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Johnson & Johnson beats profit estimates on pharma strength, raises sales outlook

(Adds details on individual drug sales, background, analyst comment, shares)

July 16 (Reuters) – Johnson & Johnson raised its full-year sales forecast as demand for its cancer drugs Darzalex and Imbruvica helped it exceed estimates for second-quarter profit on Tuesday.

J&J’s pharmaceuticals unit has cushioned impact of slow growth in its medical device and consumer health units, largely due to its cancer drugs, even as some of its older drugs face competition.

The company raised its 2019 forecast for operational sales, which excludes the impact of currency fluctuations, to a range of $82.4 billion to $83.2 billion, from a prior range of $82 billion to $82.8 billion.

“We expect questions on the maintained earnings per share guidance but we point to the continued-to-be-improving strength across its franchises despite pharma headwinds,” said BMO Capital Markets analyst Joanne Wuensch.

J&J reported a 41.8% fall in litigation expense to $409 million in the quarter. But the company recorded litigation expense of $832 million in six months, compared to $703 million.

J&J faces lawsuits that allege drugmakers, including the company, overstated the benefits of opioids while downplaying their addictive risks when marketing their pain treatments.

The company also disclosed in its annual report in February that it had received subpoenas from the U.S. Justice Department and Securities and Exchange Commission related to baby powder litigation but did not give more details.

J&J repeatedly has said its talc products are safe and that decades of studies have shown them to be asbestos-free and that they do not cause cancer.

In the quarter, pharmaceutical sales rose 1.7% to $10.53 billion, above analysts’ estimates of $10.27 billion, according to three analysts polled by Refinitiv.

Sales of prostate cancer treatment Zytiga and blood thinner Xarelto and J&J’s blockbuster arthritis drug Remicade all fell, hurt by competition.

Darzalex and Imbruvica recorded sales of $774 million and $831 million respectively, and came in ahead of estimates.

The diversified healthcare company, the first major U.S. drugmaker to report second-quarter results, said net earnings rose to $5.61 billion, or $2.08 per share, from $3.95 billion, or $1.45 per share, a year earlier.

Excluding items, the company earned $2.58 per share, beating analysts’ expectations for $2.46 per share, according to IBES data from Refinitiv.

Sales fell 1.3% to $20.56 billion as growth in international market helped counter falling sales in the United States. Analysts were expecting sales of $20.29 billion.

Shares of the company were marginally up at $135.6 in trading before the opening bell. (Reporting by Manas Mishra and Manojna Maddipatla in Bengaluru; Editing by Bernadette Baum and Bill Trott)

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