Updated from 4:51 p.m. EST

Idec Pharmaceuticals

(IDPH)

said fourth-quarter earnings rose 33% over last year, matching Wall Street estimates, bolstered by strong sales of its cancer drug Rituxan.

The San Diego-based biotech firm reported fourth-quarter net income of $28.7 million, or 16 cents a share, compared with net income of $20.4 million, or 12 cents a share, in the year-ago quarter.

Total revenue for the quarter totaled $81.7 million, compared with $45.8 million in the year-ago quarter.

Idec co-markets Rituxan with

Genentech

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(DNA)

, so the drug's fourth-quarter U.S. sales of $226 million were announced last week when Genentech reported its year-end financial results. Genentech records Rituxan sales on its books and pays royalty fees to Idec that are based on those sales.

Looking forward, the big story out of Idec will the approval and launch of its next big cancer drug, Zevalin. Earlier this month, the company said the drug's approval by the Food and Drug Administration would be delayed until the company clears up some manufacturing issues.

Wall Street analysts are expecting a May approval and launch for Zevalin.

On its conference call with analysts, CEO Bill Rastetter said good progress is being made to assuage all FDA manufacturing concerns and that an FDA re-inspection of the company's fill/finish facility could come in the "near term." Final approval could be granted 30 to 60 days after a successful re-inspection, he added.

Idec didn't offer specific financial guidance for 2002 because earnings will depend heavily on the timing of the Zevalin launch. The company did say that 2002 earnings would fall 3 cents per share for every month the drug is delayed.

Analysts are currently expecting Idec to earn 91 cents per share in 2002.

For the full year 2001, Idec posted net income of $101.7 million, or 59 cents per share, compared to net income of $48.1 million, or 30 cents per share in 2000. Total revenue in 2001 rose 76% to $272.7 million.

Shares of Idec closed Tuesday down $2.05, or 3.4%, to $59.51 per share.