dynamically”. On top of this the firm has received seven major regulatory approvals far in 2007 with more anticipated in the second half.

Net profit jumped 18% to $2.02 billion in the second quarter, in line with analysts’ forecasts, on the back of a 10% rise in sales to $10.12 billion. For the first half net sales were up 14% to $19.94 billion leading to net income of $4.18 billion. Pharmaceutical revenues were $11.99 billion for the first six months of the year, up 12%.

And the company also put a smile on the lips on investors after it said it would use the cash derived from its divestments of Medical Nutrition ($2.5 billion; completed on July 1) and Gerber baby foods ($5.5 billion; expected to complete in the second half) to Nestle to snap up “targeted acquisitions”in the vein of its recent Intercell purchase. It also said it will pursue a $4 billion share buyback programme by February 2008.