Novartis has put the spotlight on its "industry-leading" pipeline, which contains more than 139 projects with 73 new compounds and will help the firm overcome major patent expiries on drugs such as its blood pressure treatment Diovan and cancer blockbuster Glivec.

The Swiss major says that in 2012 alone, its pharmaceuticals division has received nine approvals or positive recommendations to date and in the next year, Novartis expects data read-out on 13 pivotal studies, nine filings and seven regulatory decisions. The unit had seven blockbusters in 2011 and expects to achieve 14 or more by 2017.

The company emphasised the progress being made in oncology, saying it has delivered approvals for six indications including two new molecular entities so far this year. Novartis says that one of the major growth drivers, Afinitor (everolimus), has five indications already approved and has the potential to exceed sales of $2 billion in breast cancer alone by 2017. In addition, launches of Jakavi (ruxolitinib) its JAK 1 and JAK 2 inhibitor, and the planned launches of drugs such as BKM120 for various tumours and LDK378 in lung cancer have the potential to contribute more than $1 billion in sales by 2017.

Novartis also expressed its enthusiasm for RLX030 (serelaxin), though some observers are not as impressed (see story on today's e-news) and the prospects for its combination chronic obstructive pulmonary disease treatment QVA149 which "has the potential to establish a new standard of care. The firm also has high hopes for AIN457, a novel IL-17 inhibitor, across multiple disease areas including psoriasis, ankylosing spondylitis, rheumatoid arthritis and multiple sclerosis.

The Basel-headquartered group also highlighted the discovery process at the Novartis Institute of BioMedical Research, which has increased the success rate from pre-clinical through Phase II to more than 20%, "three times the industry average". It adds that "introducing novel technologies and methods reduce recruitment time and trial costs, while improving study quality and patient comfort and safety".

Chief executive Joseph Jimenez (pictured) said that "as a science-driven company, Novartis is focused on innovation". "As a result, "our leading pipeline in all phases of development positions us well for continued future growth."

Signifor backed for Cushing's disease in USA

Meantime, Novartis also noted that the US Food and Drug Administration's Endocrinologic and Metabolic Drugs Advisory Committee  has voted unanimously in support of Signifor (pasireotide) for the treatment of patients with Cushing's disease who require medical therapeutic intervention.

The drug, which was approved in Europe in April is a multireceptor targeting somatostatin analogue. Cushing's is a very rare life-threatening disease where a small tumour of the pituitary makes too much of the hormone adrenocorticotrophin.