AbbVie falls short on Q2 sales--but don't blame biosimilars, CEO says

Huge sales leaps for AbbVie's ($ABBV) Humira have been powering revenue forecast beats for the company in recent quarters. But this time, international sales of the drug took a hit, leading the Illinois pharma to fall short of analysts' top-line expectations.

AbbVie's total revenue checked in at $5.5 billion, falling about 3% below consensus estimates of $5.6 billion, Evercore ISI analyst Mark Schoenebaum wrote in a Friday note to investors. While U.S. Humira sales of $2.1 billion topped Wall Street's $1.97 billion prediction, its ex-U.S. haul of $1.396 billion fell short by more than $200 million--a performance that overshadowed the company's EPS beat and full-year guidance confirmation.

As CEO Richard Gonzalez said on the company's Q2 conference call, the Humira misfire was the result of shipment timing--a factor that helped the drug score an 18% leap last quarter. Volumes actually grew outside AbbVie's home market, showing no signs of slowdown from a biosimilar rival in India, CFO Bill Chase told shareholders.

AbbVie CEO Richard Gonzalez

And make no mistake--biosimilar competition to Johnson & Johnson's ($JNJ) Remicade hasn't encroached on Humira sales, either, Gonzalez stressed. The company confirmed its growth guidance range for the drug, with Gonzalez pointing out that "if we thought we were sitting here with our toes hanging over the cliff, that would be an awfully foolish thing to do."

AbbVie has been working to lessen its reliance on Humira as of late, rolling out a new hep C combo treatment, Viekira Pak, and snapping up Pharmacyclics for access to quick-selling blood cancer drug Imbruvica. Still, though, analysts peg the company among those most vulnerable to biosimilar competition, with a number of drugmakers looking to snatch a piece of Humira's world-leading sales.

On that front, AbbVie has touted a robust patent defense plan, and it also recently won European approval for a new formulation of the drug. The improved version cuts down on the pain patients feel upon injection, a characteristic AbbVie hopes will improve adherence. It may allow the company to ultimately cut down on the volume of injection down the road, too, Gonzalez said.

"We do think it'll be differentiated," he noted, predicting a future "material impact" on Humira's performance.

- read AbbVie's release

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