Novartis defends flu drugs, posts flat Q3 profits

Associated Press Modified: October 25, 2012 at 3:46 am •  Published: October 25, 2012

GENEVA (AP) — Swiss pharmaceutical giant Novartis AG defended a range of flu drugs that have been banned in Italy, while posting virtually flat third quarter profits as new drugs offset patent expirations.

The Basel-based company said Thursday it still had "confidence in the safety and efficacy of its seasonal influenza vaccines Agrippal and Fluad manufactured in Italy."

On Wednesday, Italy's health ministry banned the sale of four Novartis flu drugs for possible side-effects. Switzerland's regulator, Swissmedic, also suspended deliveries of flu vaccines from Novartis as a preventive measure against possible contamination.

On the earnings front, Novartis reported a net profit of $2.48 billion in the July-September quarter, more or less the same as last year's equivalent of $2.49 billion.

But third-quarter net sales fell 7 percent to $13.8 billion from $14.8 billion in the third quarter of last year, hurt by the Sept. 21 loss of the U.S. patent on its blockbuster hypertension drug Diovan, which faces generic competition, and a 13 percent decline in net sales at its Sandoz generic division.

In its earnings statement Thursday, Novartis noted that recent product launches had offset patent expirations such as hypertension drug Diovan, which faces generic competition in the United States.

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