Oncology portfolio drives Q3 growth at J&J

By Ben Hargreaves

- Last updated on GMT

(Image: Getty/Hywards)
(Image: Getty/Hywards)

Related tags Johnson & johnson Q3 Janssen

J&J reported third quarter growth largely driven by its pharmaceutical unit, which experienced 8.2% growth in sales.

Johnson & Johnson (J&J) announced sales for the third quarter of $20.3bn (€17.59bn), a 3.6% increase on Q2 results.

Worldwide sales in its pharmaceutical business reached $10.3bn, which resulted in a 6.7% growth in sales compared to the prior quarter, despite a negative currency impact of 1.5%.

Joe Wolk, CFO for J&J, admitted in the company’s earnings call that the unit will face challenges this financial year: “While we’ll face tougher comparisons in the pharmaceuticals segment through the remainder of this year as well as biosimilar and generic competition, we are confident in the strength of our business.”

One such difficulty relates to leading monoclonal antibody, Remicade (infliximab).

The product is used to treat Chron’s disease and rheumatoid arthritis, bringing in worldwide sales of $1.3bn in the third quarter. However, the impact of biosimilars can be in the operational decline of sales by 15% globally on the third quarter of 2017.

Speaking on the situation in the US, Wolk explained he expects the product to remain competitive, despite competitors’ biosimilars entering the market at a lower price.

“I think what you’ve seen this year is roughly 18% in the US with biosimilar erosion. We continue to compete there. Most of that erosion is related to price,” ​he said.

Future areas of growth

With the fall of Remicade sales, J&J needed growth across the range of its pharmaceutical products and its oncology portfolio delivered.

Worldwide sales of Darzalex (daratumumab), Zytiga (abiraterone acetate) and Imbruvica (ibrutinib) grew by 43.2%, 57.1% and 37.7%, respectively – with Darzalex producing sales of $498m; Zytiga, $958m; and Imbruvica, $705m.

Looking towards the future of its pharma portfolio, J&J signposted esketamine’s potential; the investigational antidepressant treatment is currently being assessed by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the European Medicines Agency.

Jennifer Taubert, worldwide chairman at Janssen, pointed to the hopes the company has for the treatment: “We’re really excited about esketamine’s potential for treatment-resistant depression and also hopefully in the future, major depressive disorder, and for those patients who are at imminent risk of suicidality”.

In terms of the company’s confidence about what will happen when the data is reviewed by the FDA, Taubert said, “We are really confident in the totality of our data across the esketamine programme and what we have filed both with the US authorities as well as the EMEA authorities.”

J&J’s drug candidate is one of a number of ketamine-related treatments currently being explored for treatment-resistant depression of patients at imminent risk of suicide, as was discussed in our two-part series​ on developments in the area.

Shares of J&J were up by 1.23% to $137.79, at the time of reporting.

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