Abbott's drug sales tick upward as AbbVie spinoff looms

In its last quarterly report before spinning off its pharma unit, Abbott Laboratories ($ABT) posted higher profits, but lower sales. The drug business, set to begin its new independent life Jan. 1, delivered a 2.4% increase in worldwide branded revenues, despite a hefty currency hit. Branded drugs grew by 7.4% in the U.S. to $4.42 billion.

At risk of stating the obvious, Abbott can credit Humira with that sales growth. You don't have to do much math to see that it's by far the biggest of Abbott's drug brands. The anti-inflammatory drug grew by 10% worldwide to $2.33 billion. In the U.S., sales jumped by 27%. And that's without its newly approved indication in ulcerative colitis, which is expected to add $500 million or more to Humira's annual sales.

The drug's patent expires in 2016, but, as a biologic, may not see generic competition right away. As Bloomberg notes, analysts are gauging Humira's long-term value as the split nears, and eyeing Abbott's pipeline of experimental drugs. "The key for driving value on the pharma side will be if Humira growth can be sustained beyond 2015 and how much the pipeline can contribute," Sanford C. Bernstein's Derrick Sung wrote in an investor note (as quoted by the news service).

Earnings came in at $1.21 per share, up from 19 cents last year, when restructuring and litigation took a bite out of profits. Excluding items, EPS amounted to $1.30, ahead of analyst estimates. Overall, sales dropped slightly to $9.77 billion.

- see the release from Abbott
- read the MarketWatch piece
- get more from Bloomberg

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