Abbott Laboratories ( ABT) beat Wall Street's first-quarter earnings estimate Wednesday although sales for a key rheumatoid arthritis drug didn't meet the company's projections.

The maker of diagnostics, medical devices and drugs reported net income for the first quarter of $1.44 billion, or 92 cents a share, compared with net income of $938 million, or 60 cents a share, in the year-ago quarter.

Excluding special items, Abbott reported a 16% increase in earnings to 73 cents a share in the first quarter, 3 cents better than the Street's consensus estimate.

First-quarter revenue totaled $6.71 billion, below the consensus analyst forecast of $7.06 billion. Abbott reported revenue of $6.76 billion in the year-ago quarter.

Of most interest to investors, sales of Abbott's rheumatoid arthritis drug Humira rose 17% to $1.02 billion in the first quarter. U.S. sales of Humira rose 2% in the quarter, while international sales increased 29%.

Humira, which also is used to treat psoriasis and other related diseases, is Abbott's top-selling and most important drug, contributing 15% of the company's total revenue last year. Abbott executives promised at least 25% sales growth from Humira this year, but prescription trends to date have lagged behind that forecast, raising investor concerns and weighing on the stock.

Overall, worldwide pharmaceutical sales decreased 6% to $3.64 billion, affected in part by negative currency trends.

Worldwide nutritional sales rose 6.4%, while diagnostics sales fell 1.8% in the first quarter.

Abbott forecast second-quarter adjusted earnings in the range of 87 cents to 89 cents a share, in line with current consensus of 88 cents a share.

Abbott shares closed Tuesday at $44.71.

At the time of publication, Feuerstein's Biotech Select model portfolio had no positions in the stocks mentioned.

Adam Feuerstein writes regularly for TheStreet.com. In keeping with TSC's editorial policy, he doesn't own or short individual stocks, although he owns stock in TheStreet.com. He also doesn't invest in hedge funds or other private investment partnerships. Feuerstein appreciates your feedback; click here to send him an email.

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