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Johnson & Johnson's Q1 profit rises 8 pct on lower spending, surge in prescription drug sales

A turnaround in Johnson & Johnson's prescription medicine business fueled by new drugs, combined with reduced production and administration expenses, lifted first-quarter profit by 8 per cent.

The world's biggest maker of health care products beat Wall Street expectations and raised its earnings outlook Tuesday. The maker of Band-Aids and biologic drugs said net income was $4.73 billion, or $1.64 per share, up from $3.5 billion, or $1.22 per share, a year earlier.

Excluding one-time items, income was $4.43 billion, or $1.54 per share. Analysts expected $1.48.

The New Brunswick, N.J., company said revenue totalled $18.12 billion, up 3.5 per cent. Analysts expected $18.04 billion.

The prescription drug business, which has wrested the lead in sales back from the medical device business, saw revenue jump 11 per cent to $7.5 billion.

J&J credited strong sales of new drugs: prostate cancer pill Zytiga ($512 million), hepatitis C medicine Olysio ($354 million) and Xarelto for preventing strokes ($319 million). Each is on pace to become blockbusters exceeding $1 billion in annual sales.

The company didn't disclose sales for type 2 diabetes drug Invokana, approved in March 2013, or Imbruvica, approved in February for a rare type of leukemia. Several other key drugs sold well, but top seller Remicade for immune disorders had flat sales at $1.61 billion.

J&J reported lower-than-expected sales for the medical devices and diagnostics segment, flat at $7.06 billion, and consumer health products, down 3.2 per cent to $3.56 billion.

The consumer products business has had dozens of recalls since 2009 for products including pain relievers Tylenol and Motrin. J&J must win back customers who switched to cheaper store brands when J&J's weren't available.

"Consumer products ... will stay weak because consumers learned there is nothing special about" J&J's, said Erik Gordon, an analyst at University of Michigan's business school.

Edward Jones analyst Judson Clark predicted "earnings growth will accelerate over the next few years, driven primarily by new biopharmaceutical product launches and a decreasing impact from patent losses," which trigger generic competition.

He added that shares don't fully reflect the value of J&J's "pipeline potential."

Chief Financial Officer Dominic Caruso said harsh winter weather reduced doctor's visits, elective surgeries and other health care use. That affects sales of products from medicines to artificial joints.

"We're well positioned for growth throughout the year," Caruso told analysts during a conference call.

The company raised its profit forecast for 2014 to $5.80 to $5.90 per share, excluding special items, up a nickel from its January forecast.

In midday trading, shares rose $1.11, or 1.1 per cent, to $98.25. Sales have jumped by 50 per cent over the past two years.

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Follow Linda A. Johnson at http://twitter.com/LindaJ_onPharma

The Canadian Press


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