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At a glance
Big plans: Johnson & Johnson says it’s poised by 2017 to seek regulatory approval for a dozen new medicines and two dozen variations of existing ones.
Big impact: Two experimental medicines could transform current treatments. One is an antidepressant that appears to work in just a day, instead of taking weeks. The other is a powerful painkiller that’s not addictive.
Big rebound: J&J has recovered from a sales drop in 2009, fueled by the launch of 11 new products since then. Last year, those drugs brought in about one-sixth of J&J’s $25.4 billion in total pharmaceutical sales.

J&J rolling out new drugs

Depression, pain medicines touted as breakthroughs

– Johnson & Johnson is developing what could eventually be breakthrough treatments for depression and pain, and it’s aiming to apply for approval of more than 10 new medicines by 2017, executives said Thursday during a review of the health care giant’s medicine business.

The depression drug, a chemical cousin of the powerful anesthetic ketamine, appears to bring relief from crippling depression in just a day – rather than the four to eight weeks needed for existing pills, which don’t work for many patients.

The pain treatment, while in earlier stages of testing, is not addictive and could replace widely used – and abused – opioid painkillers such as Oxycontin that cause harsh side effects and many fatal overdoses.

J&J, which makes baby shampoo and Tylenol as well as biologic drugs and medical devices, is the parent company of Warsaw-based DePuy Synthes. J&J has seen its revenue rebound after a rare decline in 2009, thanks to a surge of 11 new medicines launched since then. Unlike most drugmakers, J&J is well past its worst stretch of losing patent protection on its big prescription drugs and seeing their sales slashed by cheaper generic competition.

And now the New Brunswick, N.J., company says it plans by 2017 to apply for approval of 11 new medicines in the U.S. and Europe, plus a polio vaccine and 25 variations of existing drugs.

“Our focus is now on enhancing our pipeline to deliver the next wave of growth,” Joaquin Duato, one of two chairmen of J&J’s worldwide prescription drug business, told analysts and journalists at the daylong meeting.

Like its rivals, the company says it is focusing on conditions that lack adequate treatments, as well as expanding sales in emerging markets such as China and India.