Sales at the Basel-based drugs company, Roche, grew faster in the third quarter of the year, helping boost sales revenue by eight per cent for the first nine months of the year.
Roche forecast that its 2001 operating profit would at least match last year's level and said its net income would hold steady near the first half level of SFr1.5 billion.
Nine-month drug sales rose seven per cent to SFr13.8 billion. They had risen just five per cent in the first half but grew by 10 per cent in the third quarter due mainly to cancer drug sales.
Roche's drug sales have lagged behind the double-digit growth rates generated by its major competitors.
Archrival Novartis saw its pharmaceutical sales rise 15 per cent in the same time period.
Roche's diagnostics division - which is in a healthier state - again came to the rescue of the drugs unit. Diagnostic sales increased 14 per cent to SFr5.09 billion, while sales revenue at the vitamins and fine chemicals division advanced four per cent.
Roche drugs sales have been hit hard by a series of product setbacks. ON Tuesday, it said its restructuring plan was on track to improve the drug unit's operating margin to between 20 and 25 per cent within two to three years from 18 per cent last year.
It also said its top new drug, the hepatitis C treatment Pegasys, should be launched in the United States and the European Union in the second half of next year.
Roche's poor recent performance has fuelled speculation that it might merge with Novartis, which bought a 20 per cent voting stake in the company earlier this year.
swissinfo with agencies
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