Shares of Cardiome Pharma Corp. rose to a new year high Wednesday after the Canadian drugmaker reported a fourth-quarter profit.

After the market closed Tuesday, Cardiome said it earned 12.6 million Canadian dollars ($12 million), or 20 Canadian cents (19 cents) per share, in the fourth quarter. In the same quarter a year before, the company recorded a loss of 8.3 million Canadian dollars, or 13 Canadian cents per share. The company turned a profit because of payments from its partner Merck and Co., along with lower research and development spending.

In afternoon trading, Cardiome shares rose 35 cents, or 6.2 percent, to $5.98. Earlier they reached a high of $6.03. They have ranged from $2.57 to $5.88 over the past year.

Cardiome entered a development partnership with Merck last April. The companies are testing a drug candidate called vernakalant, which is intended to help patients maintain a steady heartbeat. Merck paid $60 million up front for the rights to the drug, and paid another $15 million in July after Merck filed for marketing approval in the European Union.

The companies reported successful late stage study results for an intravenous version of vernakalant in December. Merck and Cardiome are also developing an oral form of the drug. If both forms are successful, Cardiome could get more than $600 million.

For the full year, Cardiome lost 1.3 million Canadian dollars ($1.2 million), or 2 Canadian cents (2 cents) per share, compared with a net loss of 60.4 million Canadian dollars, or 1.95 Canadian dollars per share, in 2008.

Oppenheimer analyst Bret Holley said Cardiome's financial results were strong. He expects the company to report full data from the late-stage intravenous vernakalant study in May, and said European regulators should approve the drug during the third quarter of the year. He said European Union sales could peak at around $200 million.