Johnson & Johnson (J&J) posted stronger-than-expected first-quarter sales, as the drugmaker awaits a ruling from US health regulators on whether use of its Covid vaccine can resume.
First-quarter revenue was $22.32bn (€18.6bn), outpacing the average analyst estimate of $21.98bn.
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.
Last Friday, a US panel of medical experts reviewing data on the adverse events could vote on whether the hold should end. By mid-April, 7.7m people in the US had received the shot.
Though J&J reported sales of the vaccine to the tune of $100m in the US in the first quarter, it didn’t forecast sales for 2021.
The company didn’t provide a full-year forecast for vaccine sales because of uncertainty around the pause in its use, J&J chief financial officer Joseph Wolk said in an interview.
J&J is offering the shot on a not-for-profit basis, at no more than $10 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,” he said.
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.
“We’ll be reasonable in our pricing, we want to make sure we do maintain access,” he said.
J&J also boosted its dividend by 5% and its shares since the start of this year have risen by over 3%.
The company’s pharmaceutical unit continues to account for more than half its sales, and revenue in the division jumped 10% to $12.2bn in the first quarter. Sales of its blockbuster immunotherapy drug Stelara surged 18% to $2.2bn.
Though the pandemic had taken a toll on J&J’s medical-device sales as patients put off surgeries and other procedures, the unit regained momentum in the first quarter, with sales rising 11% from a year earlier to $6.58bn.
Mr Wolk said he expects device trends to continue to improve. In the Asia Pacific region, medical devices rebounded by 70% 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% year-over-year to $3.54bn.
Within consumer health, J&J saw sales decline in over-the-counter products.