US – Johnson & Johnson is projecting a US$2.5B full year sales of its COVID-19 vaccine jab despite having a poor rollout since the time COVID-19 vaccine production began globally.

The company sees its pandemic hustle as the start of a new era for an emerging vaccine business with various vaccine candidates queued up for production dependent on clinical trials data.

Currently, the FDA has released five vaccine drug substance batches made at partner Emergent BioSolution’s Baltimore plant, where J&J continues to work with authorities to clear more batches.

Outside of its COVID-19 vaccine, J&J did exceptionally well across all of its businesses as the pandemic eased in parts of the world.

Total second-quarter sales swelled roughly 27% to 23.3 billion, with growth recorded in pharmaceuticals, consumer health and medical devices. Medical devices specifically posted a 58.7% sales upswing after suffering some serious pandemic blows in 2020.

The company’s pharmaceuticals business delivered about US$12.6 billion in second quarter sales, rising 14.1% on the strength of key drugs like Darzalex, Stelara, Tremfya and Imbruvica, all of which beat expectations.

Multiple myeloma med Darzalex, which posted US$4.19 billion in 2020 sales, grew a whopping 53.8% in the second quarter. Execs credited those gains to uptake of the drug’s subcutaneous formulation, Faspro, in Europe and the U.S.

In separate news, J&J is set to pay US$5B in a landmark US$26B US opiod settlement that had various drug distributor, J&J included, accused of fueling the deadly nationwide opioid epidemic.

Under the settlement proposal, the three largest US drug distributors, McKesson Corp, Cardinal Health Inc and AmerisourceBergen Corp, are expected to pay a combined US$21bn, while drug maker Johnson & Johnson (J&J), which manufactures opioids, would pay US$5bn.

The money is expected to be used on addiction treatment, family support, education and other social programs.

In 2019, nearly 50,000 people in the United States died from opioid-involved overdoses. The misuse of and addiction to opioids including prescription pain relievers, heroin, and synthetic opioids such as fentanyl is a serious national crisis that affects public health as well as social and economic welfare.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that the total “economic burden” of prescription opioid misuse alone in the United States is US$78.5 billion a year, including the costs of healthcare, lost productivity, addiction treatment, and criminal justice involvement.

This issue has become a public health crisis with devastating consequences including increases in opioid misuse and related overdoses, as well as the rising incidence of neonatal abstinence syndrome due to opioid use and misuse during pregnancy.

The increase in injection drug use has also contributed to the spread of infectious diseases including HIV and hepatitis C. As seen throughout the history of medicine, science can be an important part of the solution in resolving such a public health crisis.