Johnson & Johnson has posted an 8% increase in sales for the fourth quarter, helping by a strong showing at its pharmaceuticals division.

Group net income came in at $2.57 billion, compared to just $218 million in the like, year-earlier period which was affected by charges of $2.86 billion. Turnover reached $17.56 billion.

Worldwide pharmaceutical sales were up 7.1% to $6.53 billion and climbed 14.5%. J&J’s biggest seller was once again the Merck & Co-partnered anti-inflammatory Remicade (infliximab), sales of which were up 5.3% to $1.50 billion, while the latter’s follow-up Simponi (golimumab) brought in $181 million, up 52.1%.

Zytiga sales soar

Arguably the most impressive performance came from the new prostate cancer treatment Zytiga (abiraterone) which contributed $264 million to J&J's coffers, up 73.7%. Sales of Velcade (bortezomib) shot up 42.6% to $502 million for multiple myeloma, while Stelara (ustekinumab) for moderate to severe plaque psoriasis climbed 30.0% to $269 million.

The HIV therapy Prezista (darunavir) rose 11.7% to $353 million, while the schizophrenia drug Invega (paliperidone extended-release) was up 17.6% to $147 million; Invega Sustenna/Xeplion (paliperidone palmitate) saw sales leap 68.9% to $212 million.

Generic competition meant that the attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder drug Concerta was down 11.3% to $243 million, while J&J’s anaemia therapy Procrit/Eprex (epoetin alfa) fell 11.4% to $326 million. Sales of Doxil/Caelyx (doxorubicin) for ovarian and other cancers, which was suspended last year because of manufacturing problems by supplier Boehringer Ingelheim’s Ben Venue unit, fell 23.1% to $30 million.

The antipsychotic Risperdal Consta (risperidone) decreased 7% to $358 million. The healthcare giant also noted that sales at its medical devices and diagnostics (MD&D) unit were up 13.7% at $7.38 billion, while turnover from its consumer division slipped 0.4% to $3.65 billion.

Diagnostics unit could be sold

A good showing for pharma but the headlines have been dominated by the future of MD&D after J&J said it is "initiating an exploratory process to evaluate strategic options for its Ortho Clinical Diagnostics business", including divestiture. Speaking to investors, chief executive Alex Gorsky said "what we see is a business with many very good technologies [which are not] in the number one or two position in its respective marketplace". However, he added that the firm was "absolutely committed" to the consumer division despite its well-documented production problems.