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Amgen Earnings Top Forecasts; Key Drug Meets Clinical Goals

Amgen, whose top-selling anemia drugs have come under fire over safety concerns, Thursday reported a better-than-expected second-quarter profit and said its most important experimental drug met all its goals in a pivotal clinical trial, sending its shares higher.

Amgen's revenue increased 3 percent in the quarter to $3.73 billion, just above Wall Street forecasts of $3.69 billion.

But worldwide sales of its biggest product, the anemia drug Aranesp, fell 10 percent to $949 million due to declining use in the U.S.

"This has been a difficult period and this quarter's low growth is a reflection of that reality," Chief Executive Kevin Sharer said in a statement.

The world's largest biotechnology company by sales posted a net profit of $1.02 billion, or 90 cents per share, compared with a net of $14 million, or 1 cent per share, a year earlier.

Excluding items, Amgen earned $1.12 per share, beating analysts' average forecast of $1.07 per share, according to Reuters Estimates. Without a $1.1 billion acquisition charge, Amgen earned $1.05 a share in the year-ago quarter.

Amgen said it now expects 2007 adjusted earnings, excluding items, of $4.28 per share, above analysts' average estimate of $4.19 per share for the year, according to Reuters estimates.

The company said its closely watched experimental drug denosumab met all primary and secondary goals in a late-stage, 252-patient breast cancer trial.

The drug is seen as potentially filling a void in sales growth once projected for the company's existing products. It's being tested mainly as a treatment for osteoporosis and various forms of cancer, especially bone cancer.

Amgen stock, which has been under pressure due to concerns that Aranesp sales would decline sharply, are down 17 percent this year. By comparison, the American Stock Exchange Biotech Index is up about 4 percent for the year.

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