January-June net core income dropped five percent to $3.6 billion (3.1 billion euros), as overall first half sales dipped one percent to $23.7 billion, despite a six percent rise in volume, the group said.
Those volumes were buoyed by two medicines deemed to have strong potential-- heart drug Entresto and Cosentyx, a treatment for psoriasis.
Stiff competition for generic medicine -- not least copycat drugs for its blockbuster cancer drug Gleevec -- has eaten away some three percent of current profit margins, while price pressures have accounted for another two percent.
For the outlook for the year as a whole Novartis reconfirmed its objectives in saying it expected global sales this year to hit similar levels to 2016.
In January, the group announced total sales of $48.5 billion for 2016.