Johnson & Johnson has begun the quarterly results season by posting a major decline in pharmaceutical revenues, though profits edged up on the back of cost-cutting.

Group net earnings for the third quarter were up 1.1% to $3.35 billion while turnover was down 5.3% to $15.08 billion. Worldwide pharmaceutical sales reached $5.25 billion, a fall of 14.1%, as two of its older products were hit by loss of patent protection.

Turnover from the antipsychotic Risperdal (risperidone) collapsed 40.0% to $192 million, as generic competition tore into US sales of the blockbuster (down 71.3% to just $35 million). The longer-acting form of the drug, Risperdal Consta, was up 4.4% to $353 million.

The epilepsy drug Topamax (topiramate) was also hit by generics and brought in $175 million, down 76.0%. Sales of J&J’s anaemia therapy Procrit/Eprex (epoetin alfa) fell 12.4% to $542 million, hurt by continued concerns over cardiovascular safety for the entire erythropoiesis-stimulating class of drugs. The Alzheimer’s disease drug Reminyl/Razadyne (galantamine) sank 29.7% to $97 million, and the USA contributed just $1 million to that total, while turnover from the attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder therapy Concerta (methylphenidate) fell 28.6% to $284 million.

On the positive side, J&J’s biggest seller was once again the anti-inflammatory Remicade (infliximab), sales of which were up 5.9% to $1.04 billion, while Velcade (bortezomib), for the treatment of patients with multiple myeloma and mantle cell lymphoma, was up 21.6% to $231 million. Sales of the new HIV therapy Prezista (darunavir) were up 91.1% to $151 million.

As for J&J’s other divisions, medical devices and diagnostics sales reached $5.84 billion, a 2.3% increase, while turnover from the consumer division was down 2.7% to $3.99 billion. Chief executive William Weldon was pleased with the performance saying that the firm continues to successfully manage “our broad base of businesses and deliver solid earnings despite the impact of patent expirations and the challenges posed by the current economic environment”.

He added that the group has completed “multiple acquisitions and strategic collaborations and received several new product approvals” in the quarter that will drive future growth. These include buying major stakes in Elan Corp and Crucell, plus a US approval for Stelara (ustekinumab) for the treatment of psoriasis and a European thumbs-up for the arthritis drug Simponi (golimumab).

Analysts were disappointed with the scale of the decline in pharmaceuticals turnover but were pleasantly surprised by J&J upping its 2009 earnings per share target to $4.54-$4.59, excluding certain items, from $4.45-$4.55.