Johnson & Johnson eyes $2.5B in COVID vaccine sales as key immunology, oncology meds trounce expectations

Johnson & Johnson certainly hasn't had the easiest COVID-19 shot rollout. Still, with sales predictions ranging in the billions and a series of manufacturing improvements ongoing, the company sees its pandemic hustle as the start of a new era for an emerging vaccine business. 

Johnson & Johnson is forecasting $2.5 billion in full-year sales of its one-shot COVID-19 vaccine, company executives said Wednesday on a call with analysts. The vaccine pulled in $164 million for the second quarter and $264 million during the first six months of the year, Chief Financial Officer Joe Wolk said. With pandemic revenues in the mix, the company anticipates between $93.8 billion and 94.6 billion in total sales for 2021.

Despite supply and safety concerns, not to mention recent data challenging the shot's efficacy against the troublesome delta variant, the company sees its COVID-19 efforts as "the start of what will become a vibrant vaccine business for Johnson & Johnson," Jennifer Taubert, the company's EVP and worldwide chairman of pharmaceuticals, said on the call. 

Aside from its COVID-19 shot, the company is anticipating results on experimental vaccines in HIV, sepsis and respiratory syncytial virus, Taubert said.

RELATED: Johnson & Johnson weighs talc bankruptcy as billions in legal costs pile up: report

Meanwhile, the company will "continue to expand [its] global manufacturing network" for the COVID-19 vaccine, Wolk said. Earlier this year, the exec said J&J was "comfortable" meeting all of its supply commitments, but a series of setbacks for its partner Emergent BioSolutions have raised hurdles for the global rollout.

Now, the FDA has released five vaccine drug substance batches made at partner Emergent BioSolution's Baltimore plant, where J&J continues to work with authorities to clear more batches, Wolk said. 

A manufacturing error at that facility ruined up to 15 million J&J doses earlier this year, setting off a whirlwind of controversy for CDMO Emergent. Two weeks later, Emergent agreed to temporarily pause manufacturing of new drug substance there. 

As for the J&J's 2022 COVID shot outlook, the situation remains "uncertain," Wolk said, pointing to the ambiguity around viral variants and the potential need for booster shots. 

RELATED: Johnson & Johnson's COVID-19 shot hit again as feds plan to tag Guillain-Barré warning on label: reports

Outside of its COVID-19 vaccine, J&J did gangbusters across all of its businesses as the pandemic eased in parts of the world. Total second-quarter sales swelled roughly 27% to 23.3 billion, with growth recorded in pharmaceuticals, consumer health and medical devices. Medical devices specifically posted a 58.7% sales upswing after suffering some serious pandemic blows in 2020. 

The company's pharmaceuticals business delivered about $12.6 billion in second quarter sales, rising 14.1% on the strength of key drugs like Darzalex, Stelara, Tremfya and Imbruvica, all of which beat expectations. 

Multiple myeloma med Darzalex, which posted $4.19 billion in 2020 sales, grew a whopping 53.8% in the second quarter. Execs credited those gains to uptake of the drug's subcutaneous formulation, Faspro, in Europe and the U.S. 

Meanwhile, J&J isn't averse to M&A, but it's not depending on it, either, Taubert said. The company is "agnostic" toward sources of innovation, she said, noting that about 50% of J&J's products came from internal research, while the other half came from outside the company.