Abbott Laboratories reported fourth-quarter sales and earnings that slightly topped forecasts, fueled by strong demand for its prescription medicines and heart stents.

Solid quarterly results for the diversified healthcare company contrasted with those of its larger rival, Johnson & Johnson , which on Tuesday reported sales far short of the mark.

Abbott said it earned $1.44 billion, or 92 cents per share, with results tempered by costs of recent acquisitions. That compared with $1.54 billion, or 98 cents per share, a year earlier.

Excluding special items, earnings of $1.30 per share beat the analysts' average forecast of $1.29, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

Sales of the suburban Chicago company rose 13.4 percent to $9.97 billion, helped by Abbott's recent purchase of Solvay SA's medicines business, topping Wall Street forecasts of $9.89 billon.

Global pharmaceutical sales jumped almost 23 percent to $5.94 billion. Its flagship product, Humira for rheumatoid arthritis, rose 13 percent to $1.88 billion, while combined sales of its Trilipix and TriCor medicines to lower blood fats called triglycerides, rose 19 percent to $499 million.

Niaspan, which raises good HDL cholesterol, gained almost 13 percent to $286 million. Abbott's coronary stents, used to prop open arteries that have been cleared of plaque, remained a dependable growth driver -- with sales jumping almost 20 percent to $514 million.

But pediatric nutritionals remained a disappointment, falling nearly 6 percent to $742 million following a recall last September of the company's beetle-contaminated Similac infant formula

(Reporting by Ransdell Pierson; Editing by Lisa Von Ahn and Maureen Bavdek)