Novartis (NYSE:NVS) has lots of moving parts, making it tricky to analyze, but it looks to me like the overall picture is pretty healthy.

It's a foreign pharmaceutical company -- a selection of Motley Fool Global Gains even -- but Novartis' year-over-year comparisons are being hurt just like American Pfizer (NYSE:PFE) and Merck (NYSE:MRK) because Novartis reports in U.S. dollars. Sales were up just 3% in the third quarter, but would have been up a nice solid 7% if currency exchange rates had stayed the same.

The increase was led by pharmaceuticals, which increased 11% excluding exchange rates. Vaccines and diagnostics are headed in the opposite direction, down 16% at constant currencies, but that'll change next quarter

Swine flu vaccines are expected to contribute $400 million to $700 million in the fourth quarter, which could more than double what the division brought in this quarter. In the large scheme of things, though, Novartis won't benefit that much. That kind of one-time increase would be a lot of money for a smaller drugmaker like Onyx Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ:ONXX) or even Gilead Sciences (NASDAQ:GILD), but Novartis is on pace to exceed $41 billion in sales this year. The additional sales aren't exactly going to be a huge windfall, especially since the push to get the vaccine out the door required the company to bring in about 300 people from other divisions, which could hamper sales elsewhere.

Since pharmaceuticals have higher margins and grew so well, operating income was up 13% year over year. Unfortunately, that's where the good news ends -- for now. Interest expenses increased dramatically as Novartis had to increase its debt to pay for its acquisition of shares of Alcon (NYSE:ACL) from Nestle and potentially buy the rest. The bottom line didn't look as healthy with a paltry 1% increase in net income.

But look a little closer and you'll see that Novartis had to carry through large charges by companies it partially owns, Roche and Alcon, which ate up a lot of the increase in operating income. If you back out those charges, net income would have been up 8.4%.

Pretty healthy indeed.

Investing internationally can be a good hedge against a doomed dollar, writes Tim Hanson.

Fool contributor Dr. Brian Orelli doesn't own shares of any company mentioned in this article. Pfizer is a Motley Fool Inside Value selection. Alcon and Novartis are Global Gains picks. The Fool has a disclosure policy.