Earnings season already has produced its fair share of surprises, but big pharma's hardly even broken out of the gate so far. However, a trio of major drugmakers are set to release their quarterly results in the next two weeks, and all eyes in the sector will be on Bristol-Myers Squibb (NYSE:BMY), Merck (NYSE:MRK), and Pfizer (NYSE:PFE) to see how these companies are overcoming patent expirations, declining sales, and pipeline development to keep investors profiting in the long term. A key part of that profit is, of course, their strong dividend payouts -- Bristol yields 2.8%, Merck 3.0%, and Pfizer 3.4%.

Each of these three big pharma giants has dealt with tough patent blows, from Pfizer's loss of blockbuster drug Lipitor's exclusivity to Bristol's struggles since it lost patent protection on former star therapy Plavix. However, new drugs are rising to build foundations at these companies, from Merck's diabetes duo of Januvia and Janumet to Bristol and Pfizer's big-potential blood thinner Eliquis, which has struggled to a slow start out of the gate so far in its young life.

Can these pharmaceutical titans pass a clean bill of health this earnings season? Find out in the video below, where Motley Fool contributor Dan Carroll shows you what you need to watch for in each of these three companies' earnings results -- and whether these stocks can mount a rally through 2014.

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Dan Carroll has no position in any stocks mentioned, and neither does The Motley Fool. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.