J&J drug sales leap 12%, with Zytiga, Stelara leading growth

Johnson & Johnson's sales surged by more than 8%, thanks to some strong growth in new drugs and a leap in international sales. That $17.88 billion in revenue topped analysts' estimates. The company ($JNJ) hiked its forecast for the full year, too. But supply problems in OTC drugs continued to drag on consumer health sales, and ongoing litigation costs took a bite out of earnings.

Overall, prescription drug sales grew by almost 12% year over year, topping $7 billion. International growth was particularly strong, at 14%; for the quarter, sales outside the U.S. almost equaled U.S. sales. 

Among the stars of J&J's second quarter were the prostate cancer drug Zytiga, whose sales grew worldwide by 70% to $395 million. The psoriasis treatment Stelara saw sales swell by 49% to $371 million, while the rheumatoid arthritis treatment Simponi--a follow-up to its older immunology drug Remicade--took a 40% leap to $175 million. Incivo, a hepatitis C treatment J&J sells outside the U.S., jumped by almost two-thirds to $172 million.

Remicade is still J&J's biggest seller by far, though. This quarter, international sales of the anti-inflammatory drug jumped by 55%, helping to boost the drug to $1.67 billion for the period.

Johnson & Johnson CEO Alex Gorsky

Meanwhile, in the over-the-counter drug world, J&J turned in 5.4% growth to $931 million. That's an improvement, obviously. But sales of those products haven't come close to recovering from the massive recalls of several years ago, with supply issues still affecting some products.

In a statement, CEO Alex Gorsky cited progress in "restoring a reliable supply of over-the-counter products" and "building on the momentum in our pharmaceutical business" as contributors to the company's "strong" results for the period.

The cost of fighting lawsuits amounted to $375 million, taking a bite out of earnings; it's a good thing J&J had its Elan ($ELN) stake sale to help compensate. A lower tax rate helped, too, Wells Fargo analyst Larry Biegelsen said. But this year's legal charges are far short of the $2.2 billion during the same period last year. Per-share earnings for the current quarter hit $1.33, up from 50 cents last year.

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