Humira sales leap helps power Abbott earnings

Abbott Laboratories ($ABT) has two pieces of news for those following its impending split into a pharma company and a healthcare conglomerate: First, the divorce is still expected to be finalized by year's end. Second, the pharma business' flagship product--the anti-inflammatory drug Humira--grew by 17% for the first quarter, to almost $2 billion in sales.

The spun-off drug business, dubbed AbbVie, will be heavily dependent on Humira, and at a time when the drug faces new competition, both from generic auto-immune drugs and, as Reuters points out, from a pill Pfizer ($PFE) is developing. Plus, Humira loses patent protection in 2016. But, in the meantime, it's headed for King of the Hill status as the top-selling drug on the globe, thanks to Lipitor's eroding sales.

Abbott also announced the rest of its first-quarter results: Earnings came in at $1.24 billion, or 78 cents per share, up from $864 million year over year. Sales grew by 4.6% to $9.46 billion, edging past analysts' expectations of $9.36 billion.

Looking just at the pharma business, branded drug sales grew by 6.6% in the U.S. to $2.053 billion, and, excluding currency effects, hit double-digit growth in international markets. As reported, international sales grew by 7.7%, to $2.019 billion. "Established" drugs sold in international markets brought in $1.257 billion, a slight year-over-year decline, thanks to foreign exchange effects. Products that managed big gains included AndroGel, which grew by almost 29% in the U.S. to $232 million. The Trilipix/Tricor franchise slipped, however, losing 12% in the U.S. and more than 26% overseas.

- read the Abbott release
- see the story from Bloomberg
- get more from Reuters