Johnson & Johnson has kicked off the US reporting season by posting a 7.3% decrease in earnings for the third quarter, hit by charges, but revealing healthy sales growth for its pharmaceuticals.

Group net income came in at  $2.97 billion, affected by special items of $533 million, which was primarily attributed to the discontinuation of its late-stage programme for the Pfizer-partnered Alzheimer's disease drug bapineuzumab. Turnover rose 6.5% (despite a 4.3% negative currency impact)  to $17.05 billion.

Worldwide pharmaceutical sales were up 7.0% to $6.40 billion and climbed 14.5% in the USA  to $3.29 billion, while international sales were flat. J&J’s biggest seller was once again the Merck & Co-partnered anti-inflammatory Remicade (infliximab), sales of which were up 13.0% to $1.59 billion, while the latter’s follow-up Simponi (golimumab) brought in $185 million, up 43.4%.

Arguably the most impressive performance came from the new prostate cancer treatment Zytiga (abiraterone) which contributed $265 million to J&J's coffers, up from $95 million in the like, year-earlier period. Sales of Stelara (ustekinumab) for moderate to severe plaque psoriasis climbed 51.9% to $287 million, while the HIV therapy Prezista (darunavir) rose 15.2% to $364 million.

The schizophrenia drug Invega (paliperidone extended-release) was up 11.1% to $140 million, while Invega Sustenna/Xeplion (paliperidone palmitate) saw sales more than double to $212 million.

Generic competition meant that the antibiotic Levaquin (levofloxacin) fell 20% to just $20 million, following the loss of marketing exclusivity in the USA. The antipsychotic Risperdal Consta (risperidone) decreased 10.0% to $351 million, while generic competition meant that the attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder drug Concerta was down 10.2% to $254 million.

J&J’s anaemia therapy Procrit/Eprex (epoetin alfa) fell 15.6% to $401 million, while 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, sank 81.4% to $16 million.

The healthcare giant noted that sales at its medical devices and diagnostics unit were up 12.5% at $7.07 billion, while turnover from its troubled consumer division fell 4.3% to $3.58 billion. Chief executive Alex Gorsky said the results "reflected continued sales momentum driven by strong growth of key products [and] successful new product launches". He added that "we have advanced our pipelines with regulatory approvals for a number of new products, the submission of several new drug applications, and the completion of several strategic collaborations".

On the back of the figures, J&J updated its earnings guidance (excluding special items) for full-year 2012 to $5.05-$5.10 per share from a previous forecast of $5.00-$5.07.