With Shire deal in the bag, Humira leap helps AbbVie hold its own

AbbVie CEO Richard Gonzalez

AbbVie ($ABBV) may have just struck a deal with Shire ($SHPG) in order to diversify beyond its top drug, Humira. But that doesn't mean the drug isn't steamrolling.

Humira posted a 26.2% sales leap for the second quarter, AbbVie said Friday, rocketing up to $3.29 billion in worldwide sales. The haul pushed revenue up 5% to $4.93 billion, beating analyst estimates of $4.70 billion and in turn helping the Illinois company deliver EPS of 68 cents.

"This was another very strong quarter for AbbVie, as we delivered sales and earnings per share above our original guidance and announced plans to merge with Shire, a strategic action that will further enhance our long-term growth prospects," CEO Richard Gonzalez said in a statement.

Humira, the rheumatoid arthritis drug that tops the world's best-sellers list, has posted double-digit growth numbers since AbbVie completed a spinoff from parent Abbott Laboratories last January, but the 26.2% jump is by far its biggest since going solo. Last quarter, it put up an 18% sales surge, following a year in which it made gains of 16%, 13%, 19% and 13% in 2013's four periods.

Shire CEO Flemming Ornskov

And now, with the company's recent $55 billion deal for Shire, it should have other products backing it up in the growth category sometime soon. One of Shire's draws was its specialty in the fast-growing rare-disease field, an area Gonzalez said he'll focus on; he's already tapped Shire CEO Flemming Ornskov to pilot a new rare-disease unit after the companies merge.

That's not to mention the prospects in AbbVie's own pipeline, including an interferon-free hep C combo with blockbuster potential. The company expects FDA approval for that product before the year is out, a factor Gonzalez said will keep AbbVie rolling.

"We continue to expect positive trends for the second half of the year," he said.

- read the release

Special Report: 15 Highest-Paid Biopharma CEOs of 2013 - Richard Gonzalez - AbbVie

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