Make it three in a row.

AbbVie (NYSE:ABBV) beat earnings expectations for the third time this year. The drugmaker announced third-quarter results before the market opened on Friday. Here are the highlights -- and how AbbVie excelled yet again.

Abbvie Picture

Source: AbbVie 

By the numbers
Revenue increased 7.8% year-over-year for the third quarter to $5.019 billion. The consensus top-line estimate of analysts surveyed by Thomson Financial Network was $4.82 billion.   

AbbVie reported third-quarter GAAP earnings per share of $0.31. Non-GAAP earnings came in at $0.89 per share. That topped the average analyst estimate of $0.77 per share and easily blew away the company's previous guidance of $0.77 to $0.79 per share. 

This good earnings news came despite significant increases in spending during the third quarter. AbbVie's total operating expense grew nearly 16% compared to the same quarter last year to $3.809 billion. Selling, general and administrative costs rose to $1.595 billion from $1.262 billion in third quarter of 2013. Research and development costs shot up to $812 million from $714 million last year, while acquired in-process research and development cost climbed to $308 million versus $220 million in the same quarter last year.

Behind the numbers
There's no surprise reason behind AbbVie's strong third-quarter results. Humira continues to fire on all cylinders. The blockbuster drug saw sales for the quarter jump 17.5% year-over-year to $3.255 billion. Humira's sales were down a little compared against the $3.288 billion posted in second quarter 2014, though.

AbbVie counted three other drugs with strong year-over-year sales growth. Creon generated sales of $148 million -- 47.6% higher compared to the same quarter last year. Sales for Synthroid jumped 24.3% year-over-year to $200 million for the third quarter. Duodopa sales climbed 20.2% higher to $56 million.

The biggest negative for AbbVie came from its lipid franchise, which includes TriCor/Trilipix, Niaspan, Simcor and Advicor. Combined sales for these lipid drugs fell 76.9% year-over-year to $63 million due to loss of exclusivity. Of course, this small amount of bad news was easily outweighed by Humira's dominating quarter.

Even the increased costs for third quarter could be viewed positively. Higher SG&A costs largely reflect continued investment in growing AbbVie brands and preparation for the expected launch of a promising hepatitis-C drug. Increased R&D spending stems from supporting a pipeline that includes several new drugs and expanded indications for Humira.

Looking ahead
AbbVie raised its full-year 2014 earnings guidance to $3.25 to $3.27 per share. The company previously projected full-year earnings between $3.06 and $3.16 per share. The consensus analyst estimate called for full-year earnings of $3.16 per share.

Shares climbed 4% higher in pre-market trading on Friday. That optimism appears warranted after AbbVie's third-quarter blowout.

Humira continues to hum. Other drugs are coming along nicely. A potential blockbuster hep-C drug stands a good chance of FDA approval in the near future. And don't forget the attractive 3.2% dividend yield (per S&P Capital IQ). AbbVie certainly is on a roll -- one that investors can smile about.

Keith Speights has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. 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.