Novartis expects volume growth at its pharma unit to more than offset the impact of generic competition, the Swiss drugmaker said after posting a 27 percent rise in second-quarter sales.

The Basel-based group's core earnings per share jumped 23 percent to $1.48 in the second-quarter, but this trailed the average forecast in a Reuters poll of $1.52. Net sales of $14.915 billion beat a poll average of $14.735 billion.

Novartis, which has a better track record than most rivals in bringing new drugs to market, said demand for its recently launched multiple sclerosis pill Gilenya was still strong and the drug was outpacing all previous launches in MS.

Sales of Tasigna, which is being billed as a replacement for older drug Glivec in chronic myeloid leukemia, rose 79 percent, while demand for eye drug Lucentis was also strong.

Novartis is starting to face generic competition as cancer drug Femara and its blood pressure medicine Diovan lose patent protection.

Pharmaceuticals volume grew 8 percent in the second quarter, with significant contributions from recently launched products more than offsetting generic competition, Novartis said in a statement.

It said it expected the pharma division to deliver 2011 sales growth in low- to mid-single digits repeating that volume growth should more than offset the impact of generic competition for the full year.

On the other side of the Atlantic, investors will also focus on the newest medicines at Johnson & Johnson when the diversified healthcare group posts its second-quarter results a few hours after Novartis.

Investors are hopeful that drugs like Zytiga and Edurant will revive J&J's long-underperforming pharmaceuticals business.

(Reporting by Katie Reid; Editing by Mike Nesbit)