Humira sales, up 19%, continue to carry AbbVie

What is better than having the best-selling drug in the world? Having the best-selling drug and seeing its sales sprint ahead by more than 19% for a quarter.

That is what happened with AbbVie ($ABBV) and its rheumatoid arthritis colossus Humira. The strength of that one product almost single-handedly overcame the bashing the drugmaker took on its TriCor and Trilipix drugs for treating high triglycerides. Sales of those drugs fell 88% to $39 million after losing patent protection.

The $2.77 billion Humira sales for the quarter even bested the 12.8% blowout the drug reported in the last quarter. The drug accounted for nearly 60% of AbbVie's total sales of $4.66 billion, which were up 3.3% for the quarter. The drug goes off patent in 2016, but as a complex biologic it won't be easy to duplicate or as vulnerable to sales lost from biosimilar copies. It has been projected to remain the top global seller through 2018.

That is key for AbbVie, which was spun off from Abbott Laboratories ($ABT) Jan. 1, giving it the financial underpinning needed while it gets new drugs developed and approved. The company last month struck two deals in two days toward that end. It first announced an $840 million deal with Ablynx to develop a new anti-inflammatory drug. It followed that up with a $405 million deal with Belgium's Galapagos to target genetic mutations in patients with cystic fibrosis.

CEO Richard Gonzalez also said the company's "mid- to late-stage pipeline contains a number of potentially significant opportunities, and we look forward to a series of milestones across our pipeline in the coming months."

The big hope is for its new hep C drug therapy, which has huge market potential and is expected to be key to future earnings for the company. But it is just one of a number of drugmakers trying to tap that potential. In fact, Thursday Johnson & Johnson ($JNJ) received unanimous support from FDA advisers for its potential hepatitis C blockbuster, simeprevir. The same panel meets today on Gilead Sciences' ($GILD) sofosbuvir, which is expected to lead the pack. Bristol-Myers Squibb ($BMY) is developing a hep C product as well.

Shares of AbbVie were up more than 3% in mid-morning trading on the earnings report.

- here's the earnings release
- read the Reuters story

Special Report: Top 10 DTC Pharma Advertisers - H1 2013 - AbbVie

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