Every once in a while, investors overlook a drugmaker because its compounds aren't particularly unique or fail to treat a headline-catching problem like cancer, AIDS, or high cholesterol. Alpharma (NYSE: ALO), one drugmaker that fits this description, announced its results Tuesday.

Alpharma, which is quietly turning itself into a specialty pharma dedicated to fighting pain as it sheds its less sexy businesses and in-licenses new pain drugs, reported $1.06 in adjusted earnings per share for 2007 on 10% revenue growth. Alpharma's adjusted earnings were down from the $1.25 per share it raked in for 2006, but this shortfall partly occurred as a result of Alpharma expanding its sales force ahead of the launch of its Flector pain patch this year.

Earlier this month, Alpharma shed one of its three units, making a deal to sell its active pharmaceutical ingredients division (the substances that make drugs work their magic) for $395 million. After the deal goes through and taxes are taken into account, Alpharma will have more than $660 million in cash and investments to acquire new drugs and prepare for any possible FDA approval of its abuse-resistant opioid compound next year.

Alpharma isn't the only drugmaker going down the abuse-resistant pain drug path. Others like Pain Therapeutics (Nasdaq: PTIE) and King Pharmaceuticals (NYSE: KG) are racing neck and neck with Alpharma in trying to get approval of their abuse-resistant opioid products. A lot of other pharmas have pain drugs in earlier stages of clinical development. 

Some analysts have upgraded shares of Alpharma based on sales of its Flector patch. As other drugmakers like Johnson & Johnson (NYSE: JNJ) and Endo Pharmaceuticals (NYSE: ENDP) have shown in the past, it's possible to have a profitable future thanks to one pain patch drug. Even better for Alpharma investors, though, is that it has other pain drugs besides Flector that could also make its future anything but painful.

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Fool contributor Brian Lawler does not own shares of any company mentioned in this article. Johnson & Johnson is an Income Investor selection. The Fool's disclosure policy prefers paper clips to staples because they're less painful.