US healthcare conglomerate Johnson & Johnson has posted a solid but unspectacular quarter of growth with group sales up 8% to $13.3 billion and earnings at $2.8 billion, up 10.6%.

Analysts said that financial levers, including an improved tax rate and inventory stocking, flattered the figures somewhat.

The pattern was repeated in all its divisions, with pharmaceuticals rising 6.7% year-on-year and consumer products up 8%, although medical devices were pegged back to a 6.1% rise mainly because of a decline in sales in J&J’s Cypher (sirolimus) drug-eluting stent thought to result from safety concerns and saturation of the market for this type of product.

Schizophrenia drug Risperdal (risperidone) led the charge for the pharma division, with sales up 15% to $1.07 billion in the quarter, with sentiment to J&J also benefiting from its victory earlier this week in a patent lawsuit that should prevent generic competition to this product in the USA until late 2007.

Remicade (infliximab) for rheumatoid arthritis rose 24% to $776 million, helped by its recent approval in the USA as a treatment for psoriasis, while attention deficit hyperactivity drug Concerta (methylphenidate) and Topamax (topiramate) for epilepsy both posted double-digit gains.

A number of key products suffered sales declines, however, notably Procrit (epoetin ) for anaemia which fell 6% $798 million, painkiller Duragesic (fentanyl), which fell 13% to $342 million, and Wywth’s hormonal contraceptive range which was down 4% to $281 million.