Growing prescription drug and medical device sales nudged Johnson & Johnson past fourth-quarter earnings expectations, and the health care giant’s COVID-19 vaccine gained momentum as well.

J&J’s one-shot vaccine rang up $1.62 billion in sales in the last quarter of 2021, or more than double what it had recorded before the quarter, as drugstores and clinics started doling out booster shots.

The vaccine debuted last year and wound up bringing in $2.38 billion, or slightly less than what company leaders have said they expected. J&J said Tuesday that it forecasts vaccine sales of $3 billion to $3.5 billion this year too, as countries continue to fight variants of the coronavirus.

Much of J&J’s vaccine sales came from outside the United States, where regulators said last month that most Americans should receive vaccines from Pfizer or Moderna instead of J&J’s version due to a rare blood clotting problem tied to the shot.

More than 16 million people in the U.S. have become fully vaccinated with the J&J shot, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That compares to about 194 million who have used either the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines, which require two doses.

J&J has said it doesn’t intend to profit from the vaccine.

Aside from growing vaccine sales, Johnson & Johnson also saw sales of its blood cancer treatment Darzalex jump 31% to about $1.65 billion.

Total sales from the company’s largest business, pharmaceuticals, jumped more than 16% to $14.29 billion in the quarter. Medical device sales also grew 4% to about $6.9 billion, even though the segment was still hurt by the ongoing pandemic, which has forced patients and hospitals to postpone surgeries and other care.

Johnson & Johnson said in November it will focus on those two segments by splitting off its consumer health business, which sells Band Aids and beauty products, into a separate, publicly traded company.

J&J has said it expects that separation to take place over the next couple years.

That segment brought in $3.66 billion in sales during the quarter.

Overall, the world’s biggest maker of health care products earned $4.74 billion in the fourth quarter, while sales grew 10% to $24.8 billion.

Research and development expenses also jumped 17% to $4.7 billion in the quarter.

Adjusted earnings totaled $2.13 per share, or a penny better than expected. Wall Street had expected revenue of $25.28 billion, according to FactSet.

In the full year, Johnson & Johnson earned $20.88 billion — a 42% increase from 2020 — as the company had more than a dozen prescription drugs top $1 billion in sales.

J&J also debuted a strong 2022 forecast of per-share earnings between $10.40 and $10.60. That’s better than the $10.35 Wall Street had been projecting.

Shares of New Brunswick, New Jersey-based Johnson & Johnson, which is a component of the Dow Jones Industrial Average, climbed 1.7% to $165.70 in late morning trading Tuesday. The Dow and other broader indexes were down 1% or more.


Follow Tom Murphy on Twitter: