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Johnson & Johnson

Published on 27/03/15 at 04:31pm

Johnson & Johnson

2014 turnover: $74.3 billion

Biggest drug: rheumatoid arthritis treatment Remicade (infliximab), co-marketed with Merck

Established in 1886, Johnson & Johnson was a pioneer in the mass production of many of today’s daily healthcare standards, including first aid kids, sanitary towels and dental floss. Lead by succeeding members of the Johnson family until 1963, the firm has only had seven chief executives in its entire history. 

The most recent of these, Alex Gorsky, has been credited with steadying a ship rocked by controversy when he came to power in 2012. The years preceding his appointment were characterised by high-profile product recalls and allegations of unethical practice against the firm. 

In the 12 months to October 2010, the firm issued an average of one major recall every month, including withdrawals of its best-selling OTC painkiller Tylenol as well as thousands of metal hip implants. The latter eventually led to a mass settlement of more than $4.4 billion. 

Between 1999 and 2005, the firm marketed its anti-psychotic drug Risperdal (risperidone) for unapproved uses, including moderating behavioural disorders in children and controlling anxiety in elderly dementia patients. The firm eventually admitted its wrongdoing in 2013 and was hit with fines and settlement costs totalling $2.2 billion. 

Even as recently as March 2015 the company’s consumer division McNeil pleaded guilty to selling contaminated children’s medicine.

Putting these controversies to bed is one way Gorsky has ensured consistent growth during his first three years in J&J’s top job.

In 2014 worldwide pharmaceutical sales rose from $28.1 billion in 2013 to $32.3 billion – a 14.9% increase – driven by a spate of big selling products, including arthritis treatment Remicade (infliximab), blood-thinning drug Xarelto (rivaroxaban), and hepatitis C combination medicine Olysio (simeprevir), which has been granted a unique ‘pay if you clear’ scheme for the NHS.

In fact six of the 14 pharmaceutical products J&J has launched since 2009 have passed the $1 billion sales threshold – although several older drugs, such as long-standing oncology treatment Velcade (bortezomib), are now beginning to reach the end of their patents.

Gorsky says the company is also planning 10 new pharma product filings between 2013 and 2017, including esketamine, a glutamate NMDA antagonist that he described as a ‘potential breakthrough medication’ for treatment-resistant depression.

Other medicines in the pipeline include an anti-CD38 antibody daratumumab for multiple myeloma; ARN-509, a next-generation androgen receptor inhibitor for prostate cancer; IL-6 inhibitor guselkumab for psoriasis; IL-23 inhibitor sirukumab for rheumatoid arthritis, and revisiting the development of the anti-nerve growth factor antibody fulranumab for osteoarthritic pain – which was placed under an FDA clinical hold in 2011 after being linked to an increased risk of joint damage.

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