Johnson & Johnson’s Covid-19 vaccine brings in $100m in quarterly sales

Pharma company posts stronger sales than expected and tightens profit forecast for year

Johnson & Johnson  did not provide a full-year forecast for Covid-19 vaccine sales because of uncertainty around the pause in its use, chief medical officer Joseph Wolk says. Photograph: iStock

Johnson & Johnson did not provide a full-year forecast for Covid-19 vaccine sales because of uncertainty around the pause in its use, chief medical officer Joseph Wolk says. Photograph: iStock

 

Johnson & Johnson (J&J) posted stronger-than-expected first-quarter sales, as the drugmaker awaits a ruling from health regulators in the United States on whether use of its coronavirus vaccine can resume amid concern over rare blood clots.

For the full year, J&J said that it expects adjusted earnings per share of $9.42 to $9.57 (€7.82 to €7.95), narrowing guidance of $9.40 to $9.60 (€7.81 to €7.97) given in January, compared with the average Wall Street estimate of $9.50 (€7.89). First-quarter revenue was $22.32 billion (€18.53 billion), outpacing the average analyst estimate of $21.98 billion (€18.25 billion).

The US paused use of J&J’s Covid-19 vaccine last week after reports that six women had developed serious but rare blood clots in the brain after receiving the shot. On Friday, a panel of medical experts reviewing data on the adverse events could vote on whether the hold should end. As of April 15th, 7.7 million people in the US had received the shot.

The European Union’s medicine’s regulator said on Tuesday that the J&J vaccine should carry a warning of potential risk for rare blood clots but that its benefits outweigh the risks.

J&J chief financial officer Joseph Wolk told Bloomberg in January that the company would likely project full-year revenue for its Covid-19 vaccine in April. Though J&J reported sales of the vaccine to the tune of $100 million (€83 million) in the US in the first quarter, it didn’t forecast sales for 2021.

Vaccine sales

The company didn’t provide a full-year forecast for vaccine sales because of uncertainty around the pause in its use, Mr Wolk said. J&J is offering the shot on a not-for-profit basis, at no more than $10 (€8.30) a dose, for the duration of the pandemic.

“We don’t want to be presumptuous and perhaps maybe even offend regulators, we want that process to play out and make sure that we’re being respectful of it,” Mr Wolk said. “Since it’s a not-for-profit construct, it’s not going to have a material impact on earnings.”

Mr Wolk said he remained optimistic about the vaccine’s future. “In the next couple of days we will have a very solid path forward and we’re going to do all we can to make sure that’s a positive outcome,” he said.

Once the pandemic is over, Mr Wolk said J&J would price the vaccine using a tiered model it employs for its other products. “We’ll be reasonable in our pricing, we want to make sure we do maintain access,” he said.

Dividend increase

J&J also boosted its dividend on Tuesday by 5 per cent, from $1.01 a share to $1.06 a share (€0.84 to €0.88).

The company’s pharmaceutical unit continues to account for more than half its sales and revenue in the division jumped 10 per cent to $12.2 billion (€10.1 billion) in the first quarter. Sales of blockbuster immunotherapy drug Stelara surged 18 per cent to $2.2 billion (€1.8 billion).

Though the pandemic had taken a toll on J&J’s medical-device sales as surgeries and other procedures were delayed, the unit regained momentum in the first quarter, with sales rising 11 per cent from a year earlier to $6.58 billion (€5.46 billion).

Mr Wolk said he expects device trends to continue to improve. In the Asia-Pacific region, medical devices rebounded by 70 per cent this quarter, he said, noting that other regions will follow suit with large improvements in the quarters to come. “Elective surgeries seem to be a little bit soft yet in terms of the market,” he said.

But consumer sales slipped 2.3 per cent year-over-year to $3.54 billion (€2.94 billion). Within consumer health, J&J saw sales decline in over-the-counter products. This was driven by comparisons with last year’s pantry loading and a weaker cough, cold and flu season due to social distancing and lockdowns, the company said.

Overall, J&J reported first-quarter adjusted earnings per share of $2.59 (€2.15), up from $2.30 (€1.91) a year earlier. – Bloomberg