J&J promises new uses for old meds to keep pharma sales flying high

Johnson & Johnson R&D chief Paul Stoffels

Johnson & Johnson ($JNJ) is riding high on strong sales for standout meds, but some slowdown could be on the horizon as competition increases for its top-selling drugs. And J&J is not going down without a fight, planning to roll out new versions of old meds to keep its pharma numbers in tip-top shape.

The New Brunswick, NJ-based pharma giant will pursue 40 line extensions of new and existing meds, it said Wednesday. And on top of that, it'll seek regulatory approval for more than 10 new drugs by 2019, each with potential annual sales of more than $1 billion, J&J said in a statement. If J&J has its way, its current portfolio and pipeline will offer "momentum to sustain above-industry compound annual growth through 2019," the company said in a statement.

"Our innovation strategy has delivered transformational products for patients and also created a cycle of success that positions us for continued growth across the entire Johnson & Johnson enterprise," Paul Stoffels, Chief Scientific Officer and Worldwide Chairman of Pharmaceuticals, said in a statement. "With a single-minded focus on unmet medical need and true differentiation, we've built an industry-leading pipeline to improve and extend people's lives and also create value for society and our business."

But J&J will have its work cut out for it as it looks to keep up the momentum in its pharma business. Analysts estimate the company's sales of drugs approved in 2009 or after will grow 8% a year through 2020--one-third the median rate of its competitors, Bloomberg reports. Part of the explanation is increased competition to top-selling drugs. Sales for the company's hep C powerhouse Olysio are taking a beating as rival treatments from Gilead Sciences ($GILD) and AbbVie ($ABBV) flood the market, with a 34% drop in revenues during the first quarter. And J&J's blockbuster arthritis med Remicade faces competition from a copycat version of the drug made by Hospira ($HSP) and Celltrion.

Still, J&J is counting on strong numbers for some of its new launches to keep it riding high. Clot-fighter Xarelto jumped almost 40% to $441 million in Q1, and psoriasis drug Stelara was up by one-fifth to $549 million. Diabetes med Invokana raked in $278 million in worldwide sales over that stretch, too.

And J&J is hoping that its recent FDA approval for a new, thrice-yearly version of antipsychotic powerhouse Invega will keep numbers northbound. The company earlier this week got the agency's signoff for Invega Trinza, a schizophrenia med with the longest dosing option available on the market, J&J said. But the injectable drug will have some ground to cover, as patients continue to deflect to oral, easier-to-take pills.

- read the release
- here's the Bloomberg story

Special Report: The top 15 pharma companies by 2014 revenue - Johnson & Johnson