Adds comment from CEO, detail about gene therapy
ZURICH, April 24 (Reuters) - Swiss drugmaker Novartis NOVN.S on Wednesday raised its 2019 guidance after a first-quarter earnings and sales beat, as revenue from its heart failure drug Entresto and psoriasis medicine Cosentyx continued to grow.
First-quarter core net income rose 13 percent at constant exchange rates to $2.81 billion, compared to the $2.76 billion average estimate in a poll by Infront Data.
Sales excluding eyecare business Alcon, spun off to shareholders this month, rose 7 percent to $11.1 billion, compared to the $10.9 billion poll average.
Novartis now expects core operating income growth at a high-single-digit percentage rate, with sales growing in the mid-single-digit percentage range. It had seen net sales growing by a low- to mid-single-digit percentage, with core operating income up at a mid-single-digit rate.
Chief Executive Vas Narasimhan spun off his Alcon unit as he continues re-focusing Novartis on innovative prescription drugs, including radioligand therapy for cancer and gene therapy that he added last year with the $8.7 billion acquisition of U.S. based AveXis.
"Taken together, we're really well positioned for growth," Narasimhan told reporters on a call.
Cosentyx is now the company's top seller after first-quarter sales rose 41 percent to $791 million, while Entresto sales jumped 85 percent to $357 million.
Narasimhan said two deaths in clinical trials of gene therapy Zolgensma against spinal muscular atrophy, including one that the company has said was deemed possibly related to treatment by the trial investigator, are seen not impacting regulators' review. A decision on Zolgensma's approval is expected from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration next month.
(Reporting by John Miller; Editing by Michael Shields)
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