Abbott Pharma Abbott Laboratories has posted a first-quarter earnings rise of 53.4%, but analysts are concerning about a decline in pharmaceutical sales.

Net income reached $1.44 billion, but that rise was due in part to a one-time payment associated with the end of its TAP Pharmaceuticals joint venture with Takeda. Total sales dipped just 0.7% to $6.72 billion, though worldwide pharmaceutical sales were down 5.7% to $3.64 billion, and fell 12.9% to $1.53 billion.

Sales of Abbott’s anti-inflammatory blockbuster Humira (adalimumab), which is approved for six indications in the USA, ranging from rheumatoid arthritis and Crohn’s disease to psoriasis, were up 16.7% to $1.02 billion, a bit lower than analyst expectations.

As for the company’s lipids franchise, TriCor (fenofibrate) and the recently-approved TriLipix (fenofibric acid) contributed $253 million, up 3.0%, while Niaspan (niacin) brought in $178 million, a rise of 1.1%. Of the firm’s other products, sales of Depakote (divalproex sodium) for manic episodes, migraines and several types of epileptic disorders, were battered by generic competition and fell 64.5% to $129 million. Revenues from the HIV drug Kaletra (lopinavir/ritonavir) fell 17.3% to $292 million.

Abbott chief executive Miles White said the first-quarter results “demonstrate again the value of a well-balanced and highly diverse portfolio of businesses capable of top-tier earnings performance in even the most difficult market conditions". Sales at the company’s nutritional unit were up 6.4% to $1.18 billion, while diagnostics slipped 1.8% to $816 million.

On a conference call Mr White said that the company was not interested in major acquisitions and confirmed that Abbott did not compete with Pfizer for the hand of Wyeth. He noted that “we are not evaluating any large deals. I have a clear bias toward smaller to mid-size” acquisitions. For the full-year Abbott reaffirmed its earnings per share forecast of $3.65-$3.70.

Abbott’s shares fell 4.6% on the results to $42.66 and analysts are concerned about Humira. Catherine Arnold at Credit Suisse said that the company’s change in 2009 growth guidance for the drug to 15%-20% from 25%, "suggests the product's growth may be starting to slow”.