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Recent drug launches offset patent expiries for Novartis in Q2

But pharma company still faces loss of US exclusivity for its huge-selling Diovan brand

Novartis building

Novartis has managed to offset a decline in second quarter sales due to patent expiries for key drugs thanks to growth from recently launched products.

The Swiss pharma company achieved year-on-year net sales growth of 1 per cent at constant currencies across the period despite the rise of generic competition for Diovan (valsartan), which lost patent protection in Europe in November, 2011.

However, Novartis is yet to feel the worst effects from the sales decline of its ageing hypertension drug, whose patent protection in the US due to end in September, 2012.

This will wipe a significant chunk off Novartis' sales. Last year Diovan achieved net US revenues of $2.3bn and in preparation for its patent expiry Novartis has made almost 2,000 job cuts across the company.

In the meantime, Novartis CEO Joseph Jimenez said the company's pharmaceuticals division delivered a “solid financial performance” during the second quarter period, thanks largely to new launches that could help the company recover from the loss of Diovan in the long term.

These launches include Gilenya (fingolimod), the first oral multiple sclerosis (MS) drug to reach market, with its simpler regimen helping sales reach $283m during the period.

Future sales could be affected following the update of the drug's label in the US to contraindicate its use in patients with a history of heart disease or stroke, although the drug is still expected to reach peak year sales of $2bn.

Other drugs driving sales growth included Novartis' eye disorder treatment Lucentis (ranibizumab), which achieved $604m across the quarter, and leukaemia drug Tasigna (nilotinib), which made $237m.

The company also noted that it received recommendations from Europe's Committee for Medicinal Products for Human Use (CHMP) for Afinitor (everolimus) in advanced breast cancer, Jakavi (ruxolitinib) in myelofibrosis and Seebri Breezhaler in chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder (COPD).

“The rejuvenation of our portfolio is key to our long-term growth,” said the company, remarking that recently launched products comprised 29 per cent of group net sales, up from 25 per cent in 2011.

Elsewhere, Novartis' ophthalmology division Alcon saw a growth in sales of 5 per cent at constant currencies, benefiting from strong growth in its cataract products.

Sales for generic drug unit Sandoz declined by 7 per cent, however, with generic enoxaparin revenues declining by over $100m after it lost its position as the only available copy of Sanofi's Lovenox.

Consumer health was also down, with sales falling 24 per cent due primarily to the suspension of production at the company's Lincoln, Nebraska manufacturing site.

Despite these setbacks, overall earnings were up, with Novartis' net income of $2.73bn for the second quarter of 2012 an increase of 5 per cent over the year before.

20th July 2012

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