Profits at Swiss drug maker Novartis have risen 25% boosted by sales of the company’s swine flu pandemic vaccine.

The firm recorded a net profit of $2.95bn in the first quarter of 2010, compared with a $1.98bn profit for the same quarter in 2009.

Net sales went up 25% to $12.1bn, thanks to recently launched products, which contributed 16% of net sales, including the A (H1N1) pandemic flu vaccine, which contributed $1.1bn.

The company expects group sales to grow at a single-digit percentage this year, while sales at the pharmaceuticals division will grow at a mid to high single-digit rate.

The company expects further growth on the back of innovation, including approvals for the Menveo vaccine (US / EU) and three new medicines in Japan, as well as US priority review status for Tasigna (cancer) and Gilenia (MS).

The company also expects the acquisition of Alcon from Nestlé to create a new growth platform as long as the acquisition of 77 majority stake stays on track for the second half of 2010.