ZURICH, July 18 (Reuters) - Novartis lifted full-year sales and profit targets on Thursday, helped by innovative medicine sales and as the Swiss drugmaker's Sandoz generics unit saw rising international demand for its biosimilar copies of blockbuster drugs made by rivals.
Second-quarter core operating income rose 20% in constant currencies to $3.6 billion, while sales were up 8% to $11.8 billion, compared to the $11.54 billion forecast by 10 analysts in a Refinitiv poll.
The Basel-based company now expects 2019 core operating income to grow at low-double-digit to mid-teens percentages, faster than the previous high-single-digit percentage rate target. Sales expectations were also raised, with growth now seen in the mid to high-single digit range.
Novartis highlighted performance at Sandoz, where it said international business offset price declines in the United States.
It revised Sandoz 2019 sales forecasts upwards -- to broadly in line with last year or possible low-single-digit growth -- as the company's copies of Roche's Mabthera, AbbVie's Humira and Amgen's and Pfizer's Enbrel captured business from the namebrand drugs in Europe.
"We increased our full year guidance for both sales and core operating income in light of our strong momentum," Chief Executive Vas Narasimhan said in a statement. (Reporting by John Miller Editing by Thomas Seythal and Brenna Hughes Neghaiwi)