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Higher 3Q profit, improved outlook for Johnson & Johnson

NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J. (AP) — Johnson & Johnson's third-quarter profit jumped 23%, beating Wall Street forecasts, thanks to higher sales of its key medicines for cancer and immune disorders and an acquisition-related charge a year earlier.

The world's biggest maker of health care products also raised its financial forecast for the year, and its shares jumped more than 2% in premarket action. The strong quarter came as the Band-Aid maker is fighting a deluge of lawsuits over alleged harm from its baby powder, opioid painkillers and schizophrenia drug Risperdal. On Oct. 8, a Philadelphia jury hit J&J with a stunning $8 billion punitive damages verdict in a case in which a young man grew breasts while taking Risperdal — a rare but known side effect.

During a conference call Tuesday to discuss the company's financial results, Chief Financial Officer Joseph Wolk told analysts that the $8 billion award, which J&J is appealing, "will come down based on (legal) precedent." He criticized plaintiffs' attorneys for extensive negative advertising ahead of trials in which plaintiffs have argued that the talc in Johnson's baby powder caused ovarian cancer or mesothelioma, resulting in some huge verdicts against J&J. Wolk said the company has been overturning lost talc cases on appeal, won three talc lawsuits last week alone and knows "how to navigate around these matters."

Several analysts have written recently that J&J, with about $82 billion in annual revenue, can withstand all the lawsuits and that its shares, hurt by news of big verdicts against J&J, are now a bargain.

J&J reported net income of $4.83 billion, or $1.81 per share. That was up from $3.93 billion, or $1.44 per share, in 2018's third quarter, when the drugmaker took a $1.13 billion charge related to research programs acquired with its purchase of Alios BioPharma.

Earnings, adjusted for one-time gains and costs, came to $2.12 per share, easily topping analysts' projections for $2, according to a survey of analysts by Zacks Investment Research. Revenue of $20.73 billion, up 2% from $20.35 billion a year ago, also beat forecasts.

J&J's prescription drugs business boosted sales 5% to $10.88 billion, led by cancer drugs Darzalex and Imbruvica and by Simponi, Stelara and Tremfya, which treat immune system disorders such as psoriasis, rheumatoid arthritis and Crohn's disease.

The consumer products business, which makes Johnson's baby shampoo, Neutrogena and Aveeno skin care products and pain relievers Tylenol and Motrin, posted a 1.6% increase in sales, to $3.47 billion. The medical device and diagnostics business, once J&J's biggest segment, saw sales drop 3% to $6.38 billion. J&J has been restructuring the business for a couple of years, selling some underperforming businesses and launching new products.

The New Brunswick, New Jersey company forecast 2019 per-share earnings of $8.62 to $8.67, after adjustments for one-time items, and revenue of between $81.8 billion and $82.3 billion. In July, the company forecast adjusted per-share earnings between $8.53 and $8.63, and revenue between $80.8 billion and $81.6 billion.

During the third quarter, Johnson & Johnson received approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for additional uses for four of its medicines: blood thinner Xarelto, Type 2 diabetes pill Invokana, prostate cancer drug Erleada and Darzalex, for treating blood cancer multiple myeloma. In the European Union, Stelara received approval for treating ulcerative colitis and cancer drug Imbruvica won approval for two more uses. J&J also launched two new medical devices, a surgical stapler and a new version of its Attune knee replacement system.

In morning trading, J&J shares rose $2.81, or 2.2%, to $133.51.

Follow Linda A. Johnson at https://twitter.com/LindaJ_onPharma

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