Belgium's Solvay has posted an 8.8% decrease in net income to 218 million euros for the first quarter, and pharmaceutical sales fell as the loss of marketing rights on the antiulcerant Pantoloc took their toil.

Group sales were flat at 2.37 billion euros, while pharmaceutical revenues fell 7% to 625 million euros, due to the expiration of rights to Pantoloc (pantoprazole), although much more positive was the contribution made by cardiovascular drug fenofibrate, acquired along with Fournier in 2005, which brought in 102 million euros. There was a 9% increase for Androgel testosterone replacement therapy to 74 million euros and Solvay's Creon pancreatic enzyme replacement product advanced 6% to 50 million euros.

In terms of R&D, Solvay has high hopes for the experimental antipsychotic bifeprunox after promising Phase III data was published in December and the firm, with partner Wyeth, is expecting to hear from the US Food and Drug Administration in August. If approved, annual sales are expected to reach $1 billion.

Solvay, which has just filed Pulzium IV (tedisamil) with the FDA and with European regulators for the treatment of atrial fibrillation or flutter, also noted that Solvay has started a Phase IIb study of its SLV 319 obesity candidate, triggering a $25 milestone payment from partner Bristol-Myers Squibb. The firm added that at the end of 2007, its new unit for cell-based flu vaccines will produce medicines designed to fill different government contracts for pre-pandemic vaccines as well as vaccines for clinical trials for the flu season, with marketing planned in 2008. Expansion of US clinical trials is awaiting full payment of the agreed-upon grant of $298 million from the USA’s Department of Health and Human Services

Looking forward, Solvay said the implementation of its pharmaceuticals savings plan is “continuing as planned,” having set itself a goal of 300 million euros in annual cost savings by 2010.

Facilities sold off to ANI Pharmaceuticals

Meantime, the company also announced the sale of two facilities in the USA to ANI Pharmaceuticals. Under the terms of the agreement, financial details of which were not disclosed, Solvay is divesting its Main Street and hormone facilities in Baudette, Minnesota, while ANI will serve as contract manufacturer for the Belgian group.

Laurence Downey, chief executive of Solvay’s US division, said that while the decision to divest the facilities “was not easy, it was a necessary part of our global manufacturing strategy and ensures the long-term viability of the operations in Baudette.”