Shares of

Axcan Pharma

( AXCA) were among the worst-performing health-related stocks Wednesday, tumbling 31% after the specialty pharmaceutical company said its phase III trial of Itopride failed to meet its endpoint.

The drug, which was being tested to treat functional dyspepsia, did not confirm the efficacy seen in earlier trials. "We are obviously surprised with the results of the Itopride international phase III trial, particularly in view of the positive results seen in the soon-to-be published phase II trial and in the preclinical data that provided strong mechanistic support for Itopride," the company said in a statement.

Axcan said it plans to develop Itopride for use in other stomach ailments. Additionally, the company said that it would "focus on other opportunities to accelerate growth of the company by leveraging our solid business base and executing on our growth strategy." Shares were trading down $5.13 to $11.20

NutriSystem

(NTRI) - Get Report

climbed 12% after the provider of weight- management and fitness products posted better-than-expected fourth-quarter results and lifted its first-quarter guidance. The company earned $6.3 million, or 17 cents a share, on sales of $69.6 million. Analysts polled by Thomson First Call expected earnings of 16 cents a share and sales of $69.5 million. In early February, the company projected earnings of 16 cents a share, with sales of $69 million to $70 million. At the time, analysts projected earnings of 17 cents a share and sales of $62.5 million. During the year-ago quarter, the company recorded a loss of $605,000, or 2 cents a share, on sales of $7.9 million.

For the first quarter, NutriSystem now expects earnings of 40 cents to 42 cents a share and sales of $122 million to $127 million. Previously, the company forecast earnings of 35 cents to 38 cents a share and sales of $115 million to $120 million. Analysts project earnings of 37 cents a share, with sales of $117.1 million. Shares were up $4.70 to $42.41.

Shares of

AmSurg

(AMSG)

jumped 10% after the operator of surgery centers posted in-line fourth-quarter earnings and sales that were slightly ahead of expectations. The company earned $8.5 million, or 28 cents a share, on sales of $102.9 million. Analysts expected earnings of 28 cents a share and sales of $102.3 million. A year earlier, the company earned $8.7 million, or 29 cents a share, on sales of $87.3 million.

Looking ahead, AmSurg sees first-quarter earnings of 32 cents to 33 cents a share, excluding stock-based compensation costs. Analysts project earnings of 32 cents a share. For all of 2006, the company expects earnings of $1.36 to $1.39 a share and sales of $445 million to $465 million. Analysts project earnings of $1.38 a share on sales of $444 million. AmSurg shares were higher by $2.11 to $23.52.

Medtronic

(MDT) - Get Report

slipped 2% after the company posted lower-than-expected third-quarter sales. For the quarter ended Jan. 27, the medical-device company earned $669.6 million, or 55 cents a share, on sales of $2.77 billion. The earnings matched analysts' mean estimate, but sales missed Wall Street's target of $2.89 billion. Sales in the most recent period were hurt by negative currency translation, which reduced the top line by $72 million. During the year-ago quarter, the company earned $544.1 million, or 45 cents a share, on sales of $2.53 billion. Excluding a litigation charge, the company earned $559.7 million, or 46 cents a share, a year earlier.

Medtronic lifted the low end of its previous fiscal-year earnings guidance range. The company now expects earnings of $2.20 to $2.23 a share for the year ending in April, compared with an earlier view of $2.18 to $2.23 a share. Sales, meanwhile, are projected to be at the midpoint of $11.1 billion to $11.6 billion. Analysts anticipate earnings of $2.23 a share and sales of $11.51 billion. Medtronic shares were down $1.29 to $54.28.

Shares of

Henry Schein

(HSIC) - Get Report

rose slightly after the hospital-supply company posted fourth-quarter earnings that were a penny ahead of expectations. The company reported earnings from continuing operations of $52.5 million, or 59 cents a share, up from $29.4 million, or 33 cents a share, a year earlier. Sales rose to $1.34 billion from $1.16 billion. Analysts expected earnings of 58 cents a share on sales of $1.33 billion

Looking ahead, Henry Schein continues to project 2006 earnings of $2.20 to $2.26 a share, excluding stock-based compensation costs of 12 cents a share. Analysts project earnings of $2.23 a share. Shares were trading up 2 cents to $46.75.

Other health care-volume movers included

Pfizer

(PFE) - Get Report

, up 44 cents to $26.08;

Boston Scientific

(BSX) - Get Report

, down 29 cents to $24.08;

Merck

(MRK) - Get Report

, up 50 cents to $36.09;

Amgen

(AMGN) - Get Report

, up 73 cents to $75.26;

Elan

(ELN)

, up 32 cents to $14.27;

Bristol-Myers Squibb

(BMY) - Get Report

, up 46 cents to $23.34;

Schering-Plough

( SGP), up 14 cents to $19.30; and

Johnson & Johnson

(JNJ) - Get Report

, down 10 cents to $59.04.