Another cheery day for Schering-Plough after the US firm reported a more than doubling in its second quarter net income to $517 million – up from $237 million a year ago - as its cholesterol drugs Vytorin (ezetimibe and simvastatin) and Zetia (ezetimibe) put in some welcome strong performances. And were it not for special charges related to a licensing payment and the planned acquisition of Organon, the figures would have been even more impressive at 41 cents per share rather than the 34 cents listed for the last three months.

Sales, meanwhile, were also boisterous at $3.18 billion, up from $2.82 billion in the same period last year, firmly beating analysts’ consensus estimates of $3.07 billion. “Seven out of our 10 largest selling products, including Vytorin and Zetia, posted double-digit sales growth for the quarter,” observed a triumphant Fred Hassan, Chief Executive of S-P. Indeed, had revenue from its joint venture with Merck & Co for the two cholesterol-lowering drugs been included - which they are not because they are accounted for under a so-called equity method - revenues for the second quarter would have totalled some $3.8 billion, up 15%. Combined sales for Vytorin and Zetia jumped 30% to $1.2 billion and, in a statement, the firm said they were “the only major cholesterol-lowering brands to have grown US market share in 2007”. Certainly, the story is a league away from Pfizer’s, which posted a 48% slump in its second quarter profit on the back of nose-diving sales of its offering in this marketplace – the world’s biggest selling drug Lipitor (atorvastatin).

Other top drugs included the arthritis agent Remicade (infliximab), which rose 28% outside of the USA, to $394 million, the anti-allergy medication Nasonex, which jumped 22% to $295 million, and the brain cancer drug Temodar (temozolomide), which was boosted 26% to $216 million. However, there was not such good news for the hepatitis C drug PegIntron (pegylated interferon), sales of which rose just 3% to $234 million on the back of lower sales in the USA and Japan.

On track to complete Organon buy

Meanwhile, the firm said it is on track to complete its $14.65 billion purchase of Netherlands-based Organan BioSciences by the end of the year from parent company Akzo Nobel. It is hoping the buy will populate its pipeline with some exciting investigational compounds, including five Phase III agents, such as a novel schizophrenia agent and a compound to reverse the effects of anaesthesia.

It’s a far cry from the situation a few years ago, when the firm hit a real nadir in performance. Hassan finished: “We have now recorded our 11th consecutive quarter of double-digit adjusted sales growth. Our strong top-line growth combined with financial discipline have produced superior earnings per share growth.”