Swine flu vaccine sales lift Glaxo, AstraZeneca and Sanofi

While the swine flu pandemic remains a downer for public health officials worldwide, the H1N1 virus proved to be an upper for several pharmaceutical companies' third-quarter earnings. GlaxoSmithKline (GSK), AstraZeneca (AZN) and Sanofi-Aventis (SNY), which make vaccines against the virus, posted higher profits this week as governments worldwide snatched up their immunization supplies.

Despite the global economic slump, most pharma companies reporting this week continued to best Wall Street's expectations. Many companies faced increased competition from generics, but the pressure was mostly offset by cost-cutting measures, as was the case with Pfizer's (PFE) earnings earlier this month. The maker of Viagra logged 26 percent higher third-quarter profit on Oct. 20, due mostly to site closures and job cuts.