When it comes to selling big, cancer drugs have a lot going for them. Their targets--deadly diseases that in many cases can kill quickly--put them in high demand, even as they continue to redefine "premium pricing." Some newer drugs can be targeted at patient groups who have the best chances of benefiting, helping justify those high costs. And biologics, for now, don't face the same generic onslaughts that pummel pharma sales come patent expiration time.
That's not to say they don't face roadblocks. Plenty of cancer heavyweights have run into failed label expansions, governmental cost critics, patent woes and biosimilar threats. But even so, the top 10 managed to rake in worldwide sales between $1.7 billion and $7.8 billion each, according to EvaluatePharma data.
Like last year, Roche's ($RHHBY) high-flying trio of aging stars Rituxan, Avastin and Herceptin dominated the top of the list. With FDA approval dates in 1997, 2004 and 1998, respectively, they've been tried-and-true sellers for developer Genentech--now part of Roche--and each appears on our overall list of the 10 best-selling drugs of 2013.
But while these big guns are beginning to flirt with biosimilar challengers overseas, a number of new drugs, both experimental and approved, are getting ready to jump into the mix. In 2013, Johnson & Johnson's ($JNJ) revolutionary prostate cancer med Zytiga cracked the top 10, racking up nearly $1.7 billion in just its second full year on the market. It was one of 6 cancer drugs to make our Top 15 Drug Launch Superstars list back in October. If some of the others live up to analyst expectations--and keep up the pace--they'll be joining Zytiga on this list in the not-too-distant future.
We'll learn more about some of those up-and-comers as the American Society of Clinical Oncology meeting kicks off Friday. But for now, let us know your thoughts on these giants and, as always, feel free to get in touch via email, Twitter, or the digital communication channel of your choosing. -- Carly Helfand (email | Twitter) | Eric Palmer (email | Twitter)