Some teams live and die with pitching, others with the long ball. Like it or not, Abbott Labs' (NYSE:ABT) future is tied to its anti-inflammatory, Humira.

Sure, the company is well-diversified, selling everything from baby formula to drug-eluting stents to pharmaceuticals, but Humira makes up 17.5% of sales. It's nice to see growth accelerating again, although it's still not as high as it was in the past.


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Source: Company's press releases and your Foolish analyst's calculator.

The source of the slowdown in growth doesn't have much to do with competition. Humira is still growing faster than the other TNF-alpha inhibitors: Enbrel, sold by Amgen (NASDAQ:AMGN), Wyeth (NYSE:WYE), and soon Pfizer (NYSE:PFE); and Remicade, sold by Johnson & Johnson (NYSE:JNJ), Schering-Plough (NYSE:SGP) and maybe Merck (NYSE:MRK).

Instead, Abbott has the same problem as just about every other company right now: Customers don't have the cash to shell out for products. Health care is traditionally a recession-proof industry, but the high price of the anti-inflammatory drugs is likely keeping some patients from filling their prescriptions.

The increase in Humira's sales helped Abbott eke out a 2.5% increase in sales that were dragged down in part by plummeting sales -- down 79% -- of anti-seizure drug Depakote as it faces generic competition and the rising dollar.

Humira's sales are going to dominate Abbott's sales for quite a while, and fortunately it doesn't look like the growth in sales is done. The drug is approved to treat six different inflammatory diseases, but Abbott plans to ask the regulatory agencies to expand it into two more treatment areas next year.

Hang on, investors. We're only halfway through the season.

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Fool contributor Brian Orelli, Ph.D., shook his head in disbelief as the closer from his Padres gave up the winning run in the All-Star Game last night. He doesn't own shares of any company mentioned in this article. Pfizer is a recommendation of the Inside Value newsletter. The Fool's disclosure policy roots for the single-A Myrtle Beach Pelicans.