CHICAGO (AP) _ Abbott Laboratories' fourth quarter profits rose 7 percent, despite falling drug sales, as the medical products company tried to rebound after a series of setbacks last year.

Including profits from its TAP pharmaceutical firm, earnings for the three months ended Dec. 31 were $922 million, or 43 cents per share, up from $871.7 million, or 40 cents a share from the same period a year ago. Results matched Wall Street estimates, according to First Call/Thomson Financial.

Overall, sales for the fourth quarter rose 3.8 percent to $3.5 billion, from $3.3 billion.

Sales of hospital products rose 12 percent to $584 million in the quarter.

But pharmaceutical sales fell 6 percent in the quarter to $2.44 billion.

For the year, earnings including TAP were $3.4 billion, or $1.57 a share, up 5 percent from $3.24 billion, or $1.50 a share for 1998.

TAP, which is jointly owned with Takeda Chemical Industries, makes the popular ulcer drug Prevacid.

Worldwide sales in 1999 rose 5.3 percent to $13.2 billion, up $12.5 billion a year ago.

Abbott shares fell 75 cents to $33.75 on the New York Stock Exchange Tuesday.

In 1999, Abbott was accused by the Food and Drug Administration of quality control problems in its diagnostics division and was slapped with shareholder lawsuits after it paid $100 million to settle the case.

The company's attempt to buy drug firm Alza also collapsed last year.