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ZURICH, Switzerland (

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Novartis

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, the Swiss drugmaker, said third-quarter profit rose slightly to $2.1 billion and it raised its full-year sales forecast.

Earnings in the third quarter were $2.1 billion compared with $2.08 billion a year earlier as sales rose 3% to $11.09 billion. Its pharmaceuticals division led the sales growth with a gain of 11%.

Novartis said it now expects group net sales to rise at a high-single-digit rate, even excluding anticipated H1N1 pandemic flu vaccines sales in the fourth quarter. Pharmaceuticals sales are seen growing at a double-digit rate in 2009.

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The company did say, however, that currency-related losses could "significantly reduce" growth in reported results.

The company said about 90 million to 120 million doses of the H1N1 vaccine is expected to be made by the end of the year, with expected fourth-quarter net sales contributions of about $400 million to $700 million.

-- Reported by Joseph Woelfel in New York

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