Johnson & Johnson falls despite earnings beat after pausing COVID-19 vaccine trial over ‘unexplained illness’

Reuters

  • Johnson & Johnson fell as much as 3% on Tuesday after it announced that it paused its COVID-19 vaccine trial because of a participant’s “unexplained illness.”
  • “Adverse events — illnesses, accidents, etc. — even those that are serious, are an expected part of any clinical study, especially large studies,” Johnson & Johnson said in a statement.
  • The pause in the trial overshadowed its third-quarter earnings results released on Tuesday, which beat analysts’ estimates. It also raised its full-year guidance.
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Investors’ laser focus on COVID-19 vaccine trials became apparent on Tuesday as Johnson & Johnson fell as much as 3% in premarket trading despite reporting better-than-expected third-quarter earnings.

On Monday evening, the healthcare giant said it paused its phase-three COVID-19 vaccine trial because of a participant’s “unexplained illness.”

The company said that it didn’t know whether the participant was in the trial’s placebo arm or vaccine arm and that it was awaiting a review of the illness from an independent data and safety monitoring board.

Johnson & Johnson’s COVID-19 vaccine is being developed by its Janssen Pharmaceuticals unit, and its phase-three trial involves 60,000 participants.

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While investors soured on the vaccine-trial pause, they might find solace in Johnson & Johnson’s third-quarter earnings report.

Here are the key numbers:

Revenue: $21.08 billion, versus the $20.2 billion estimate
Adjusted earnings per share: $2.20, versus the $1.98 estimate

On top of the earnings beat, the company raised its fiscal 2020 revenue guidance to a range of $81.2 billion to $82 billion from a range of $79.9 billion to $81.4 billion. It raised its adjusted EPS guidance to between $7.95 and $8.05 from between $7.75 and $7.95.

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The strong earnings results helped pare some of the decline related to the trial pause, but shares still traded down 1% just before the market open.

Investors are likely to move Johnson & Johnson out of the penalty box once it resumes the trial.

The company reminded investors that an adverse event in a 60,000-patient trial is not out of the ordinary.

“Adverse events — illnesses, accidents, etc. — even those that are serious, are an expected part of any clinical study, especially large studies,” Johnson & Johnson said in a statement.

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