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posted fourth-quarter earnings Monday in line with analysts' expectations, amid robust sales of its arthritis, cancer and glaucoma drugs. The pharmaceuticals giant maintained a double-digit growth prescription for 2001.

Peapack, N.J.-based Pharmacia said fourth-quarter earnings were $417 million, or 32 cents a share, excluding items, compared with $316 million, or 24 cents a share, in the same period last year. According to a poll by

First Call/Thomson Financial

, 17 analysts expected fourth-quarter earnings of 32 cents a share.

The company said sales rose to $4.5 billion, compared with $4.2 billion in the year-ago period. The company, which produces

blockbuster arthritis drug Celebrex, said results were driven by a 20% increase in U.S. prescription pharmaceutical sales.

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Looking ahead, Pharmacia said it expects earnings-per-share growth of about 20% in 2001, including the impact of the October 2000 spin-off of a portion of its



subsidiary. Pharmacia retains 85% ownership in the company.

Analysts on average see 2001 earnings of $1.76 a share, roughly 20% better than 2000 earnings of $1.45 per share.

Shares of Pharmacia closed at $54 in Friday trading on the

New York Stock Exchange

. The shares have a 52-week range of $35.10 to $64.