reduced its 2003 profit forecast Wednesday, blaming falling sales of its allergy and hepatitis-C drugs.

The Kenilworth, N.J.-based drugmaker is now forecasting 2003 earnings in the range of 75 to 85 cents per share, down from previous guidance of $1 to $1.15 per share. Analysts were expecting 2003 earnings of $1 per share, according to Thomson Financial/First Call.

In the first quarter, Schering-Plough now expects to earn 10 cents per share, well off current Wall Street expectations of 25 cents per share.

Schering-Plough has been hurt by slumping sales of its allergy drug Claritin, which was switched from prescription to over-the-counter status after its patent expired. The drugmaker's lucrative franchise of PEG Intron hepatitis C drugs is also coming under competitive pressure from a newly approved treatment sold by Swiss drugmaker Roche.

Shares of Schering-Plough were down 61 cents, or 3.6%, to $16.52 in recent trading.