There's one big problem with consistently delivering stellar growth: If you ever falter, investors won't be happy. Thankfully, that doesn't seem to be a problem for Abbott Labs (NYSE:ABT).

The company's earnings for the quarter came in at $0.92 per share, excluding a gain from a patent settlement with Medtronic (NYSE:MDT) and restructuring charges. That's a whopping 16.5% higher than the adjusted EPS from the year-ago quarter.

Sales were only 3.5% higher, but considering the economic environment, including an unfavorable 4.9% effect on sales because of a stronger dollar, that's not too shabby. Abbott is also dealing with generic competition for anti-seizure medicine Depakote, which shrank sales by three percentage points.

Anti-inflammatory Humira is still growing like gangbusters. Sales were up 24% year over year, handily beating Johnson & Johnson's (NYSE:JNJ) rival Remicade, which increased sales a mere 6%. We'll have to wait until later in earnings season to see how the third member of the trio, Wyeth (NYSE:WYE) and Amgen's (NASDAQ:AMGN) Enbrel, fared in the third quarter.

While it's great to see Humira continuing to plug along -- it's on track to grow 28% to 30% this year, excluding the impact of the exchange rates -- it's also somewhat of a curse. Through the first three quarters of the year, Humira made up more than 17% of total sales. That's not quite as bad a problem as Pfizer (NYSE:PFE) has with Lipitor. But it'll still be a major blow to Abbott, if -- I'd even say when -- Congress sets up a pathway for generic-drug makers to bring generic biologics to market.

To help counteract that possibility, Abbott has become a serial acquirer, topping off last month by purchasing Solvay's pharmaceutical business. With free cash flow of almost $5.6 billion per year through June, and $6.9 billion in the bank, Abbott can easily afford to continue to diversify -- a good move for companies and investors alike.

Pfizer is a Motley Fool Inside Value pick. Johnson & Johnson is a Motley Fool Income Investor selection. Try any of our Foolish newsletters today, free for 30 days.

Fool contributor Brian Orelli, Ph.D., doesn't own shares of any company mentioned in this article. The Fool owns shares of Medtronic and has a disclosure policy.