Swiss pharmaceutical giant Novartis said on Wednesday its second quarter sales grew by nine per cent, boosted in large part by clients replenishing supplies after dipping heavily into their stocks during pandemic lockdowns last year.

Net profit jumped by 49 per cent from the same period last year to $2.9 billion (€2.4bn), which the company said was due to lower financial charges. Net sales came in at $13 billion in the quarter that ran from March through June, a nine per cent gain when currency variations were stripped out.

Increases in volumes would have implied a 13 per cent sales gain, but reduced prices and increased competition from generics reduced this figure to nine per cent. Of that, Novartis estimates four percentage points came from clients stocking up after cutting back orders last year at the height of the pandemic.

While pharmaceutical companies might at first glance be expected to have benefited from the pandemic, companies like Novartis saw sales drop last year. The company said doctor visits, surgeries and cancer treatments declined as people avoided hospitals during the first wave of the pandemic, thus weighing on sales of medicines. Novartis said this has resulted in a comparison effect this year and sales are almost back to pre-pandemic levels.

Doctor visits, surgeries and cancer treatments declined as people avoided hospitals during the first wave of the pandemic, thus weighing on sales of medicines

Novartis said it continues to feel the effect of the pandemic in certain geographical areas.

It said sales in anti-cancer treatments and generic drugs were also still seeing some impact from COVID. But the firm expects the effects of the pandemic will continue to lessen. “We are assuming further easing of COVID-19 restrictions in the second half of the year with a positive impact on business dynamics,” Novartis said in a statement.

In the first six months of the year, the company’s increase in sales was less marked, at three per cent. Novartis left unchanged its forecast for an increase in sales of one to five per cent for 2021 as a whole.

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