J&J 4Q sales rise despite pandemic, but charges cut profits

FILE - This Oct. 21, 2019 file, photo shows Johnson's Baby Aloe & Vitamin E Powder in Salt Lake City. Johnson & Johnson reported a strong finish to the year, overcoming the disruption of the global pandemic on some parts of its business like medical devices. The New Brunswick, New Jersey-based company said it had profit of 65 cents per share. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer, File) (Copyright 2019 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

A big jump in prescription drug sales boosted fourth-quarter revenue at Johnson & Johnson, despite the coronavirus pandemic cutting into sales of products from contact lenses to surgical equipment and other medical devices used in procedures at hospitals swamped with COVID-19 patients.

Profits dove 57% due to higher research spending, plus litigation and other one-time charges totaling $2.4 billion, but the results still cruised past Wall Street expectations. J&J shares added $5.18, or 3.1%, to hit $171.16 in early afternoon trading Tuesday.

Johnson & Johnson didn't give any updates on its coronavirus vaccine research, but executives on a conference call to discuss the quarterly results repeatedly told analysts that J&J expects to share results from its late-stage study of its experimental COVID-19 vaccine — the first requiring only one dose — “by early next week.”

The vaccine could become the third to receive emergency use authorization in the U.S., likely in February, following partners Pfizer and BioNTech, who won the first Food and Drug Administration emergency clearance, and Moderna. Both those vaccines, which use different technology than J&J's, were granted emergency use authorization in December.

Meanwhile, Johnson & Johnson also is testing a two-dose vaccine as a backup and should have results on that in 2021's second half.

The world’s biggest maker of health care products reported net income of $1.74 billion, or 65 cents per share, down from $4.01 billion, or $1.50 per share, a year earlier.

Adjusted net income came to $4.97 billion, or $1.86 per share, easily topping the $1.81 Wall Street analysts expected.

Quarterly revenue totaled $22.48 billion, up 8.3% from $20.75 billion. Analysts had expected $21.62 billion.