Johnson & Johnson third-quarter sales beat expectations

Johnson & Johnson reported surprisingly strong global sales for the third quarter despite Covid-19-related headwinds.

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Chauncey Alcorn CNN Business
CNN — Johnson & Johnson reported surprisingly strong global sales for the third quarter despite Covid-19-related headwinds.

The company's quarterly sales of $21.1 billion were 1.7% greater than in the same period last year, largely driven by demand for over-the-counter medicines such as Tylenol, said Christopher DelOrefice, J&J's vice president of investor relations.

"E-commerce sales continue to drive growth across most brands," DelOrefice said during an earnings call. Growth was also helped by retailers stocking up ahead of cold and flu season, he said.

Medical device sales also rose in during the quarter because of a surge in rescheduled treatments that were delayed by the coronavirus pandemic in the spring.

The better-than-expected earnings came a day after J&J announced it was pausing its Covid-19 vaccine trial following the unexplained illness of a trial volunteer. Executives on Tuesday's earnings call offered few details on the trial.

"We know very little information right now," said Mathai Mammen, global head of research and development for Johnson & Johnson's Janssen Pharmaceutical Companies.

Mammen confirmed Johnson & Johnson's leaders were informed of its trial subject's "unexpected illness" Sunday evening, saying the leaders immediately informed the company's ENSEMBLE independent Data and Safety Monitoring Board before posting a statement about the matter on J&J's website on Monday.

"We're now awaiting further medical information and evaluation, which we will then forward to the DSMB for their independent recommendation," Mammen said during the call. "They've asked a number of specific questions. ... It'll be a few days at minimum for the right set of information to be gathered."

J&J shares finished down 2.3% on Tuesday.

Joseph J. Wolk, the company's chief financial officer, sought to quell any concerns that this week's setback implied the company is being urged to rush its development process along with other drugmakers in the ongoing race for a working Covid-19 vaccine.

"We have not encountered any undo pressure and we will maintain the rigorous requirements of research, development and manufacturing to bring a safe and effective Covid-19 vaccine to the public as we do for all our products," he said.

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