Strong Q4 showings for AbbVie abroad offset Humira, Viekira stumbles at home

Over the past couple of quarters, AbbVie ($ABBV) investors have bristled at the sight of top-seller Humira missing expectations outside the U.S. In Q4, though, the world's best seller rebounded outside its home country, topping predictions to help sales and profits stay generally in line despite a rough U.S. quarter for hep C drug Viekira Pak.

The Illinois pharma Friday reported sales that narrowly missed Wall Street forecasts, coming up at $6.36 billion to their $6.39 billion. The company surpassed them by a hair in terms of adjusted EPS, though, recording a mark of $1.13 that beat by one cent.

Humira, for which double-digit sales leaps are nothing new, grew by 10.5% year-over-year, raking in $3.72 billion for the period. Its $2.33 billion U.S. haul came just shy of the $2.39 billion consensus estimate, but as CEO Richard Gonzalez reassured investors on the earnings conference call, AbbVie isn't seeing any kind of slowdown for the brand in the U.S. And internationally, the drug exceeded expectations, generating $1.39 billion despite the negative impact of foreign exchange rates.

AbbVie--which has been working to assuage shareholder fears that biosimilars of Merck's ($MRK) Remicade are stealing market share overseas--welcomed the performance with open arms. But execs did caution that this year, they were anticipating indirect biosimilar competition abroad from rivals to Pfizer's ($PFE) Enbrel. The first of those--a knockoff from Samsung Bioepis, to be sold by Biogen ($BIIB)--won European Commission approval earlier this month.

International sales of hep C regimen Viekira Pak came up big, too, registering at $357 million to surpass analysts' $281 million mark. And AbbVie thinks it can keep the momentum going; for 2016, it sees "significant international growth" ahead, with a full year of sales in Japan helping bring its global tally to about $2 billion, CFO Bill Chase said.

But the Viekira numbers weren't all rosy for the North Chicago drugmaker. The combo therapy, up against Gilead ($GILD) heavyweight Harvoni, missed badly at home, generating just $197 million--$81 million short of where analysts thought it would hit.

And U.S. hep C competition will only be heating up after the FDA Thursday approved Merck's cocktail treatment, Zepatier--a product priced far below AbbVie and Gilead's pricey therapies.

"We have built in what we believe is an appropriate level of price and volume competition that we could see in the marketplace in 2016," Gonzalez noted.

Overall, AbbVie expects to bring in adjusted EPS of $4.90 to $5.10 for the year, it said, confirming the range it had outlined previously despite the Humira blip."We haven't seen anything on this brand that would lead us to pause and restate our expectations," Chase told investors, noting that the company expects its top dog post growth in the high teens.

- read the release

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