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Published on 25/03/15 at 03:29pm

2014 turnover: $57.9 billion

Biggest drug: Blood cancer treatment Gleevec/Glivec (imatinib) (sales of $4.7 billion)

Created in 1996 through the merger of Ciba-Geigy and Sandoz, Novartis (its name derived from the Latin for ‘new skills’) is one of Switzerland’s two major pharma companies, Roche being the other.

Among its star performers are cancer treatment Gleevec (imatinib), and blood pressure medicine Diovan (valsartan), but the latter has now been hit by patent expiries, and Gleevec is set to follow in July 2015.

The firm is now pinning its patent drug hopes on its multiple sclerosis pill Gilenya (fingolimod), which had sales of $666 million in 2014. Other big sellers over the past year have been cancer treatments Tasingna (nilotinib) and Afintor (everolimus), which had sales of $428 million (up 30% from 2013) and $426 million (up 24%) respectively, as well as blood cancer medicine Jakavi (ruxolitinib), which saw the biggest sales increase in 2014 – rising 91% to $84 million.

These products have helped keep the company afloat in the face of generic competition. 2014 net sales in its pharma division stayed constant at $7.9 billion, with a volume of growth of 8% at constant exchange rates (CER) offset by a decrease of 8% from the impact of increasing generic competition.

Chief executive Joe Jimenez has said: “I’m confident that we are positioned for future success. 2014 was a transformational year for Novartis. We improved our execution, while taking steps to focus the company on our three leading businesses with global scale. We delivered solid sales growth with margin expansion, strengthened innovation, and advanced our quality and productivity agendas.”

Jimenez began his role in January 2010, replacing Daniel Vasella, who had been at the helm for 14 years. Formerly head of the pharmaceutical business, Jimenez said from the outset that he would 'de-layer and simplify' the top leadership structure, and is pushing forward the firm’s digital strategy while streamlining its business to focus on three core areas – pharmaceuticals, eye care and genetics.

Part of this involves a major asset-swap deal with GSK, in which the UK company will buy Novartis’s global human vaccines unit for $7.1 billion, and in turn Novartis will take over GSK’s oncology business for $16 billion. The deal was signed off by the European Commission in January and completed in March 2015.

The firm is also planning to divest its influenza vaccine business to Australian biopharma company CSL, and recently completed the $5.4 billion sale of its animal health division to Lilly.

It has also become the first company to market a biosimilar product in the US, after its generic arm Sandoz secured FDA approval for Zarxio (filgrastim-sndz), a biosimilar of Amgen’s cancer drug Neupogen (filgrastim), in March 2015.

Pipeline for Novartis

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