Abbott Laboratories

(ABT) - Get Report

posted lower first-quarter profits due to higher costs associated with its rheumatoid arthritis drug launch. Results, however, met analysts' expectations.

The company also issued a second-quarter guidance and reiterated its full-year 2003 forecast, both within the range of analysts' consensus.

During the quarter ended March 31, the company earned $801 million, matching analysts' forecast of 51 cents a share, compared with $854 million, or 54 cents a share, in the year-ago period.

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Abbott said higher costs related to the launch of its rheumatoid arthritis drug, Humira, which became available in mid-January, impacted earnings. "As expected, we made significant investments during the quarter to support an aggressive launch, as well as to further develop our emerging pipeline," Abbott said. Previously, the company had cut its earnings expectation to a range of 50 cents to 52 cents a share.

Revenue during the quarter was $4.58 billion, up from last year's $4.19 billion Total Humira sales were $26 million, and the company said it increased its 2003 expected Humira sales to about $200 million from about $150 million.

For the second-quarter, Abbott expects to earn 51 cents to 53 cents a share, while analysts expect 53 cents a share, on average. Looking to full-year 2003 earnings, the company expects EPS of $2.20 to $2.25; analysts expect $2.21 a share. The comapny earned 49 cents a share in last year's second quarter and $2.06 for the year.

Shares of the company closed at $39.93 Tuesday on the

New York Stock Exchange

.