swung to an unexpectedly strong first-quarter profit on a 21% pop in revenue, and executives said the drug company's long-awaited turnaround is showing signs of progress.

The company earned $127 million, or 7 cents a share, in the quarter, compared with a loss of $73 million, or 5 cents a share, last year. The latest quarter included a charge related to employee terminations, before which Schering-Plough earned 9 cents a share, beating the Thomson First Call consensus estimate of 1 cent a share.

Revenue was $2.37 billion in the most recent quarter compared with $1.96 billion a year ago. Analysts had been forecasting earnings of $2.17 billion in the most recent quarter.

Among its top drugs, Remicade revenue rose 33% from a year ago to $220 million; Nasonex revenue rose 30% to $183 million; PEG-Itron revenue rose 14% to $170 million; and Clarinex and Aerius revenue rose 11% to $144 million.

The company noted the period was its second straight quarter of higher sales and is a "clear signal that top-line growth is starting to drive bottom line growth."

"In defining our anticipated turnaround, we think that the beginning of our turnaround phase will be marked by two or three quarters of solid performance, as demonstrated by growth in sales and earnings per share versus prior year quarters, excluding special items," the company said in a statement.