Abbott Laboratories says that fourth quarter earnings were in line with expectations [[15/10/04a]], rising by just over 3% to $975 million dollars, on the back of a 15% hike in sales versus the same period last year to $4.9 billion as its rheumatoid arthritis offering, Humira (adalimumab), continued to put in a strong showing [[19/01/04b]]. The latter product, which hit the US markets following its launch in 2003 [[06/01/03g]], brought in revenues of some $852 million during the three-month period – up 79% on last year – prompting the company to up its full-year 2005 sales forecast for the product to in excess of $1.3 billion [[12/07/04a]].

The firm’s performance was also driven by a strong 16% hike in US pharmaceutical revenues to $2 billion, with double-digit growth coming from several key products, including the osteoarthritis drug, Mobic (meloxicam), which is co-marketed with Boehringer Ingelheim and has likely benefited from Merck & Co's withdrawal of Vioxx (rofecoxib) [[01/10/04a]], and the recent negative press surrounding older products in the same class, such as Pfizer’s Celebrex (celecoxib) [[20/12/04a]], and generated quarterly revenues of $258 million – up more than 176%. In addition, the levothyroxine medicine, Synthroid contributed $141 million in sales, which was in line with expectations in spite of over six months of generic competition. Other strong performances came from the cholesterol-lowering medicine, TriCor (fenofibrate), and its combination HIV/AIDS medicine, Kaletra (lopinavir/ritonavir), up 40% to $227 million and 13% to $247 million respectively. The anti-ulcerant, Prevacid (lansoprazole), dipped 43% to $475 million at the hands of heightened competition from cheaper versions of AstraZeneca’s competing Prilosec (omeprazole).

For 2005, Abbott re-confirmed that it expects earnings per share in the $2.47 to $2.53 range, coupled with a 10% to 12% hike in sales. For the first quarter of the year, the US firm is targeting EPS of between $0.57 and $0.59.

- Meanwhile, Abbott says it will begin enrolling patients during the first quarter of 2005 in a new clinical trial aimed at comparing the benefits of using stents in the carotid arteries in the neck of patients who have not displayed symptoms of a stroke but are considered to be at risk and would normally be referred for surgery, versus standard carotid artery surgery.