Switzerland’s Novartis says that net income for the first six months of the year climbed 12% to $3.1 billion dollars versus the corresponding period last year [[20/07/04a]], on the back of what the company terms “dynamic performance” from all its divisions. Total company sales rose 11% during the six months to $15.1 billion, fuelled by an 11% increase from the pharmaceuticals division to $9.9 billion, buoyed by the continuing expansion of the company’s oncology and cardiovascular franchises.

The blood pressure drug, Diovan (valsartan) and Lotrel (amlodipine) for hypertension climbed 19% to $1.9 billion and 14% to $509 million respectively, while Glivec (imatinib) for leukaemia surged 37% to $1 billion. Other anti-cancer agents also put in sterling performances, with Femara (letrozole) leaping 49% to $254 million, and Zometa (zoledronic acid) rising 15% to $609 million.

The company’s irritable bowel syndrome therapy, Zelnorm/Zelmac (tegaserod), was up 26% to $182 million, but Neoral (cyclosporine) for transplant rejection slumped 10% to $470 million as a result of generic competition, and it was also a disappointing period for the eczema treatment, Elidel (pimecrolimus), which dropped 5% during the six months – and 39% during the second quarter – to $164 million, as a direct result in declining US sales. Earlier this year, a US Food and Drug Administration advisory committee recommended including a black box warning on the product’s label to highlight a potential increased risk of cancer [[11/03/05a]]. Novartis maintains that such action is not justified, and says it remains confident in the safety and efficacy of Elidel in its approved indications, noting that sales outside the US are still on the increase.

One other blot on the company’s balance sheet was a 15% decline in operating income from the Sandoz generics business to $189 million relating to the restructuring programme that was initiated last year [[17/11/04c]], as well as pricing pressures in the US. However, this was more than offset by a 12% hike in the unit’s sales to $1.6 billion and overall pharmaceutical sales, which helped to drive an 11% rise in total group operating income to $3.5 billion.

Novartis reiterated its outlook for the full-year 2005 of high single-digit sales growth, and said that both operating and net income should reach new record levels, on a comparable basis and excluding the impact of the acquisition of generics firms Hexal and Eon Labs, which is expected to close during the third quarter [[21/01/05a]], [[21/02/05b]].