As expected, Sanofi's earnings for the first quarter have been battered by generics, though the French drugmaker's diabetes drugs and vaccines helped soften the blow.

Business net income, which excludes items, fell 33.5% to 1.61 billion euros (at constant exchange rates), principally due to loss of exclusivity on the bloodthinner Plavix (clopidogrel) and the antihypertensive Avapro (irbesartan), both partnered with Bristol-Myers Squibb, as well as on the antithrombotic Lovenox (enoxaparin) and the colorectal cancer drug Eloxatin (oxaliplatin). Turnover fell 5.3% to 8.06 billion euros.

Plavix brought in 450 million euros to Sanofi’s coffers, down 10.9%, while Avapro/Aprovel sank 28.0% to 241 million euros. The cancer drug Taxotere (docetaxel) slumped 17.3% to 108 million euros, while Lovenox fell 18.6% to 428 million euros. Eloxatin sales crashed 84.6% to 59 million euros.

On the bright side, the diabetes drug Lantus (insulin glargine) leapt 19.7% to 1.34 billion euros, while sales at Sanofi’s vaccines division were up 13.0% to 697 million euros. The consumer healthcare business brought in 811 million euros (+0.7%).

As for Sanofi's Genzyme unit, Cerezyme (imiglucerase) for Gaucher disease rose 14.8% to 171 million euros and Fabrazyme (agalsidase beta) for Fabry disease increased 95.7% to 92 million euros as the firm recovers from previous manufacturing problems.

Chief executive Chris Viehbacher (pictured) was upbeat, saying Sanofi's  growth platforms "continue to deliver strong results with diabetes, vaccines, and Genzyme all achieving double-digit growth". He added that the early launch trends for the multiple sclerosis pill Aubagio (teriflunomide), which brought in 20 million euros, and Auvi-Q (epinephrine injection) for the emergency treatment of allergic reactions, in the USA are encouraging.

Mr Viehbacher went on to say that the firm will release Phase III data "for several pipeline projects later this year", including a new formulation of Lantus and its new anti-cholesterol drug alirocumab, partnered with Regeneron. He concluded by saying that Sanofi expects to resume growth in the second half of 2013.

Licenses out leukaemia drug to Tolero

Meantime, Sanofi has granted exclusive worldwide rights to Tolero Pharmaceuticals to develop alvocidib which has demonstrated activity in clinical trials in several malignancies, including chronic lymphocytic leukaemia and acute myeloid leukaemia.

Tolero will pay Sanofi an undisclosed upfront fee,  milestone payments and tiered royalties. The latter has also maintained certain negotiation rights with respect to manufacturing and becoming a commercialisation partner.

David Bearss, Tolero's chief executive, added that alvocidib has been evaluated in more than forty Phase I and Phase II trials "and has demonstrated remarkable activity in multiple studies of acute and chronic leukaemia as both a single agent and in combination with chemotherapy".