German drugs and chemicals maker Altana will be giving itself a pat on the back after posting a solid first quarter on strong growth in sales and earnings.

Earnings before interest and tax jumped 23% from the year-ago period to 185 million euros ($230m), while net profit leapt 24% to 118 million euros, falling at the top end of general expectations.

Total sales rose 28% to 948 million euros, and were led by strong performances by the group’s pharmaceuticals unit and its newly-acquired specialty chemicals group, Eckart, which it bought in October last year as part of its bigger plan to spin off the entire chemicals division later this year.

Turnover of pharmaceuticals grew 22% to 765 million euros, largely driven by the continued success of the firm’s gastrointestinal drug Pantozol/Protonix (pantoprazole), which brings in almost half of its total revenues.

Pantoprazole, a rival to AstraZeneca’s Nexium, loses its patent armour in 2009, but the very drugs plugged to help reduce its reliance on this top-seller are not faring particularly well. For one, uptake of Altana’s respiratory drug Alvesco (ciclesonide) has been somewhat slow, with sales of just 3.4 million euros in the quarter, and there have been setbacks with Daxas (roflumilast) too. Late last year, Altana was forced to temporarily withdraw its application to market Daxas for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and asthma in Europe, as regulators requested additional clinical data.

But, for now, Altana is remaining upbeat, and has reiterated the full-year targets it announced earlier this year, forecasting sales growth of 20% to just under 4 billion euros.