* Sales fall 5.3 pct, hurt by generics, safety worries
* Q3 EPS of $1.20 vs Wall St estimate of $1.13
* Cost cuts, lower taxes help quarterly profit
* Nudges up FY forecast
* J&J shares fall 2.4 percent (Adds details on favorable tax rates, closing share price)
By Ransdell Pierson and Lewis Krauskopf
NEW YORK, Oct 13 (Reuters) - Johnson & Johnson JNJ.N posted weaker-than-expected quarterly revenue on Tuesday as sales of prescription drugs and heart stents disappointed, sending its shares down 2.4 percent.
While third-quarter profit topped analyst forecasts, that was largely because of cost cuts and lower taxes.
“I think people would have been happier if the revenue was stronger and the beat on the bottom line was less,” Noble Financial Group analyst Jan Wald said.
Generic competition and safety concerns have undermined sales of many major products for the diversified healthcare company, a component of the Dow Jones industrial average.
Anemia medicine Procrit, arthritis treatment Remicade and attention deficit disorder drug Concerta all fell short of analyst targets for the quarter.
New Brunswick, New Jersey-based J&J said net earnings rose 1.1 percent to $3.35 billion, or $1.20 per share, from $3.31 billion, or $1.17 per share, a year earlier. Analysts polled by Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S had forecast $1.13 per share.
Unexpectedly lower taxes in the quarter bolstered results by 5 cents per share, J&J Chief Financial Officer Dominic Caruso told analysts on a conference call.
J&J said its effective tax rate for the third quarter was 21.2 percent, compared with 22.8 percent in the 2008 period. A continuing favorable rate will improve full-year results by 7 cents per share, offsetting the negative impact on earnings of recent acquisitions, Caruso said.
Sales fell 5.3 percent to $15.08 billion, shy of the analysts’ forecast of $15.22 billion. They would have fallen 2.8 percent if not for the stronger dollar, which hurts the value of overseas sales.
The company said prescription drug sales fell more than 14 percent to $5.25 billion, hurt by generic competition for its Topamax epilepsy drug and Risperdal schizophrenia treatment.
Pharmaceutical sales came in $400 million below the estimate of Morgan Stanley analyst David Lewis, who cited weakness in the United States.
“We believe that a more competitive payer environment likely led to J&J providing greater rebates to (insurers), thereby reducing their top-line sales” of prescription drugs, Credit Suisse analyst Catherine Arnold said in a research report.
J&J’s Procrit and Eprex anemia drugs continued to suffer because of safety concerns for the category, with combined sales falling 12 percent to $542 million.
Safety concerns also hurt Concerta, whose sales dropped 29 percent to $284 million.
Sales of arthritis drug Remicade rose almost 6 percent to $1.04 billion despite the weak global economy, which has hurt sales of costly rival treatments. Even so, Remicade growth was far from the 24 percent seen in the second quarter.
“Every company these days is a revenue story -- are they able to generate sales?” Wald said. “It comes along with the whole macro economic view.”
Medical device sales rose 2.3 percent to $5.8 billion.
But the company’s Cypher stent, used to prop open heart arteries that have been cleared of plaque, continued to suffer big sales declines in the United States and overseas.
U.S. sales of Cypher plunged 45 percent to $53 million, mauled by sizzling demand for Abbott Laboratories Inc's ABT.N recently approved Xience stent, deemed by many doctors to be the most effective and easiest-to-implant stent on the market. Overseas Cypher sales fell 18 percent to $158 million.
Sales of J&J’s array of consumer products fell 2.7 percent to $3.99 billion, hurt by the stronger dollar, although the segment was less of a drag than in the second quarter.
J&J, one of the world’s largest and most diversified healthcare companies, has a long reputation of meeting profit forecasts even in tough times because of its ability to wring cost savings from its hundreds of subsidiaries.
J&J forecast 2009 earnings of $4.54 to $4.59 per share, excluding items. It previously projected $4.45 to $4.55.
J&J shares closed down $1.52 at $61.01 on the New York Stock Exchange. (Reporting by Ransdell Pierson and Lewis Krauskopf, Editing by Dave Zimmerman, Phil Berlowitz)