Shares of

SciClone Pharmaceuticals

(SCLN)

were among the best-performing health-related stocks Wednesday, surging 13% after the biopharmaceutical company posted a narrower-than-expected fourth-quarter loss.

The company reported a loss of $1.6 million, or 4 cents a share, on total sales of $7.4 million. Analysts polled by Thomson First Call expected a bigger loss of 7 cents a share, with sales of $7.3 million. Results included some $90,000 in contract sales, while the company's lead product, Zadaxin, accounted for $7.3 million in sales during the quarter. During the year-earlier period, the company reported a loss of $2.4 million, or 5 cents a share, on sales of $6.1 million.

Looking ahead, SciClone sees a 2006 loss of $6.1 million, or 13 cents a share, on sales of about $32 million. Including stock-based compensation costs, the company sees a loss of $8.9 million, or 19 cents a share. Two analysts project a loss of 42 cents a share on sales of $30.4 million. Shares were trading up 31 cents to $2.66.

Medco Health

(MHS)

rose 6% after the pharmacy-benefit manager reported better-than-expected fourth-quarter results. The company earned $176.8 million, or 57 cents a share, on revenue of $10.8 billion. Excluding items, the company earned 66 cents a share. Analysts expected earnings of 61 cents a share on revenue of $10.03 billion. During the year-earlier period, the company earned $132.8 million, or 48 cents a share, on revenue of $8.91 billion. Excluding items, the company earned 58 cents a share during the year-earlier quarter.

Medco also lifted the low end of its previous 2006 earnings guidance. The company now sees 2006 earnings of $2.23 to $2.30 a share. Previously, the company forecast earnings of $2.18 to $2.30 a share. Excluding items, the company sees earnings of $2.57 to $2.64 a share. Analysts project earnings of $2.60 a share. Shares recently changed hands at $58.99, up $3.27.

Shares of

Merit Medical Systems

(MMSI) - Get Report

fell 2% after the maker of syringes and other disposable medical devices posted mixed fourth-quarter results. The company earned $3.7 million, or 13 cents a share, on sales of $42.7 million. The earnings matched Wall Street's target, but analysts expected higher sales of $43.5 million. During the year-earlier quarter, the company earned $4.3 million, or 16 cents a share, on sales of $39.3 million.

Merit said that it won't provide 2006 financial guidance until it finishes developing its budgets for the year. The company expects to provide guidance on or before March 31. Analysts project 2006 earnings of 66 cents a share on sales of $187.8 million. Shares were trading down 25 cents to $14.55.

Invitrogen

( IVGN) rose 6% after the life sciences company reported fourth-quarter results that were better than expected. The company earned $49.6 million, or 87 cents a share, on revenue of $325.3 million. Excluding items, the company earned $50.8 million, or 90 cents a share. Analysts expected earnings of 88 cents a share and revenue of about $317 million. During the year-earlier quarter, the company earned $30.5 million, or 55 cents a share, on revenue of $262.2 million. Excluding items, the company's year-earlier earnings totaled $45.2 million, or 80 cents a share.

Looking ahead, Invitrogen continues to expect 2006 earnings of $3.90 to $4.10 a share, in line with analysts' projection of $3.98. The company forecasts revenue of $1.33 billion to $1.36 billion, bracketing analysts' average estimate of $1.34 billion. Shares were trading up $3.44 to $74.37.

Shares of

Thermo Electron

(TMO) - Get Report

rose 1% after the maker of medical and scientific equipment announced a $100 million share buyback plan. The company said that it would buy shares during the next 12 months. Shares rose 34 cents to $34.96.

Other health care volume movers included

Pfizer

(PFE) - Get Report

, down 12 cents to $26.07;

Schering-Plough

( SGP), down 10 cents to $18.40;

Elan

(ELN)

, up 18 cents to $12.88;

Genta

( GNTA), up 7 cents to $2.86;

Generex Biotech

(GNBT)

, up 8 cents to $2.29;

Boston Scientific

(BSX) - Get Report

, down 23 cents to $24.19;

Novavax

(NVAX) - Get Report

, down 4 cents to $5.76;

Amgen

(AMGN) - Get Report

, up 28 cents to $75.76;

Johnson & Johnson

(JNJ) - Get Report

, up 12 cents to $57.77;

Merck

(MRK) - Get Report

, up 12 cents to $34.98; and

Bristol-Myers Squibb

(BMY) - Get Report

, down 25 cents to $22.85.