Merck & Co. on Monday said its second-quarter earnings more than doubled on growing demand for its drugs, blowing past Wall Street expectations, and raised its full-year profit forecast.

The Whitehouse Station, New Jersey-based drugmaker said it earned $1.50 billion, or 69 cents per share. That compared with $721 million, or 33 cents per share, in the 2005 period, when Merck was hurt by a tax charge related to repatriation of overseas profits.

Excluding special items, Merck earned 73 cents per share. Analysts, on average, expected 65 cents per share, according to Reuters Estimates.

Merck raised its 2006 profit forecast to $2.40 to $2.48 per share, excluding items, up from its prior forecast of $2.32 to $2.40 per share.

Shares of Merck have risen 17.4 percent so far this year, compared with a 4.5 percent rise for the American Stock Exchange Pharmaceutical Index of large U.S. and European drugmakers.

(Additional reporting by Lewis Krauskopf and Ed Tobin)