Gilenya, Afinitor among bright spots in flat Novartis quarter

OTC sales falter, Diovan loses to generics, vaccines shrink–but newer meds shine


When it comes to news releases, CEOs can’t control the conversation. No doubt Novartis ($NVSChief Joe Jimenez would like to tell reporters, “Diovan may be dying but our new drugs don’t need therapy–Discuss.”

But with regulators abuzz about flu vaccine particles–and analysts worried about the OTC plant in Lincoln, NE–the rest of the Swiss drugmaker’s quarterly news is still waiting for its close-up.

So, here you go, Joe. Key drugs posted some impressive growth during the quarter, such as the multiple sclerosis treatment Gilenya, which took a 116% leap to $316 million. The eye drug Lucentis grew by 23% to $593 million. Cancer drugs Tasigna (49% to $707 million) and Afinitor (82% to $206 million) really shone.

All together, these four meds, along with others launched since 2007, contributed $29% of the group’s net sales for the third quarter and first 9 months of the year, at $4 billion and $11.9 billion, respectively. For the pharma business, that helped take the sting out of Diovan’s generic competition, which drew off 31% of its sales, leaving $1 billion.

Overall, Novartis sales fell by 7% to $13.8 billion, with operating income of $3.9 billion, down 5%. And that’s without head-to-head generic competition for Diovan in the U.S. The FDA still hasn’t approved a copycat version of the blood pressure drug; the franchise’s losses in the U.S. this quarter came from copies of the combo drug Diovan HCT.

“Pharmaceuticals had another solid quarter,” Jimenez said in a statement. Now if he can just fix the OTC division–and, maybe, escape generic Diovan in the U.S. a little longer–next quarter could be better.

– check out the Novartis release

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