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

Net income was up 12.3% to $1.62 billion, while group sales increased 4.1% to $10.38 billion. Pharmaceutical revenues climbed 6.7% to $4.78 billion and Humira (adalimumab), which is approved for indications covering rheumatoid arthritis, Crohn’s disease and psoriasis, contributed $2.18 billion (+15.9%).

As for the company’s lipids franchise, TriCor (fenofibrate) and TriLipix (fenofibric acid) had sales of $409 million, down 4.3%, while Niaspan (niacin) brought in $258 million, a decrease of 10%. Of Abbott’s other products, the prostate cancer therapy Lupron (leuprolide) rose 4.0% to $208 million, while revenues from the HIV drug Kaletra (lopinavir/ritonavir) were down 15.6% to $288 million. Sales of the hypothyroid medication Synthroid (levothyroxine) were up 2.0% to $163 million.

Abbott's nutritional products had sales of $1.56 million, up 8.6%, while 'established pharmaceuticals', which includes sales of branded generics outside the USA, fell 4.6% to $1.39 billion. Fourth-quarter sales of vascular products, which includes heart stents, inched up 0.6% to $826 million.

Chief executive Miles White said that "despite another challenging year for the global economy, Abbott again delivered leading performance, including strong sales and ongoing earnings-per-share growth". He added that the plan , announced in October, to split off Abbott's $18 billion drugs arm  from the diagnostics, devices, nutrition and branded generics businesses, should be completed by the end of the year.

Analysts were a little disappointed with the figures and Rick Wise at Leerink Swann issued a research a note, saying that pharmaceutical sales were $100 million less than expected, but that was due principally to the effects of foreign exchange.