Forest Laboratories ( FRX) Tuesday announced first-quarter results that easily topped estimates, while guiding earnings expectations higher for the remainder of the fiscal year, citing strong sales of its antidepressants.

Forest Labs reported first-quarter net income of $229.9 million, or 60 cents a share, topping the 57-cent analyst estimate, according to Thomson One Analytics, and a 28% increase from $179.8 million, or 48 cents a share, a year ago.

The company said net sales came in at $782.4 million, easily beating the $753.5 million expected by Wall Street and up 29% from the $624.9 million it had a year ago. Sales of the company's two primary antidepressants, Lexapro and Celexa, accounted for nearly 80% of all revenue.

Going forward, the company expects the strength to continue, raising its guidance for the remainder of fiscal 2005. The company now expects to earn between $2.40 and $2.50 a share, against the current Wall Street estimate of $2.46 a share.

The company said that Lexapro sales of $363.9 million were driven by higher prescription volume, while lower Celexa sales were offset by a 4% price hike implemented at the start of the quarter.

"Our three principal promoted products, Lexapro, Namenda and the angiotensin receptor blocker Benicar, which we co-promote with Sankyo Pharma., continued their strong performance during the quarter, increasing their respective market shares in response to continued growth in physician acceptance and patient response," said CEO Howard Solomon.

Expenses rose in the first quarter, with selling, general and administrative expenses rising 25% to $239.3 million. Research and development costs rose 60% to $85.3 million, driven by a one-time upfront payment to Paion for the rights to desmoteplase, a possible treatment for acute ischemic stroke.

Forest is the first major drugmaker to report second-quarter earnings. Pfizer ( PFE) and Merck ( MRK) release results Wednesday, while Eli Lilly ( LLY) and Schering-Plough ( SGP) report Thursday.

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