Group performance

Financial performance

Novartis delivered a solid performance in 2020,1 driven by sales of key products and growth in core operating income. The results highlight the strength and resilience of our business despite the impact of the global COVID-19 pandemic on economies and healthcare systems.

1 The commentary focuses on continuing operations and excludes the performance of Alcon, which was spun off to Novartis AG shareholders on April 9, 2019.

Strong sales of key products continued to underpin our performance in 2020. Novartis full-year net sales were USD 48.7 billion in our continuing operations, up 3% from the prior year when measured in constant currencies (cc) to remove the impact of exchange rate movements. The COVID-19 pandemic negatively affected demand in certain therapeutic areas, most notably in dermatology and ophthalmology, as well as in our Retail Generics business.

Entresto, a treatment for heart failure, continued to grow strongly with sales of USD 2.5 billion, up 44% (cc), driven by increased patient share across most major markets. Entresto was launched in Japan in August.

Zolgensma, our breakthrough gene therapy for children with spinal muscular atrophy, delivered a strong performance in its first full year after launch. It registered sales of USD 920 million, driven by geographic expansion following approvals in 2020 in the EU and other markets.

Cosentyx, our treatment for psoriasis and other autoimmune diseases, saw continued growth despite the impact of COVID-19 in dermatology. Sales rose 13% (cc) from the prior year to USD 4.0 billion. Cosentyx continued to broaden its position in the market in 2020, with approvals for several new indications in the US and the EU.

Our oncology products also contributed to the solid performance. Promacta, a treatment for blood disorders that is known as Revolade outside the US, grew 23% (cc) to USD 1.7 billion. Jakavi, a treatment for blood disorders and cancers, grew 20% (cc) to USD 1.3 billion. Kisqali, a breast cancer treatment, had sales of USD 687 million, up 45% (cc).

Our newly launched products progressed well. Tabrecta, a lung cancer treatment, registered sales of USD 35 million. Kesimpta, a treatment for relapsing multiple sclerosis, had sales of USD 15 million.

Sales growth in our Sandoz Division continued to be driven by biopharmaceuticals, which increased 19% (cc) to USD 1.9 billion. Biopharmaceuticals include biosimilars, which are less expensive follow-on versions of complex biologic drugs that are being embraced by healthcare systems, particularly in Europe.

In Europe, our largest market, Novartis sales grew 4% (cc). Sales in the US rose 1%. Sales in emerging growth markets grew 6% (cc), led by a double-digit increase in China.

Operating income was USD 10.2 billion, up 19% (cc) from the prior year, mainly driven by higher sales and lower spending. Net income of USD 8.1 billion increased 20% (cc), mainly driven by operating income. Earnings per share were USD 3.55, up 21% (cc), growing faster than net income and benefiting from a lower weighted average number of shares outstanding.

To help people understand our underlying performance, we also present our core results, which exclude the impact of amortization, restructurings, acquisitions and other significant items. Core operating income of USD 15.4 billion rose 13% (cc). Core net income of USD 13.2 billion rose 12% (cc). Core earnings per share were USD 5.78, up 13% (cc). Free cash flow of USD 11.7 billion was down 10% due to payments related to legal matters and lower divestment proceeds.

For more detail on our financial performance, please see our Annual Report 2020 at

Selected growth contributors – innovative medicines in 2020

(in USD millions, % growth in constant currencies)

3 995 +13%
2 497 +44%
1 738 +23%
1 339 +20%
920 +151%
Selected growth contributors – innovative medicines in 2020 (Graphic/Animation)

2020 net sales by division

(in USD millions, % growth in constant currencies, and divisional or business unit share of net sales)

2020 net sales by division (Pie chart)

2020 net sales by geographical region

(% of net sales and in USD millions)

18 715
United States
16 484
Asia, Africa,
10 219
Latin America
3 241
2020 net sales by geographical region (Graphic/Animation)
Net sales from continuing operations


USD millions

% growth in cc


48 659



47 445


Operating income from continuing operations


USD millions

% growth in cc


10 152



9 086


Net income from continuing operations


USD millions

% growth in cc


8 071



7 147


Core operating income from continuing operations


USD millions

% growth in cc


15 416



14 112