Kicking off the reporting season for the majors, Johnson & Johnson has posted a 88.8% slump in earnings for the fourth quarter, battered by charges, including litigation and product-liability related items.

Group net earnings came in at just $218 million, after J&J took after-tax charges of $2.9 billion, which also included the effect of recalls and acquisition costs. Turnover rose 3.9% to $16.26 billion.

Worldwide pharmaceutical sales were up 6.7% to $6.09 billion, but they fell 8.3% in the USA to $2.89 billion, hurt by generic competition to key products. The latter effect hit domestic sales of the antipsychotic Risperdal (risperidone), which only brought in $7 million across the pond and the total was down 2.0% to $148 million. The longer-acting form of the drug, Risperdal Consta, was flat at $388 million.

The epilepsy drug Topamax (topiramate) brought in $121 million, also flat on the like, year-earlier period, while J&J’s anaemia therapy Procrit/Eprex (epoetin alfa) fell 23.2% to $368 million. The antibiotic Levaquin (levofloxacin) sank 98.8% to just $5 million, following the loss of marketing exclusivity in the USA.

On the positive side, J&J’s biggest seller was once again the anti-inflammatory Remicade (infliximab), sales of which shot up 34.1% to $1.43 billion, while the latter’s follow-up Simponi (golimumab) brought in $119 million, up 83.1%.

Sales of Velcade (bortezomib), for the treatment of patients with multiple myeloma and mantle cell lymphoma, was up 22.6% to $352 million, while the HIV therapy Prezista (darunavir) leapt 33.9% to $316 million. Turnover from Stelara (ustekinumab) for moderate to severe plaque psoriasis climbed 72.5% to $207 million and the schizophrenia drug Invega (paliperidone extended-release) saw sales rise 7.8% to $125 million.

J&J noted that sales at its medical devices and diagnostics unit reached $6.49 billion, a 2.7% increase. Turnover from its consumer division were up 1.6% to $3.67 billion.

For 2012, the healthcare giant anticipates earnings for 2012 of $5.05-$5.15 per share, some way below analyst estimates. However, J&J chief executive William Weldon (pictured) said the firm has delivered solid results for 2011 "and continued the steady momentum of new product approvals across all our businesses".