NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J. – Big jumps in sales of prescription drugs and medical devices helped Johnson & Johnson boost its first-quarter profit nearly 7%, blowing past Wall Street forecasts.
The health care giant on Tuesday raised and narrowed its financial forecasts for 2021, and its shares jumped more than 2% in midday trading.
The one weak spot was a small drop in consumer health sales, which saw a surge in 2020’s first quarter, when nervous consumers stocked up on over-the-counter medicines and hygiene products as the coronavirus pandemic set in and lockdowns began.
Meanwhile, Johnson & Johnson last week paused administration of its COVID-19 vaccine, due to worries over roughly one in a million vaccine recipients developing unusual blood clots along with low blood levels. One of them died.
On Tuesday, the European Medicines Agency said its safety committee's analysis found that risks of those clots and low platelets is very small but should be listed as a rare side effect of the vaccine. The committee declared the vaccine's benefits outweigh risks of side effects.
J&J, the world’s biggest maker of health care products, last week delayed the start of its European vaccine rollout over the issue. Following the EMA announcement, J&J said it will resume shipments to EU member states, plus Norway and Iceland. It's up to those countries whether to allow administration of the vaccine, but the EMA said it was “confident” the J&J shot could be rolled out appropriately.
The maker of Tylenol and Acuvue contact lenses still awaits U.S. health officials' ruling on the clotting issue, which could come Friday. The one-dose shot is seen as crucial for vaccinating people in remote areas and in poor countries with limited medical infrastructure.
Johnson & Johnson reported first-quarter net income of $6.2 billion, or $2.32 per share, up 6.9% from $5.8 billion, or $2.17 per share, a year earlier. Adjusted earnings amounted to $6.92 billion, or $2.59 per share, 28 cents more than analysts expected.