Johnson & Johnson has announced record first-quarter sales, lifting shares by almost 2% in pre-market trading. Excluding special items, the company earned $1.6 per share, well above analysts’ forecasts of $1.04.

The company said net earnings were $2.6 billion, or $0.88 per share, compared with $3.3 billion, or $1.10 per share, for the same period of the previous year. These figures include an $807 million charge related to the recent acquisition of Conor Medsystems, a cardiovascular device company with a unique controlled drug-delivery system.

Company sales rose $15.7% to $15 billion, about $500 million above Wall Street forecasts. This was helped by a favourable exchange rate and J&J’s acquisition in December of Pfizer Consumer Healthcare.

Solid growth

“Our solid first-quarter results demonstrate the strength of our broadly-based business, especially the strong performance of our pharmaceutical business,” commented William Weldon, chairman and chief executive of J&J. “Our strategy of being broadly based continues to serve us well and is one of the keys to our consistent long-term performance.”

Global sales of prescription drugs in the quarter jumped 10.6% to $6.2 billion, reflecting strong performances by the antiepileptic Topamax (topiramate), Levaquin (levofloxacin) for the tratment of migraine headaches, and J&J’s antipsychotic franchise, led by Risperdal (risperidone), Risperdal Consta and Invega (paliperidone).