Strong dollar takes bite out of Novartis sales

Swiss pharmaceutical giant Novartis reported $4.1 billion (€3.8 billion) in income for the first half of the year, down 20 percent, due largely to a stronger dollar.

Strong dollar takes bite out of Novartis sales
The headquarters of Swiss pharmaceutical giant Novartis in Basel. Photo: AFP

The Basel-based firm said its net sales over the last six months had fallen six percent to $24.6 billion, but grew four percent in local currencies.

Novartis, the world's largest pharmaceutical company in tems of sales, said in a statement that its outlook for its core business remained unchanged, with 2015 sales expected to grow in the mid-single digits.

The Swiss firm in March agreed to a massive asset swap with Britain's GlaxoSmithKline, and said Tuesday that implementation of the deal remains on track.

Under the deal GSK acquired Novartis's global human vaccines business while the two firms tied up their global consumer health operation under GSK control.

In return, GSK sold its oncology business to Novartis for $16 billion.

Earlier this month, US authorities launched a court action seeking $3.3 billion in fines from Novartis, on allegations it paid kickbacks to boost drug sales.

The filing notes that Novartis maintains it offered legal rebates to pharmacies it worked with.

“We are committed to creating a culture of integrity at Novartis and demonstrating ethical leadership, and have taken concrete steps to increase transparency and strengthen our ethical business practices,” the Swiss firm said on Tuesday.


Switzerland’s Novartis to help make Pfizer-BioNTech Covid vaccine

Swiss pharmaceuticals giant Novartis said Friday it had signed an initial agreement to help produce the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine against Covid-19, as countries scramble to boost supplies.

Switzerland's Novartis to help make Pfizer-BioNTech Covid vaccine
Novartis will help manufacture Pfizer vaccine. Photo by AFP.

The rare act of cooperation — in an industry usually marked by cut-throat competition — comes after French pharma group Sanofi announced earlier this week that it would also team up with rivals Pfizer and BioNTech to help produce 125 million doses of their jab.

The two-dose vaccine, which is based on mRNA technology, has been shown to be around 95 percent effective and has been approved for use by the World Health Organization and in some 50 countries.

But it is in limited supply as nations around the world race to immunise their populations against the coronavirus, which has killed nearly 2.2 million people in just over a year.

Novartis said in a statement that it would use its sterilised manufacturing facilities at its site in Stein, Switzerland to help produce the Pfizer-BioNTech jabs.

Under the agreement, the company said it would “take bulk mRNA active ingredient from BioNTech and fill this into vials under aseptic conditions for shipment back to BioNTech for their distribution to healthcare system customers around the world”.

Once a final agreement is reached, Novartis said it expected to begin production in the second quarter of the year, with initial shipment of finished product expected in the third quarter.

Steffen Lang, Head of Novartis Technical Operations, stressed that the company was “committed to leverage our manufacturing capabilities to help support the supply of COVID-19 vaccines and therapeutics around the world”.

“We expect this to be the first of a number of such agreements,” he said in the statement.

Novartis said it was already in “advanced discussions” with a number of other companies about with other production tasks, including of mRNA, therapeutic protein and raw material production for Covid vaccines and therapeutics.