Updated from 9:40 a.m. EDT

Gilead Sciences' ( GILD) first-quarter results proved that all the pre-earnings jitters that pummeled the company's share price were wrong and a big waste of time.

On Tuesday night, the Foster City, Calif.-based biotech firm reported adjusted first-quarter earnings growth of 24% on a 22% surge in revenue, topping consensus estimates on both marks.

Most important, Gilead's HIV drug sales were stronger than expected in the quarter, also besting analyst estimates. It seems as if all the dire predictions about the recession and inventory de-stocking causing a calamitous revenue and profit shortfall at Gilead were for naught.

On its conference call, Gilead management said demand for its key HIV drugs Atripla and Truvada remained strong. Inventory levels, while dipping slightly in the quarter, are still well within normal range, and the company is seeing no evidence that its patients are having any added trouble paying for their prescriptions.

Plain and simple, Gilead beat the quarter on real sales growth -- no big one-time drug shipments, no gimmicks, no inventory buy-ins, and in fact, slightly fewer shipping days this quarter over last.

So let Celgene ( CELG) blame the economy for a first-quarter earnings miss, and let Abbott Labs ( ABT) explain why sales of its key HIV drug came up short last week. Gilead is doing just fine, thank you very much.

Whether this prods investors to buy back all the Gilead stock they've been selling in the past couple of weeks remains to be seen. Gilead shares have slumped more than $4 to below $44 as general investors' concerns about biotech earnings turned to near panic once Celgene warned and conflicting data surfaced regarding Gilead's HIV drug prescriptions.

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