Humira stays strong for AbbVie as drugmaker scrambles for new offerings

Revenues were up, net earning were down and the world's leading seller right now, Humira, continues to pull off some significant sales growth. That is the short version of the first-ever second-quarter earnings report for Big Pharma's newest player, AbbVie ($ABBV).

The company, which was spun off from Abbott Laboratories ($ABT) January 1, reported sales of Humira were up 12.8% to $2.6 billion. Growth in sales for the rheumatoid arthritis drug is key for AbbVie since it makes up the largest portion of its revenues by far as it works to get new drugs approved that will fill in around it. The company has been reminding investors that it has some promising drugs in its pipeline, including a candidate for treating hepatitis C that analysts think may not be getting the attention it deserves.

The drug, a combination of pills that won't require the use of interferon, "has been overlooked," Jami Rubin, an analyst with Goldman Sachs Group, told Bloomberg. AbbVie's candidate has been overshadowed by one from Gilead Sciences ($GILD), which is considered the frontrunner in the race for a breakthrough product. AbbVie has been speaking up lately, suggesting its product it hot on the heels of Gilead's. Today, it pointed out its candidate has been granted breakthrough status from the FDA. At an investor conference last month, AbbVie's head of drug development said it was possible for AbbVie to beat Gilead to the market with a drug approval. "We've got a very good shot at being first," Scott Brun said.

It would be a big deal if it did and important to a company that has to rely so heavily on a single product whose patent will expire in 2016. This quarter, Humira's sales of $2.6 billion made up 55% of AbbVie's total sales of $4.69 billion, which rose 4.4% on that strength. Humira's growth in sales was enough for the company to bump up its earnings guidance for the year to $3.07 to $3.13 a share, from its earlier forecast of  $2.66 to $2.72.

- here's the release
- read more from Bloomberg

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