Investors who've been patient enough to hold Wyeth (NYSE:WYE) shares while the company works out its issues have now been rewarded with higher guidance twice in the same year.

While Wyeth management avoided going into a lot of detail, it seems the combination of high single-digit revenue growth, lower expense growth, and some positive tax matters is working in the company's favor. Management is now targeting an earnings range of $2.80 to $2.90 per share -- above the present analyst average of $2.82.

Based upon what management did say, products like Effexor and Enbrel are apparently getting the job done with respect to prescriptions and revenue performance. On the operations side, it appears that gross margins will be better than originally projected.

Looking ahead, it would appear that Wyeth could do still more to tighten up its business and boost returns for shareholders. Although a potential headcount reduction in the salesforce remains just a rumor, it is a rumor that I believe holds a certain amount of water.

Putting feet on the street and detailing physicians costs money -- sometimes quite a bit of it. If Wyeth management can accurately identify that tipping point between well-spent marketing dollars and diminishing returns, then by all means they should trim down to that point. Of course, there's no "magic 8-ball" to fill management in ahead of time on what the ideal amount of marketing spending might be.

So here's the situation today: Wyeth has got a pretty good business going. Management is looking to trim down where appropriate, the pipeline seems pretty solid, and the diet drug debacle looks to be moving more into the background--and all for the price of about 15 times estimated '05 earnings.

Perhaps this is a peek at what's to come for investors in the likes of Schering Plough (NYSE:SGP) and maybe even Income Investor pick Merck (NYSE:MRK). Sure, every company is unique, and a straight-line comparison between any two pharmaceutical companies is bound to be a bit fuzzy. But my point is this: Wyeth shows that turnarounds can happen (good news for Schering), and that a good company can survive even horrifically expensive drug litigation (possibly good news for Merck).

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Fool contributor Stephen Simpson has no financial position in any of the stocks mentioned in this article.