AbbVie's $595M anti-inflammatory deal promises an even bigger battle for psoriasis share

AbbVie ($ABBV) knows the dominance of Humira--the world's best-selling drug--won't last forever, and it also knows that a raft of its Big Pharma peers is angling to break into the market for next-gen psoriasis-fighters.

So, in a move that could shake up that market still further, AbbVie is shelling out $595 million to do something about it.

The Illinois drugmaker is spending that much for the marketing rights to a Phase III psoriasis treatment from Boehringer Ingelheim, dubbed BI655066. AbbVie will take on all the marketing for the drug, though BI is keeping an option to co-promote it in asthma, the companies said. They're also eying it for trials in Crohn's disease and psoriatic arthritis, two of Humira's other big indications.

Thus AbbVie joins the fray of pharma companies vying to grab market share for their new-age psoriasis meds. Early last year, Novartis ($NVS) became first out of the gate with Cosentyx, and it's worked hard to build up a lead since then. The Swiss drugmaker already snagged a couple of other FDA indications for psoriatic arthritis and ankylosing spondylitis, and at last weekend's American Society of Dermatology annual meeting, Novartis released data showing it beat Johnson & Johnson's ($JNJ) Stelara at delivering long-lasting skin clearance.

But plenty of other contenders are making a mad dash, too. J&J is working on a newcomer drug, guselkumab, and Merck ($MRK) and Eli Lilly ($LLY) have their own candidates coming up the pipeline. Valeant was the most recent to jump into the mix, last summer buying up rights to AstraZeneca ($AZN) prospect brodalumab, which Amgen ($AMGN) had bailed on because of safety concerns.

AbbVie knows it needs new meds waiting in the wings when Humira ultimately declines. Right now, the megablockbuster is still standing strong, posting double-digit growth in Q4 on its way to $3.72 billion. Still, that tally fell slightly short of analyst expectations, and biosimilars are looming, too. Amgen, for one, already has a biosimilar application in at the FDA, though it'll still need to upturn AbbVie's Humira patents in court if it wants to bring the knockoff to market.

- read AbbVie and BI's release
- read Novartis' release on the new Cosentyx data

Special Reports: The 10 best-selling drugs of 2013 - Humira | The top 15 pharma companies by 2014 revenue - Amgen - AbbVie