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Novartis posts 3Q profits in line with a year ago

GENEVA (AP) -- Swiss pharmaceutical giant Novartis AG on Thursday reported a net profit of $2.48 billion during the third quarter, with income remaining flat as new drugs offset patent expirations.

The Basel-based company's profits between July and September were virtually unchanged from $2.49 billion in the third quarter of 2011.

But third-quarter net sales fell 7 percent to $13.8 billion francs, from $14.8 billion in the third quarter of last year.

Novartis said in a statement Thursday before the opening of the Zurich exchange that its recent product launches had offset patent expirations such as hypertension drug Diovan, which faces generic competition in the United States.

"Pharmaceuticals had another solid quarter," Chief Executive Joseph Jimenez said in a statement.

He said the results were helped by approvals for Afinitor for treating advanced breast cancer, which the company expects to help push sales of the drug above the $1 billion mark.