Novartis AG's  third-quarter net profit rose 32 percent to $2.08 billion, helped by strong sales of its top-selling blood pressure drug Diovan and just behind forecasts.

The Swiss drugmaker on raised its full-year forecast for drug sales, which it now expects to grow at a mid-single-digit rate in 2008, and said it would cut 550 jobs in the United States, about 0.6 percent of its global workforce.

Big drugmakers have to some extent benefited from the financial crisis thanks to their relatively secure earnings and dividends, but also face looming threats of more copy-cat competition, lack of new products and pressure on prices. Third-quarter sales were $10.75 billion.