Inspire Pharmaceuticals Inc. said Thursday it had a smaller loss in the fourth quarter, as sales of its pinkeye treatment Azasite climbed due to a shortage of a competing product.

Inspire said Azasite solution sales rose 67 percent to $12.1 million as a shortage of erythromycin ointment gave sales a temporary boost. The company said the shortage has been resolved, and sales will be lower in the first quarter.

The company said it expects $100 million to $110 million in total revenue in 2010. Analysts expect $106.7 million in revenue for Inspire.

Inspire lost $2.6 million, or 3 cents per share, in the three months ended Dec. 31 from $9.7 million, or 17 cents per share, a year ago.

Its overall revenue jumped 57 percent to $29.6 million from $18.9 million, due to greater sales of Azasite and more revenue from dry eye treatment Restasis, which is marketed by Allergan Inc., and pinkeye treatment Elestat.

Co-promotion and royalty revenue from Restasis and Elestat increased to $17.5 million from $11.6 million.

Analysts expected a larger loss of 11 cents per share and lower revenue of $26.1 million, according to a survey by Thomson Reuters.

The company's loss was smaller on a per-share basis in part because it now has more shares on the market. Its average share count was 82.3 million during the fourth quarter of 2009, up from 56.7 million a year ago.

For the year, the company lost $40 million, or 60 cents per share, versus a loss of $51.6 million, or 91 cents per share, a year ago. Revenue climbed 31 percent to $92.2 million from $70.5 million.

For this year, Inspire expects a sharp decline in Azasite revenue and said a generic version of Elestat may reach the market, which would cut into its sales. The company plans to spend $145 million to $169 million for the year.

It said Allergan is forecasting $580 million to $600 million in Restasis sales for the year.