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updated: 1/30/2013 9:44 AM

AbbVie's first forecast higher than analysts' estimates

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Bloomberg News

AbbVie Inc. forecast 2013 earnings higher than analysts' estimates, after sales surged for its arthritis treatment Humira, the world's second-best selling medicine, and its testosterone-boosting gel.

AbbVie, giving its first forecast since breaking away from Abbott Laboratories on Jan. 1 as an independent company, projected earnings excluding one-time items of $3.03 to $3.13 a share. The top end of the range is higher than the $3.08 average of 11 analysts' estimates compiled by Bloomberg.

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Abbott split its diversified health-care products company, leaving medical devices, diagnostic tools and infant nutrition businesses with the parent, while North Chicago-based AbbVie became a drugmaker. Abbott Chief Executive Officer Miles White said the breakup was designed to get the other businesses out from the shadow of Humira, now AbbVie's top-selling product with $9.27 billion in revenue last year.

The focus is on AbbVie's experimental drugs. William Chase, the company's chief financial officer, said earlier this month that AbbVie will try to develop specialty treatments rather than targeting primary care medicines.

Among its leading experimental therapies is a hepatitis C treatment targeted for the market in early 2015 that will eliminate shots of interferon, the standard yearlong treatment that has flu-like side-effects. Also in the final phase of testing usually needed for U.S. regulatory approval are medicines to treat multiple sclerosis and multiple myeloma.

AbbVie shares fell less than 1 percent to $37.16 at 9:40 a.m. New York time.

Sales of Humira increased 23 percent in the fourth quarter to $2.68 billion. Sales last year of the arthritis medicine trailed only the world's best-selling drug, Pfizer Inc.'s cholesterol treatment Lipitor. Lipitor has been losing sales after generic copies came on the market last year.

The testosterone-boosting treatment AndroGel rose 41 percent to $364 million in the fourth quarter as the company increased television advertisements for the medicine. Americans spent $1.15 billion on the drug in 2012, a 32 percent increase.

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