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BRENDAN MCDERMID/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 US$82.4-billion to US$83.2-billion, from a prior range of US$82-billion to US$82.8-billion.

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“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 per cent fall in litigation expense to US$409-million in the quarter. But the company recorded litigation expense of US$832-million in six months, compared to US$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 per cent to US$10.53-billion, above analysts’ estimates of US$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.

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

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

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

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

Shares of the company were marginally up at US$135.6 in trading before the opening bell.

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