Abbott Laboratories/AbbVie

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Abbott Laboratories/AbbVie 

Revenues 2012: $39.874 billion
Revenues 2011: $38.851 billion 

It was an odd year for Abbott, one spent tidying up in preparation for its Jan. 1 spin-off that split its pharma business into a new company, AbbVie ($ABBV), leaving medical devices with Abbott ($ABT). 

Toward that end, it started laying people off last year. It was able to shed an FDA consent decree that it had labored under for a dozen years and then paid $1.6 billion to settle federal allegations that it inappropriately marketed epilepsy drug Depakote for off-label uses. The company closed 2012 with more layoffs. 

Humira serves as AbbVie's foundation.--Courtesy of Kaiser Permanente

It also challenged the FDA's right to provide biosimilar makers any information on its arthritis treatment Humira, now the world's best-selling drug and the foundation on which AbbVie now stands. For now, that foundation seems solid. Humira sales were up 17% last year to $9.27 billion. Sales in the fourth quarter were up 23% to $2.68 billion, beating forecasts by about $200 million. Humira is expected to hit $10 billion in sales this year, dominating the rheumatoid arthritis market. That is all well and good, but the drug goes off patent in 2016. While biosimilars are not expected to vaporize sales like small molecule generics do when they hit the market, any loss of revenue is a concern when you live and die on a single product. Humira provides about half of AbbVie's revenues.

That is not to say that AbbVie doesn't have some good prospects in its pipeline. It has more than 20 mid- and late-stage therapies in the works. And it was busy last year piecing together some deals, like its $245 million package with Seattle Genetics ($SGEN), one of the leaders in the field of antibody-drug conjugates. And AbbVie has a closely watched all-oral regimen in late-stage development for hep C, giving the drugmaker a stake in a hot field. 

But it recently hit a bump with its experimental leukemia drug code-named ABT-199, voluntarily suspending new patient enrollment and dose-escalation of the compound after two patients died. The trials are ongoing with previously enrolled patients, and AbbVie intends to resume enrollments later this year. AbbVie is partnered with Roche's ($RHHBY) Genentech on the drug.

What did seem to be left behind was a its drug candidate for chronic kidney disease. In the lead-up to the corporate split, Abbott committed close to a billion dollars in upfront payments and near-term cash to Reata Pharmaceuticals' bardoxolone and a next-gen portfolio of CKD drugs. But the Phase III program was abandoned in October after the drug was linked to a higher rate of death.

For more:
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Abbott, Gilead impress with upbeat results for oral hep C drugs