Abbott resigns itself to low-single-digit medical device sales growth in 2015

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Despite strong contributions from fingerstick-free blood glucose monitor Freestyle Libre and mitral valve repair device MitraClip--medical devices remained the worst performing business for Abbott Laboratories ($ABT) last quarter as sales climbed 3.1% on an operational basis to $1.3 billion.

Overall, the company, which also has nutrition, diagnostics and established pharmaceuticals businesses, saw its sales grow by 10.8% to $5.2 billion. Established pharmaceuticals--which was up by almost one-half to almost $1 billion--was Abbott's fastest growing business last quarter. Diagnostics gained 8.7% to $1.2 billion.

Abbott CEO Miles White

The FreeStyle Libre and MitraClip were among the top device sales performers last quarter. The diabetes care business grew by 5% during the quarter, which was ahead of expectations, Abbott chairman and CEO Miles White said on a July 22 conference call. That includes 10% international growth, driven by the launch of FreeStyle Libre in Europe. MitraClip sales pushed Structural Heart sales to "double-digit" operational growth last quarter.

"We expect sales growth of the remainder of year driven by market uptake of several recent product launches that enhance our portfolio," said White. Earlier this week, the FDA approved a 3-D Lasik system that the company says is 25 times more precise than traditional systems. Abbott anticipates 2015 sales growth in medical optics in the "low single digits."

"In medical devices, sales in our best core business increased 3%, led by strong double-digit growth MitraClip, our first class device for the treatment of mitral regurgitation," summed up White. "During the quarter, we completed regulatory submissions for approval of the Absorb and with the US and Japan and expect to submit in China in the coming months. Collectively, these markets represent more than 50% of the world coronary stent market."

He added, "We also enhanced our Absorb product offering in Europe with the approval of Absorb GT-1, a new advancement on the Absorb stent system that improves ease of use. For the third quarter, we expect global vascular sales to increase low single digits on operational basis."

As for diagnostics, it was the second best performing business as gauged by sales growth. That was based on strength in emerging markets, led by China and Russia in particular, as well as molecular diagnostics, which gained 8.5%, and point-of-care diagnostics, which increased by 11.5%. The last was driven by adoption of Abbott's i-Stat handheld diagnostic platform. The company gained an FDA clearance last quarter for a novel i-Stat blood test to detect early pregnancy in emergency situations.

Even with the ongoing device difficulties, investors pushed Abbott shares up almost 2% in early trading on the overall earnings news, which beat Wall Street expectations. The company's shares have gained about 13% so far in 2015.

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Special Report: The top companies in med tech: 2014 revenue results - Abbott Labs

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