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Novartis’ Q4 profit drops by half by ‘exceptional’ costs of $1.5bn

Rasilez/Tekturna impairment charges drag figures down, while sales see modest growth

Novartis profits fell by 47 per cent in the fourth quarter of last year after trial failures saw it hit will unexpected charges of $1.5bn.

The Swiss pharma company reported net income of $1.2bn for the period, down from $2.3bn recorded for the final quarter of 2010.

The bulk of 'exceptional' costs was made up of a $903m impairment charge taken after Novartis discontinued trials of its renin inhibitor Rasilez/Tekturna (aliskiren) in high-risk patients with diabetes and renal impairment.

Other charges included $163m related to the discontinuation of the PRT128 (elinogrel) and SMC021 (oral calcitonin) development programmes, as well as 'restructuring' costs of $288m after the company announced plans for European job losses and site closures in Italy and Switzerland.

Sales for the period were up however, climbing 4 per cent to $14.8bn, helping core operating income, which excludes exceptional charges such as those listed above, to grow 12 per cent to $3.6bn.

Novartis' 2011 results

It was a similar, if less extreme, story for the company's full-year results, where net income was down 7 per cent to $9.3bn despite an annual revenue increase of 16 per cent to $58.6bn

Well-performing products during 2011 included chronic myeloid leukaemia treatment Tasigna, whose annual global sales were up to 79 per cent to $716m on the back of US approval from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

The drug was also recently recommended for use in the NHS by the UK's National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE). 

Vision loss treatment Lucentis was another strong performer, making $2.1bn during 2011, an increase of 34 per cent over 2010. This was helped by a new European approval for its use to treat vision loss due to macular oedema secondary to retinal vein occlusion.

Sales may be hit this year however, with the recent launch of Regeneron's rival drug Eylea (aflibercept), which has a less frequent treatment regime that may make it the preferred option for some patients.

Other Novartis drugs facing increased competition this year include blood pressure treatment Diovan (valsartan), which will lose patent protection in Europe in late 2011, with US exclusivity due to go in September 2012.

Sales have already slowed for the blockbuster and they dropped by 6 per cent from $6.1bn in 2010 to $5.7bn in 2011.

Despite this, Novartis' CEO Joseph Jimenez said he expects total company sales over 2012 to remain constant.

He said: “We expect no decline in sales in 2012 despite the Diovan patent expiration and the decline in sales of Rasilez/Tekturna due to the Altitude study findings. In fact we expect our innovation momentum to advance.

“We have the right strategy in place to deliver results even in the face of real challenges.”

Novartis CEO Joseph Jimenez discusses the company's financial results for 2011

26th January 2012

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