Abbott Laboratories has posted strong sales and earnings growth for the first quarter, driven again by its anti-inflammatory blockbuster Humira.

Net income shot up 43.8% to $1.24 billion, while group sales increased 4.6% to $9.46 billion. Pharmaceutical revenues climbed 7.1% to $4.07 billion and Humira (adalimumab), which is approved for indications covering rheumatoid arthritis, Crohn’s disease and psoriasis, contributed $1.93 billion (+17.4%).

As for the company’s lipids franchise, TriCor (fenofibrate) and TriLipix (fenofibric acid) had sales of $329 million, down 10.7%, while Niaspan (niacin) brought in $191 million, a decrease of 15.4%. Revenues from the HIV drug Kaletra (lopinavir/ritonavir) were down 11.1% to $221 million.

On the positive side, Abbott's Androgel testosterone replacement therapy climbed 23.6% to $241 million, while sales of the prostate cancer drug Lupron (leuprolide) rose 8.0% to $199 million. The hypothyroid medication Synthroid (levothyroxine) was up 9.1% to $155 million.

Abbott's nutritional products had sales of $1.57 million, up 10.1%, while 'established pharmaceuticals', which includes sales of branded generics outside the USA, slipped 1.6% to $1.26 billion. First-quarter sales of vascular products, which includes heart stents, fell 4.9% to $803 million.

Chief executive Miles White said Abbott is off to a strong start in 2012, and as a result is raising earnings-per-share guidance for the full year to $5.00-$5.10 from $4.95-$5.05. During the quarter, he noted that the firm announced a number of new product launches and strategic partnerships "to enhance the pipelines of each of our major businesses".

AbbVie spin-off on track

Mr White concluded by saying that "we remain focused on the process of separating Abbott into two leading healthcare companies, which remains on track to be completed by the end of the year". Last month, it was announced that the company's $18 billion drugs arm will be called AbbVie, while the diagnostics, devices, nutrition and branded generics businesses will keep the Abbott name.