AbbVie Inc on Friday reported stronger-than-expected results for the third quarter, when booming sales of its Humira arthritis treatment and Synthroid thyroid replacement drug more than offset lower demand for other medicines.
Shares of the drugmaker, which was split off at the beginning of the year from Abbott Laboratories Inc, rose more than 3 percent.
Humira, a treatment for rheumatoid arthritis, psoriasis, Crohn's disease and other conditions, is the world's top-selling prescription drug. Its sales have risen steadily since it was introduced in 2002.
The injectable drug's global sales soared 19.1 percent to $2.77 billion in the quarter, outpacing 16 percent growth in the prior quarter.
Humira accounted for almost 60 percent of total sales, illustrating AbbVie's growing reliance on a product that loses U.S. patent protection in late 2016.
Many analysts, however, expect sales of Humira to keep growing after its patent expires because it may take many years for generic drugmakers to develop and win approvals for complex "biosimilar" forms of the biotech drug.
In the meantime, AbbVie is hoping to develop and market lucrative new drugs to expand its medicine cabinet. They include oral treatments for hepatitis C that could be approved by early 2015 and a promising treatment called ABT-199 for various blood cancers.
AbbVie said it had earned $964 million, or 60 cents per share, in the third quarter, compared with $1.59 billion, or $1.01 per share, a year earlier.
Excluding writedowns of intangible assets and other special charges, the profit was 82 cents per share. That was 4 cents above the analysts' average estimate compiled by Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.
The suburban Chicago company raised the low end of its 2013 earnings forecast to $3.11 per share from $3.07 while keeping the high end at $3.13.
Sales rose 3.3 percent to $4.66 billion, beating Wall Street expectations of $4.52 billion.
Synthroid sales jumped 23 percent to $161 million in the quarter, while sales of Creon, a digestive enzymes drug, rose almost 10 percent to $101 million.
But sales of TriCor and Trilipix, drugs used to lower blood fats called triglycerides, fell 88 percent to $39 million due to competition from cheaper generics.
And sales of AndroGel, a topical testosterone gel, and of HIV treatment Kaletra, both fell 11 percent.
Shares of AbbVie were up 3.4 percent at $49.54 in morning trading.
(Reporting by Ransdell Pierson; Editing by Gerald E. McCormick and Lisa Von Ahn)