Updated from 2:31 p.m. EDT

Shares of

Pacificare Health Systems

(PHS)

were among the best-performing health and pharmaceutical stocks Wednesday, rising 17.4% after the company posted third-quarter earnings that beat expectations and raised its full-year earnings expectations.

The health care company earned 94 cents a share on sales of $3.1 billion during the third quarter. Analysts polled by Thomson First Call were expecting earnings of 87 cents a share on sales of $3.12 billion. Looking ahead, the company said its stock repurchase plan would lower the amount of outstanding shares. As a result, Pacificare raised its full-year earnings estimate to $3.15 to $3.20 a share, up from previous guidance of $3.07 to $3.17. Shares traded up $6.02 to $40.66.

DaVita

(DVA) - Get Report

rose 2.6% after the company's third-quarter results easily beat expectations. Excluding items, the kidney dialysis services company earned 54 cents a share on sales of $595.5 million. Analysts were expecting earnings of 52 cents a share on sales of $573.6 million. Looking ahead, DaVita said that fourth-quarter operating income would be comparable to third-quarter results. Analysts are expecting earnings of 54 cents a share. Shares traded up 80 cents to $31.49.

Shares of

Kos Pharmaceuticals

(KOSP)

rose 9.2% after the company posted third-quarter results that beat Wall Street expectations and raised its 2004 earnings and sales outlook. The drug company earned 94 cents a share during the third quarter on sales of $131.9 million. Analysts were expecting earnings of 74 cents a share on sales of $126.5 million. Looking ahead, Kos now expects earnings of $3 a share for the full year on sales of $490 million. Previously, it expected earnings of $2.60 to $2.65 a share on sales of $480 million. Shares traded up $3.43 to $40.83.

Cigna

(CI) - Get Report

rose 2.9% after the company posted third-quarter earnings that came in ahead of expectations and raised its full-year outlook. Excluding items, the health insurer earned $1.77 a share on sales of $4.48 billion. Analysts were expecting earnings of $1.36 a share on sales of $4.11 billion. Looking ahead, Cigna now expects full-year earnings of $6.65 to $6.85 a share, up from its previous guidance of $5.95 to $6.25 a share. Analysts had been expecting earnings of $6.23 a share. Shares traded up $1.84 to $65.29.

Other health care volume movers included

Merck

(MRK) - Get Report

, up $1.07 to $27.87;

Pfizer

(PFE) - Get Report

, up 75 cents to $29.45;

StemCells

(STEM)

, down 97 cents to $3.14;

Amgen

(AMGN) - Get Report

, up $3.56 to $58.55;

Wyeth

(WYE)

, up $1.46 to $40.80;

Bristol-Myers Squibb

(BMY) - Get Report

, up 58 cents to $23.76; and

Johnson & Johnson

(JNJ) - Get Report

, up $1.41 to $59.45.