J&J Q4 sales slip, but year finishes up 4.2%

J&J CEO Alex Gorsky
J&J CEO Alex Gorsky

Johnson & Johnson's fourth-quarter and year-end results missed some estimates, leaving industry watchers underwhelmed. The industry behemoth reported $18.3 billion in fourth-quarter sales, a 0.6% drop compared to the same period in 2013. JNJ logged $74.4 billion in sales for the year, an increase of 4.2% over the year before, when the company pulled in $71.3 billion.

Consumer sales, which include the company's baby care, oral care, women's health and wound care products, fell 4% during the quarter, to $3.6 billion, compared to the same period in 2013. Year-end consumer sales dipped 1.4%, to $14.5 billion, compared to $14.7 billion in 2013.

Pharmaceutical sales rose 9.6% during the quarter, to $8 billion, compared to the fourth-quarter of 2013. Performers included blood thinner Xarelto, which had $428 million in fourth-quarter sales, compared to $271 million in the same period in 2013.

Immunology drug sales rose 7.3% for the quarter, to $2.6 billion, compared to $2.4 billion for the same period in 2013, with particular strength from Simponi, which saw sales rise 36.2% for the quarter, to $346 million, compared to $254 million in 2013, and Stelara, for which sales rose 30.7%, to $545 million, compared to $417 million for the same period in 2013.

Year-end totals showed immunology sales rose 7.9%, to $10.2 billion, compared to 2013, with particular strength from Simponi ($1.2 billion, compared to $932 million in 2013) and Stelara ($2 billion in 2014 sales, compared to $1.5 billion the year before). Xarelto sales jumped to $1.5 billion, from $864 million in 2013.

Oncology and neuroscience sales grew during the quarter, with sales of schizophrenia drug Invega rising 4.5% to $161 million. Sales of  prostate cancer drug Zytiga rose 20.2% to almost $600 million, but Zytiga's number includes what Johnson & Johnson described in a printed presentation as a “decline in US” market share which was offset by “increased penetration” outside of the US market.

There were also disappointments lurking in the quarterly upticks. Although hepatitis C drug Olysio hit $321 million in quarterly sales, compared to $23 million in 2013,  Goldman Sachs analyst Jami Rubin indicated in a Tuesday research note that 2015 will be different for Olysio, since the year will include a 12-month competition against competitors AbbVie and Gilead. She wrote that these entrants will likely trigger “a steep decline” in Olysio sales. She made a similar point in October, when the company announced its third-quarter sales.

Diabetes care was a weak point for both the quarter and the year with device sales falling 8.7% during the quarter compared to 2013 and by 7.2% for the year. CEO Alex Gorsky told investors during the earnings call that “diabetes is an area we feel strongly about” and is a category with a lot of unmet need.

He also indicated a commitment to maintain the company's broad therapeutic focus, telling investors that there “is a lot of opportunity to better address the needs of patients,” and that each category offers significant potential.

The hope for multiple-category success is somewhat unique. The company has kept its broad scope, despite moves by peers including those  Bristol-Myers Squibb and Merck undertook in 2013 to narrow their focuses, as well as last spring's musical-chairs like swap among GlaxoSmithKline, Lilly and Novartis that helped consolidate assets as well as create a consumer joint venture.