Merck & Co. on Monday said second-quarter earnings rose on higher sales of its new vaccines and medicines, and the company raised its 2007 profit forecast amid continuing strong demand for the medicines.

Merck said it earned $1.68 billion, or 77 cents per share, compared with $1.50 billion, or 69 cents per share, a year earlier.

Excluding special items, Merck earned 82 cents per share. On that basis, analysts' average forecast was 72 cents per share, according to Reuters Estimates.

(Reporting by Ransdell Pierson)