Johnson & Johnson executives say new launches and label expansions will fuel 'above-market' growth through 2021

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Johnson & Johnson says it ranks No. 1 in the pharma industry by number of blockbuster drugs. (J&J)

Like its peers, Johnson & Johnson faces pricing and biosim threats in the coming years. But thanks to new launches and label expansions for existing drugs, the drugmaker believes it can continue to outperform rivals in pharmaceuticals, executives said on a conference call Thursday. 

On Thursday’s call, J&J executives highlighted esketamine, recently filed with the FDA in treatment-resistant depression, plus erdafitinib for metastatic urothelial cancer, as future growth drivers. The submission for the latter drug should be completed in the coming weeks, they said. For its already-marketed drugs, J&J plans to file applications for 50 new uses through 2021, more than 10 of which have a sales potential of more than $500 million. 

Over the last several years, J&J has outperformed the branded drug industry in annual sales growth, according to the Thursday presentation, and the company committed to continue the trend through new offerings and add-on uses. 

The pipeline developments come as J&J’s megablockbuster immunology drug Remicade continues to battle in the market against biosimilars from Pfizer and Merck. Despite the competition, Remicade has held the majority of share thanks to J&J's contracting. A lawsuit brought by rival Pfizer, which manufactures a biosimilar to Remicade, challenges the aggressive contracting as "anticompetitive."  

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Despite J&J’s success defending Remicade, Executive Vice President and Worldwide Chairman for Pharmaceuticals Jennifer Taubert said J&J expects “continued erosion” for the blockbuster, plus further generic erosion for Concerta and Velcade. Additionally, Tracleer and Procrit are expected to face new competition, she said. The generic situation for prostate cancer drug Zytiga remains an unknown—for now—following a patent trial that has completed; the company is awaiting a judge's ruling. Still, J&J executives maintain that the company can achieve strong pharma growth even without Zytiga. 

Along with biosimilars, J&J executives highlighted pricing pressure from public and private payers as a threat in the coming years. But, they said, J&J has realized 100% of its growth from volume increases in 2017 and the first half of 2018, so the company is well positioned against that challenge.