Novartis delivered strong performance in 2018. Growth accelerated, driven mainly by rising sales of key products launched in the last several years. We also continued to make significant progress reshaping Novartis into a company focused on developing and commercializing transformative medicines.
Strong performance by key products underpinned our growth in 2018. Novartis net sales were USD 51.9 billion, rising 5% from the prior year when measured in constant currencies (cc) to remove the impact of exchange rate movements. Four products achieved USD 1 billion in annual sales for the first time to become blockbusters.
Cosentyx, our treatment for psoriasis and other autoimmune diseases, had sales of USD 2.8 billion, up 36% (cc). Entresto, a treatment for heart failure that has now been used to treat more than 1 million people worldwide, had sales of USD 1.0 billion, more than doubling from the prior year.
Treatments for cancer and related rare diseases also performed well. Promacta, a treatment for blood disorders and cancers that is also known as Revolade outside the US, grew 35% (cc) to USD 1.2 billion. Tafinlar + Mekinist, a combination treatment for skin and lung cancers, had sales of USD 1.2 billion, up 31% (cc). Jakavi, a treatment for blood disorders and cancers, grew 24% (cc) to USD 977 million.
We continued to see strong uptake of biosimilars – less expensive follow-on versions of complex biologic drugs that are being embraced by healthcare systems, particularly in Europe. In our generics division, Sandoz, sales of biosimilars and other biopharmaceuticals grew 24% (cc) to USD 1.4 billion. In our eye care division, Alcon, sales grew for the second consecutive year with the strong performance of Dailies Total1 advanced contact lenses and intraocular lenses for cataract surgery.
In Europe, our largest market, overall sales grew 6% (cc). In the US, where there is increasing pressure on prices, sales rose 4% (cc). Emerging growth markets, including China, grew 8% (cc).
Strong performance by key products underpinned our growth in 2018. Novartis net sales of USD 51.9 billion rose 5% (cc)
Operating income was USD 8.2 billion, down 5% (cc), mainly due to the impact of higher restructuring charges, mergers and acquisitions, asset writedowns, and increased investment in marketing and sales, which more than offset the positive impact of higher sales. Net income of USD 12.6 billion benefited from a net gain of USD 5.7 billion from the sale of our stake in the consumer health joint venture with GlaxoSmithKline (GSK). Earnings per share were USD 5.44.
To help people understand our underlying performance, we also present our core results, which exclude the impact of acquisitions, disposals, restructurings and other significant items. Core operating income of USD 13.8 billion rose 8% (cc), driven by the higher sales. Core net income of USD 11.9 billion rose 5% (cc). Core earnings per share were USD 5.15, up 6% (cc). Free cash flow of USD 11.7 billion was up 12%.
For more detail on our financial performance, please see our Annual Report 2018 at www.novartis.com