FILE - The Aug. 12, 2005 file photo shows the logo of Swiss company Novartis in Basel, Switzerland. Swiss pharmaceutical giant Novartis AG announced a series of multibillion-dollar deals Tuesday, April 22, 2014 with other major pharmaceutical companies that it said would reduce sales but boost profitability, while affecting some 15,000 of its employees globally.  (AP Photo/Keystone, Steffen Schmidt)

Strong new drug sales helped Swiss pharmaceutical firm Novartis AG report a 24 percent rise in first-quarter profit.

The company said Thursday that its net profit of nearly $2.97 billion, which was up from $2.42 billion in the same period last year, was helped by sales growth from some of its newest product launches, such as Gilenya for multiple sclerosis and Afinitor for cancer.

The Basel, Switzerland-based company has been counting on these new drugs to offset patent expirations, such as its blockbuster heart drug Diovan which lost U.S. protection in 2012.

The company also noted that the strong sales were reinforced by asthma treatment Xolair gaining approval in the European Union and United States and meningitis B vaccine Bexsero being recommended in the U.K. and gaining new designation in the U.S. Growth in emerging markets, particularly China, also helped.

"Novartis delivered a solid quarter, with all divisions contributing to growth," CEO Joseph Jimenez said.

He emphasized that the major overhaul of its business that Novartis launched Tuesday — a series of "transformational" multibillion-dollar deals with Britain's GlaxoSmithKline PLC and Eli Lilly & Co. of the United States — would "position the company for future success based on our sharpened focus, innovation power and financial strength."

Novartis shares were down by more than 1 percent at 75.40 Swiss francs at the start of trading Thursday, after rising by 3 percent in the wake of Tuesday's announcement.