France’s Sanofi-Aventis reaped the benefit of the cost-savings afforded by its 2004 merger in the third quarter of 2005, with a 23% hike in operating profits and sales up nearly 12% to 7.2 billion euros.

Larger-than-expected savings from the 2004 takeover of Germany's Aventis by the French pharmaceutical firm Sanofi-Synthelabo [[23/08/04c]] was the primary reason for the increase in profit, which climbed to 2.65 billion euros in the quarter, ahead of analysts’ estimates by some 250 million euros.

Sanofi-Aventis reiterated its forecast of a 20% increase in earnings per share for 2005 on the strength of the figures [[31/08/05a]].

Meanwhile, the increase in sales was driven by better-then-expected gains for Sanofi-Aventis’ antiplatelet drug Plavix (clopidogrel). Low-molecular weight heparin Lovenox (enoxaparin), the cancer drugs Eloxatin (oxaliplatin) and Taxotere (docetaxel) and long-acting insulin Lantus (insulin glargine).

Lovenox sales rose 14% to 551 million euros in the quarter, while Plavix came in at 534 million euros, up 23% on the third quarter of 2004. Both these drugs are facing generic competition in 2007. Lantus put in the fastest growth, rising 44% to 325 million euros. Meanwhile, Eloxatin had a great quarter, rising 29% to 422 million euros, overtaking Taxotere as Sanofi-Aventis’ top cancer product. The latter posted a 14% rise to 420 million euros.

On the downside, sales of antihistamine Allegra (fexofenadine) dipped following the approval of a generic rival in the USA, but only marginally as the copycat version was only cleared in September.

And sleep aid Ambien (zolpidem) also did well in the face of mounting competition from the likes of Takeda Pharmaceutical's Rozerem (ramelteon) - launched in the USA in September [[27/09/05g]] - and Sepracor's Lunesta (eszopiclone). Revenues rose to 419 million euros from 397 million euros in the third quarter, helped by September’s approval of a sustained release version of the drug, Ambien CR [[06/09/05f]]. It is facing generic competition next year.