Abbott Laboratories has kicked off the US results season with a healthy 16% rise in first-quarter 2005 sales to $5.38 billion dollars, a little ahead of consensus analysts estimates and helped by a leap in revenues for its painkiller Mobic (meloxicam).

Mobic sales rose more than 185% to $293 million versus the same period last year [[13/04/04c]], as prescribers turned to the product to fill the vacuum left by the withdrawal of Merck & Co’s COX-2 inhibitor Vioxx (rofecoxib) on safety grounds [[01/10/04a]], and the resulting impact on other drugs in the class, notably Pfizer’s Celebrex (celecoxib), which is seeing reduced demand.

Abbott’s operating earnings came in at $1.14 billion, a rise of almost 20% on the same period of 2004, while net income was up just under 2% to $838 million, held back by charges relating to the repatriation of some $600 million worth of foreign earnings.

Also performing well was Abbott's antibody-based arthritis drug Humira (adalimumab), which saw turnover rise 89% to $282 million helped by a 150% rise in ex-US sales to $118 million. Although the growth rate for Humira has declined slightly from its phenomenal take-up in 2004, the company is still forecasting full-year sales of $1.3 billion for this product.

Turnover of the company’s top-selling drug, Biaxin (clarithromycin), for respiratory tract infections, rose 10% to $353 million, and Abbott is forecasting 2005 sales of more than $1 billion, despite the loss of patent protection on the immediate release version of the drug, as it has now converted more than two thirds of sales to the newer, in-patent Baxin XL version. Meanwhile HIV drug Kaletra (lopinavir/ritonavir) sales were 26% higher at $238 million, although revenues from the thyroid drug Synthroid (levothyroxine), which is now facing generic competition, slumped 23% to $136 million.

The TAP joint venture with Japan’s Takeda posted an 11% decline in revenues in the first quarter to $761 million, as stronger than anticipated sales of gastrointestinal drug, Prevacid (lansoprazole), failed to offset weaker sales of the prostate cancer therapy, Lupron (leuprolide).