As first-quarter results flooded in at the end of last week, Bayer's figures revealed an 8.4% rise in net income to 684 million euros, with sales up 13.2% to 9.42 billion euros.

Sales at the German group’s healthcare division were up 7.7% to 4.17 billion euros, while pharmaceutical turnover increased 4.7% to 2.65 billion euros. However, the latter rise was almost entirely due to positive currency and portfolio effects.

As for specific drugs, the Yaz/Yasmin/Yasminelle (drospirenone and ethinyl estradiol) contraceptive franchise slumped 18.3% (currency adjusted) to 242 million euros, hurt by generic competition to Yaz in the USA. Mirena, the firm’s levonorgestrel-releasing intrauterine contraceptive system, contributed 143 million euros, down 1.8%.

Revenues of Betaferon/Betaseron (interferon beta 1b) for multiple sclerosis fell 5% to 274 million euros, hit by increased competition and European health system reforms.

Strong Kogenate sales

On the plus side, sales of the haemophilia agent Kogenate (recombinant antihaemophilic factor) increased 13% to 283 million euros, while Nexavar (sorafenib), which is approved for liver as well as advanced kidney cancer, contributed 172 million euros, up 7.2%.

The antibiotic Avelox (moxifloxacin) was up 4.7% to 147 million euros and sales of the hypertension treatment Adalat (nifedipine) were flat at 157 million euros. The erectile dysfunction drug Levitra (vardenafil) decreased 7.4% to 82 million euros.

Speaking at the Leverkusen-headquartered firm's annual general meeting after the results were unveiled, chief executive Marijn Dekkers said "we got off to a good start this year”. He added that “our basic goal is to make Bayer a world-class innovative company", noting that through 2013 the company aims to invest 10 billion euros in R&D.

UCB coping with Keppra generics

Elsewhere in Europe, UCB has also got off to a healthy start in 2011, with revenues rising 13% to 893 million euros. In an interim statement, the Belgian drugmaker noted that its lead product, the off-patent antiepileptic Keppra (levetiracetam) enjoyed double-digit growth. No specific figures were given and UCB noted that generic erosion in the USA has stabilised and in Europe there have been two copycat versions launched in Germany since March.

The company added that combined sales of its new core products - Cimzia (certolizumab pegol) for rheumatoid arthritis and Crohn’s disease, the aantiepileptic Vimpat (lacosamide)  and the Neupro (rotigotine) patch for Parkinson’s disease and restless legs syndrome - rose 76% to 134 million euros.

Chief executive Roch Doliveux, noted that "while we are facing generic competition this year, especially for Keppra in Europe, we can subsequently look forward to a decade that is uninterrupted by patent expirations". He added that this, "coupled with the advancement of our new products, should see UCB enter a period of sustainable company growth".

For details on Shire's first-quarter financials, see this morning's PharmaTimes UK News.