Drug maker Merck & Co., Inc. surpassed second quarter Wall Street earnings expectations on Monday on stronger worldwide sales.

The New Jersey-based firm, announced a that its net profits more than doubled from $720.6 million to $1.5 billion. Its earnings per share (EPS) rose from 33 cents to 69 cents, beating Wall Street estimates of 65 cents for the quarter. The EPS for this quarter would have been 73 cents, according to Merck, were it not for site closures and position eliminations primarily associated with the global restructuring effort announced in November 2005.

The drug firm also raised its full-year 2006 guidance EPS Range from $2.10 to $2.24.

The Whitehouse Station firm’s worldwide sales increased 6 percent from $5.5 billion to $5.8 billion this quarter. The firm attributes the growth to higher prices being charged for some of its biggest-selling drugs such as allergy pill Singulair, the hypertension medicine Cozaar and Vytorin, a cholesterol pill Merck sells with Schering-Plough Corp. Vytorin combines Zocor with Schering- Plough's Zetia.

The biggest percentage rise for the drug products was Zetia, the cholesterol-absorption inhibitor also marketed as Ezetrol. The drug recorded a global sales increase of 51 percent to reach $476 million compared to a year ago. Good news for revenue was also on the horizon for Zetia, which had been approved by the FDA for co-administration with fenofibrate, offering a new treatment alternative for patients with mixed hyperlipidemia.

Merck, which is currently in the midst of thousands of individual class actions pending in the courts alleging personal injury and economic loss due to its now withdrawn arthritis drug VIOXX. The company reports that as of late June it is aware of over 14,200 lawsuits

As of June 30, the company stated in the report that it had been served or is aware that it has been named as a defendant in approximately 14,200 lawsuits, which include approximately 27,100 plaintiff groups, and approximately 190 class suits against it.

The company is also looking forward to possible approval of new drugs which could raise revenue. Among its offerings, Merck anticipates FDA action on the New Drug Application (NDA) for its diabetes pill Januvia, which could be approved by mid-October. It also expected action for a new lymphoma drug called Zolinza.