Johnson & Johnson (NYSE:JNJ) blew past expectations on Tuesday morning, when it reported fourth-quarter earnings rose 33% on prescription drugs, medical devices, and its range of consumer products that so many of us are familiar with. However, the coming year may bring some stepped-up competition -- and that could leave some investors wondering if the present is about as good as it gets for a while.

The company reported fourth-quarter revenues of $11.2 billion, 19.7% higher than those reported in the fourth quarter of 2002. Net income came in at $1.85 billion, or $0.62 per share, compared to $1.38 billion, or $0.46 per share. Pharmaceutical and medical device sales grew 16% and 25%, respectively.

One sour note was flagging sales of Johnson & Johnson's Procrit medication, one of its major drugs; sales dropped 12% in the fourth quarter. Both Amgen (NASDAQ:AMGN) and Roche provide competing products to treat anemia.

If anything's putting a damper on things going forward, it's the competition facing many of the drugs that helped make J&J's fourth quarter so successful. For example, rival Boston Scientific (NYSE:BSX) seems sure to bite into Cypher stent sales if it gains FDA approval for its Taxus stent in February; while Mylan Laboratories (NYSE:MYL) has threatened to launch a generic version of J&J's popular Duragesic pain patch in July (although the two companies are currently involved in patent litigation over that plan).

Johnson & Johnson plans a double-digit increase in research and development expenditures in 2004, Reuters said, for those looking for efforts to reinforce the pipeline. Dow Jones reported that the J&J's Chairman and Chief Executive William Weldon prognosticated that between now and 2005, patent protection will have faltered for 8% of its current revenue base.

Today, Johnson & Johnson shares increased nearly 3% in early trading. Things may look good today, but soon investors will start looking for proof that of more successful drugs to come to replace any rival-ravaged revenues.

Is the looming competition scaring you away from J&J? Or are you confident that the company will come up with new blockbuster drugs to offset any lost sales? Talk it over with other Fools on the Johnson & Johnson discussion board.

Alyce Lomax welcomes your feedback via e-mail.