US healthcare giant Johnson & Johnson has once again posted solid results with group sales up 8.5% to $13.68 billion and net income of $2.17 billion for the fourth quarter, an increase of 3.5%.

The firm noted that earnings included an after-tax charge of $217 million from R&D costs linked with the $16.6 billion acquisition of Pfizer Consumer Healthcare, but the figures were still slightly lower than analysts’ estimates. J&J’s pharmaceutical arm brought in $5.95 billion, a rise of 8.5%, led by the antipsychotic Risperdal (risperidone) which benefited from the introduction of Medicare Part D that has promoted the growth of the schizophrenia market and sales climbed 32% to $629 million.

Remicade (infliximab) for rheumatoid arthritis rose 13% to $780 million, while Topamax (topiramate) for epilepsy and the prevention of migraine, contributed $429 million to J&J’s coffers, up 35%. Revenues from attention deficit hyperactivity drug Concerta (methylphenidate) were up 24% to $257 million, but painkiller Duragesic (fentanyl) fell 19% to $292 million, while Exprex/Procrit (epoetin) for anaemia slipped 1% to $788 million.

The company will face generic competition for Risperdal and Topamax in 2008 and 2009, so J&J is expecting great things from its new extended-release schizophrenia treatment Invega (paliperidone), the follow-up treatment to Risperdal which recently got the green light from the US Food and Drug Administration and is expected to have sales of over $2 billion by 2010.

One of the good things going in J&J’s favour in terms of growth is that it is not totally reliant on pharmaceuticals and all its divisions did well in the fourth quarter. Sales reached $2.57 billion at its consumer healthcare units, up 11.2%, and medical devices and diagnostics brought in $5.17 billion (+7.2%). What with the purchase of the Pfizer unit and the recent acquisition of stent firm Conor Medsystems for $1.4 billion, it seems that J&J is well-equipped to soften the blow of patent expiries on its lead drugs.