It's your birthday. Your mother hands you an envelope. Inside, you find a $100 bill to go along with your train set, and you're absolutely ecstatic. But then she hands you a second envelope -- apparently you owe her $1k for her trouble.

You cringe, not only as you return the $100 bill and train set, but sell off your Xbox, stereo system, and an assortment of other goodies just to pay her back.

Now you have an idea what it's like to own Irish drugmaker Elan (NYSE:ELN).

It's almost unfair. Elan's third-quarter revenue declined 47% year-over-year to $174.7 million, as the company sold off $1.8 billion in assets to pay down a debt load most people didn't even know existed. Those sales included a chunk of its drug portfolio and its primary care franchise to King Pharmaceuticals (NYSE:KG).

On one side, you have an otherwise successful Elan dumping some of its most-valued products, including Skelaxin, Sonata, and Albecet. Just last month, Elan announced the sale of four pain products to aaiPharma (NASDAQ:AAII) for $103 million.

On the other side, you have upstarts Human Genome Sciences (NASDAQ:HGSI), Millennium Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ:MLNM), Isis (NASDAQ:ISIS), and Vertex Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ:VRTX) in a struggle just to get enough products on the market so they can quit burning cash and survive.

Elan's once-flaunted investment portfolio is no more. Since the restructuring began back in summer 2002, Elan has dumped 41 of its 55 research-and-development joint ventures.

But who knows? Maybe Elan is a survivor, after all.

On the bright side, sales from retained products grew 31% to $119.5 million in the third quarter. The company managed to raise $595 million in the past week from a 35 million-share private offering and the sale of $460 million in convertible notes. Meanwhile, total headcount has been cut almost in half to 2,400.

Finally, the company may even have a couple aces in the hole, in potential MS/Crohn's disease treatment Antegren and Prialt, another pain treatment.

Elan has burned its share of investors, some more than once. And even though the worst is probably over, an SEC investigation into the company isn't complete. It might be too early to test the waters again.

Is the worst over? Then just say so on our Elan discussion board! Only on Jeff Hwang can be reached at