Abbott Laboratories ( ABT) matched Wall Street's second-quarter earnings estimate Wednesday with sales for a key rheumatoid arthritis drug topping the Street's expectations.

The maker of diagnostics, medical devices and drugs reported net income for the June quarter of $1.28 billion, or 83 cents a share, compared with net income of $1.32 billion, or 85 cents a share, in the year-ago quarter.

Excluding special items, Abbott reported a 6% increase in earnings to 89 cents a share in the second quarter, in line with the Street's consensus estimate.

Second-quarter revenue totaled $7.49 billion, slightly below the consensus analyst forecast of $7.55 billion. Abbott reported revenue of $7.31 billion in the year-ago quarter.

Of most interest to investors, sales of Abbott's rheumatoid arthritis drug Humira rose 33% to $1.3 billion in the June quarter, adjusted for negative currency effects. On an as-reported basis, U.S. sales of Humira rose 21% in the quarter, while international sales increased 20%.

This is a turnaround from Humira sales in the March quarter, which came in below Street expectations and raised investor concerns that the recession was forcing patients to pare back spending on expensive prescription drugs.

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.

Tuesday, Johnson & Johnson ( JNJ) also reported stronger-than-expected sales of its rheumatoid arthritis drug Remicade. Second-quarter sales rose 24% to $1.1 billion.

Overall, worldwide pharmaceutical sales decreased 4% to $3.95 billion, affected in part by negative currency trends.

Worldwide nutritional sales rose 4%, while diagnostics sales fell 6% in the second quarter.

Abbott forecast third-quarter adjusted earnings in the range of 88 cents to 90 cents a share. The current consensus estimate is 90 cents a share.

Abbott shares closed Tuesday at $46.49. The stock is down 13% year to date.
Adam Feuerstein writes regularly for In keeping with TSC's editorial policy, he doesn't own or short individual stocks, although he owns stock in He also doesn't invest in hedge funds or other private investment partnerships. Feuerstein appreciates your feedback; click here to send him an email.