Boosted by top-selling drugs, pharmaceutical stocks turned in strong first-quarter earnings performances.

SmithKline Beecham

(SBH) - Get Report

,

Bristol-Myers Squibb

(BMY) - Get Report

,

Baxter International

(BAX) - Get Report

and

Genzyme General

(GENZ)

all beat Wall Street's expectations, while

Schering-Plough

(SGP)

met estimates.

SmithKline Beecham, which will merge this summer with fellow British company

Glaxo Wellcome

(GLX)

to form

Glaxo SmithKline

, said that for the first quarter ended Mar. 31, pre-tax profit rose 10% to 562 million pounds ($887.82 million), or 55.5 cents per American depositary receipt, from 510 million pounds, or 48.9 cents per ADR, a year earlier. The consensus estimate of analysts polled by

First Call/Thomson Financial

was 54 cents.

Revenue rose 9% to 1.99 billion pounds from 1.83 billion pounds a year ago, on the strength of $156 million in sales of Avandia, a treatment for type 2 diabetes.

Glaxo reported sales of 2.125 billion pounds ($3.4 billion), an increase of 13% at constant exchange rates from 1.901 billion pounds a year ago.

SmithKline Beecham was up 1 7/8, or 3%, to 69 1/4 in Thursday midday trading, while Glaxo was up 1 5/8, or 3%, to 61 11/16. (SmithKline Beecham finished up 13/16, or 1%, at 68 3/16, while Glaxo closed up 1/2, or 0.8%, at 60 9/16.)

After plummeting as much as 28% Wednesday on news it had

withdrawn its application for potential blockbuster drug Vanlev, a treatment for high blood pressure, Bristol-Myers Squibb reported a 15% rise in profit on Thursday.

For the first quarter ended Mar. 31, net earnings rose 15% to $1.22 billion, or 61 cents a diluted share, from $1.07 billion, or 53 cents a share, a year earlier. The consensus estimate of analysts polled by First Call/Thomson Financial was 60 cents.

Revenue for the New York-based company rose to $5.26 billion from $4.85 billion a year ago on robust sales of diabetes drug Glucophage, which rose 51% to $426 million, and cardiovascular drug Plavix, which rose 128% to $201 million. However, sales of Pravachol, which reduces cholesterol, dropped 5% to $461 million.

Shares of the company were down 1, or 2%, to 49 15/16 in Thursday midday trading. (Bristol-Myers closed down 1 5/16, or 3%, at 49 5/8.)

Baxter International, which is the second-largest manufacturer of medical products, said that for the first quarter ended Mar. 31, net income rose to $191 million, or 65 cents a diluted share, from $162 million, or 55 cents a share, a year earlier. The consensus estimate of analysts polled by First Call/Thomson Financial was 64 cents.

The figures exclude both the operations of

Edwards Lifesciences

(EW) - Get Report

, which Baxter spun off as a separate publicly held company on Mar. 31, and a $27 million charge taken in 1999 for the adoption of a new accounting standard.

Revenue rose 8% to $1.58 billion from $1.46 billion a year ago, due mostly to higher sales of the company's blood-related and intravenous fluid products.

Harry Kraemer, chairman and chief executive of Baxter, based in Deerfield, Ill., said in a statement that for the full-year 2000, the company expects to achieve sales growth of about 10% and net income growth in the mid-teens, as well as the generation of more than $500 million in operational cash flow.

In Thursday morning trading, shares of Baxter were up 5/8, or 1%, to 58 7/8. (Baxter closed up 1 1/2, or 3%, at 59 3/4.)

Schering-Plough, based in Madison, N.J., said earnings rose 17% because of strong sales of its top-selling allergy drug Claritin and antiviral/anticancer agent Intron A.

The company said that for the first quarter ended Mar. 31, net income rose to $628 million, or 42 cents a diluted share, matching expectations. This compared to $539 million, or 36 cents a share, a year earlier.

Revenue rose to $2.41 billion from $2.19 billion a year ago. Worldwide sales of Claritin rose 18% to $665 million, while Intron A sales were up 23% to $336 million.

Richard Jay Kogan, chairman and chief executive of Schering-Plough, said in a statement that the company should meet the consensus estimate of $1.64 in earnings-per-share growth for 2000, while research and development expenses will total $1.4 billion, an increase of 15%.

Shares of Schering-Plough were up 3/16 to 40 11/16 in Thursday morning trading. (Schering-Plough finished down 1/2, or 1%, at 40.)

Cambridge, Mass.-based Genzyme General said that for the first quarter ended Mar. 31, earnings rose to $47.8 million, or 53 cents a diluted share, from $43.2 million, or 49 cents a share, a year earlier. The consensus estimate of analysts polled by First Call/Thomson Financial was 51 cents.

The numbers from this year do not include a pre-tax gain of $20.3 million, or a post-tax gain of $16.4 million, because of its investment in

Genzyme Transgenics

(GZTC)

. The gain was partially offset by a pre-tax charge of $19.5 million, or a post-tax charge of $12.5 million, for the initial amount payable to

Synpac

of North Carolina for the rights to develop and commercialize a treatment for Pompe disease.

Revenue rose to $170.63 million from $150.77 million a year ago.

In Thursday morning trading, shares of Genzyme were up 1 5/8, or 4%, to 42 3/8. (Genzyme finished up 1 9/16, or 4%, at 42 5/16.)