Drugmaker Novartis’ sales in the fourth-quarter rose by 18%, but the Swiss company’s earnings growth stalled and revenue was less than analysts had predicted. Novartis shares suffered their biggest drop in more than a year as it predicted slower growth in the prescription drug market, with governments and insurers pressing companies to lower costs. Due to strong demand for Diovan, its top selling treatment for hypertension, turnover last year was 26.6 billion euros, up from 23.3 billion the previous year.
Profit was five billion, compared with 4.6 billion euros in 2004. It would have higher, but for a write-off of around 219 million euros for a drug that had to be scrapped during development. The company is targeting a sales increase of less than 10% this year. Last year it spent 11 billion euros buying businesses that make generic drugs, vaccines, and over the counter health products in order to reduce its reliance on just a few high selling drugs like Diovan.