Johnson & Johnson, riding high after Kenvue spinoff, touts new launches as Stelara cliff nears

After raising a financial windfall from its consumer health spinoff, Johnson & Johnson is flying high as a pharma- and medical-device-focused company. 

During the third quarter of 2023, J&J beat analysts’ expectations for both profit and revenue. And as the company inches toward a key loss of exclusivity at the start of 2025, it's eager to grow the market for several new medicines.

J&J pulled down (PDF) $21.35 billion in global sales during the quarter, topping analyst expectations of $21.04 billion, Reuters reports. On the profit front, J&J delivered $2.66 in earnings per share, topping estimates of $2.52. 

The company's top drug by sales, the immunology giant Stelara, generated $2.86 billion during the quarter, a 17% increase from the same period last year. The drug is expected to face its first biosimilar competition in 2025, so J&J is busy getting ready for the looming patent cliff.

To that end, the company is making progress on the launches of CAR-T drug Carvykti, novel antidepressant Spravato and cancer launch Tecvayli, J&J’s vice president of investor relations, Jessica Moore, said on a Tuesday conference call. 

On Carvykti, the company is bolstering efforts to increase supply and grow the cancer drug’s reach around the world, executives said on the call. The drug has generated $341 million during the first nine months of the year. 

Elsewhere in the company’s oncology division, Darzalex was characteristically “center stage,” Third Bridge analyst Lee Brown wrote in a Tuesday note. That drug’s sales hit $2.5 billion during the quarter, jumping 22% and driven by “continued share gains across all regions,” Brown wrote. 

But prostate cancer med Erleada “stole some of the spotlight” by delivering a 29% sales increase, Brown wrote. So far this year, Erleada has accounted for $1.74 billion in global sales.

Imbruvica, on the flip side, continued to struggle, with its sales declining by 11% to $808 million. Brukinsa, a hard-charging rival from BeiGene, has made it difficult for the AbbVie and J&J blockbuster cancer drug to tread water lately.

As for multiple myeloma therapy Tecvayli, the drug won its FDA nod last year. J&J hasn't yet broken out the drug's sales, but Moore said Tecvayli should reach the threshold for sales disclosures next year.

The third-quarter performance comes as J&J works to grow sales in its pharmaceutical division to $57 billion by 2025. Even as the launches gain steam, CEO Joaquin Duato said several upcoming readouts, set for 2024, could provide more expansion opportunities. 

“For me, the most important thing now is to look forward and to think about the growth profile of our innovative medicines portfolio into the second half of the decade,” Duato said on the call. 

After the quarterly performance, J&J added $600 million to its annual operational sales guidance at the midpoint. The company expects this year's operational sales to land between $84.4 billion and $84.8 billion. 

Meanwhile, after J&J’s Kenvue share exchange offer closed in August, the company recorded a $21 billion "non-cash" gain during the third quarter. 

The company has been busy eying business development deals and is meeting "almost weekly" to discuss opportunities, Chief Financial Officer Joe Wolk said on the call. The company plans to be disciplined and focus on deals that complement its own offerings, and it's open to deals of various sizes, he added.