As a whole bunch of European drugmakers announced their financials for the first quarter this morning, the performances of Novo Nordisk and Merck KGaA have stood out.

First up, the Danish drugmaker posted net profits of 4.07 billion kroner (about $810.2 million), while sales were up 15% to 15.69 billion kroner. The firm's stable of modern insulin products, including Levemir (insulin detemir) and NovoRapid (insulin aspart) contributed 6.71 billion kroner, an increase of 14%.

Human insulins slipped 4% to 2.66 billion kroner, while oral antidiabetic products, notably NovoNorm/Prandin (repaglinide), rose 10% to  711 million kroner. Among the major products in Novo's biopharmaceuticals business, sales of which climbed 10% to 3.89 billion kroner, NovoSeven (recombinant Factor VIIa) was up 6% to 2.03 billion kroner, while the growth hormone Norditropin increased 16% to 1.25 billion kroner.

The stellar performance came from Victoza (liraglutide) and sales of Novo’s once-daily human glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1) analogue reached 1.10 billion kroner, up 197%. The company said that Victoza, which has a GLP-1 market share of 39%, will be launched in China in the second half of the year.

Over in Germany, Merck’s net income shot up 76.9% to 344.2 million euros, while revenues increased 22% to 2.56 billion euros, boosted by the acquisition last year of US laboratory equipment specialist Millipore.

Turnover at the Merck Serono unit rose 1.5% to 1.43 billion euros, driven by sales of the multiple sclerosis drug Rebif (interferon beta-1a). However, revenues for the latter were down 4.2% to 411 million euros. The colorectal/head and neck cancer drug Erbitux (cetuximab) increased 8.7% to 209 million euros, while its Glucophage (metformin) diabetes products rose 6.0% to 81 million euros; the beta blocker Concor (bisoprolol) franchise was up 4.1% to 95 million euros.

Merck’s thyroid treatments, notably Euthyrox (levothyroxine), were up 20% to 46 million euros, while sales of the fertility drug Gonal-f (follitropin) dereased 4.2% to 133 million euros.

There will be a review of the other European results, including those of Bayer, Shire and UCB, when PharmaTimes World News returns on Tuesday May 3 following the UK Bank Holiday break.