Big sales gains for arthritis drug Enbrel and pneumococcal vaccine Prevnar helped US drugmaker post a healthy 33% increase in net income to $1.16 billion in the third quarter of 2006, ahead of analysts’ expectations.

Overall revenues at the company came in at $5.14 billion, up 9% with the benefit of a tailwind from favourable exchange rates, with Prevnar sales up 30% to $510 million and Enbrel (etanercept) climbing 37% to $378 million. Wyeth sells the drug outside North America.

Also contributing to the good performance was Wyeth’s top-selling product, the antibiotic Effexor (venlafaxine), which managed to gain seven points and post sales of $924 million in the quarter despite an increasingly competitive environment in the USA and the onset of generic competition from Teva, which won approval for its copycat version in the USA in August.

"With our outstanding 2006 third quarter, Wyeth is on its way to achieving annual sales of more than $1 billion for six product franchises," said Robert Essner, the company’s chairman and chief executive.

Another big seller, gastrointestinal drug Protonix (pantoprazole), posted revenues of $452 million, up 12%.

Wyeth reiterated its guidance for the full year, given earlier this month, of 2006 pro forma earnings in the range of between $3.12 and $3.18 a share.

It is also expecting to enter a major new growth phase, with seven new drugs due to be filed for approval in the USA over the next 18 months.

These include Effexor follow-up Pristiq (desvenlafaxine); Viviant (bazedoxifene) for osteoporosis; Aprela (bazedoxifene and conjugated estrogens); bifeprunox for schizophrenia; new oral contraceptive Lybrel (levonorgestrel/ethinyl estradiol); Torisel (temsirolimus), which works by blocking new blood vessel formation in tumours; and opioid analgesic methylnaltrexone.