Merck & Co on Monday said its third-quarter profit rose sharply, helped by sales of its vaccines and cholesterol drugs, and raised its 2007 profit forecast in view of strong current trends.

The company said it earned $1.53 billion, or 70 cents per share, compared with $941 million, or 43 cents per share, in the year-ago period when it took $598 million charge for legal expenses related to its withdrawn Vioxx arthritis drug.

Excluding special items, Merck earned 75 cents per share.

Analysts on average expected 69 cents per share, according to Reuters Estimates.