Abbott saw double-digit growth in pharmaceutical sales in the first quarter on strong sales of Humira, but net income dropped 19% to $697.5 million over the same period last year on charges related to the acquisition of Kos Pharmaceuticals and Guidant.

Pharmaceutical sales jumped 16.6% to $3.4 billion, with global sales of the rheumatoid arthritis drug Humira (adalimumab) reaching $571 million, an increase of 46%. Some analysts had forecast higher earnings of at least $40 million following approvals for several new indications, but have suggested the drug may have been overstocked in the fourth-quarter. But Abbott says it still believes the treatment will record full-year sales of more than $2.7 billion.

Quarterly sales of the psychiatric drug Depakote (divalproex sodium) rose by a steady 32.6% to $326 million, while the HIV protease inhibitor Kaletra (lopinavir/ritonavir) recorded revenues of $300 million, an increase of 7.2% over the same quarter last year. TriCor (fenofibrate), the anti-cholesterol, had an 8.7% sales rise to $223 million, although the macrolide antibiotic Biaxin (clarithromycin) saw a fall of 10% to $224 million.

Questionable results

“We achieved our performance expectations for the quarter,” said Miles White, chairman and chief executive officer of Abbott. “Our market-leading products and businesses delivered strong results, lead by double-digit growth in medical products. In addition, we made significant progress during the quarter to advance our broad-based business strategy with the agreement to acquire Guidant's vascular business.”

However, Michael Weinstein, an analyst at JP Morgan, suggested: “The bad news for Abbott is that quality on both the top and bottom lines was low this quarter.”

Abbott has increased its adjusted earnings forecast for the full year to between $2.79 and $2.85 per share, compared to a previous range of between $2.77 and $2.83, citing higher-than-expected income from its TAP joint venture with Takeda.