Kicking off the US reporting season, Johnson & Johnson has posted a 12.5% rise in earnings for the first quarter, helped by sales of new products, the most eye-catching being the prostate cancer drug Zytiga.

Group net earnings came in at $3.91 billion, while turnover slipped 0.2% to $16.14 billion. Worldwide pharmaceutical sales were up 1.2% to $6.13 billion, but they fell 10.8% in the USA to $3.03 billion, hurt by generic competition to key products.

The latter effect has wiped out US sales of the antipsychotic Risperdal (risperidone), and no figures for elsewhere were given either, while the longer-acting form of the drug, Risperdal Consta, fell 10.6% to $361 million. J&J’s anaemia therapy Procrit/Eprex (epoetin alfa) fell 5.3% to $376 million, while the antibiotic Levaquin (levofloxacin) sank 93.3% to just $29 million, following the loss of marketing exclusivity in the USA.

Sales of Doxil/Caelyx (doxorubicin), which was suspended last year because of manufacturing problems by supplier Boehringer Ingelheim’s Ben Venue unit, decreased 82.7% to $24 million.

On the positive side, J&J’s biggest seller was once again the Merck & Co-partnered anti-inflammatory Remicade (infliximab), sales of which were up 18.4% to $1.52 billion, while the latter’s follow-up Simponi (golimumab) brought in $116 million, up 22.1%.

Sales of Velcade (bortezomib), for the treatment of patients with multiple myeloma and mantle cell lymphoma, increased 26.1% to $353 million, while the HIV therapy Prezista (darunavir) leapt 21.8% to $324 million. Turnover from Stelara (ustekinumab) for moderate to severe plaque psoriasis climbed 33.1% to $221 million while Zytiga (abiraterone) contributed $200 million to J&J's coffers.

The healthcare giant noted that sales at its medical devices and diagnostics unit reached $6.41 billion, a 0.3% decrease, while turnover from its troubled consumer division fell 2.4% to $3.60 billion.