Big Biotech beats Big Pharma with best-selling 2013 drug launches

We've talked a lot lately about the biggest drug launches of all time, what with Gilead Sciences' ($GILD) Sovaldi smoking all previous records. We even focused a special report on the most successful roll-outs of recent years. But what about the star debuts of 2013?

Genetic Engineering & Biotechnology News has sifted the numbers on last year's crop of new meds to discover just that. The verdict? At least four new meds quickly surpassed the $100 million mark, and another 14 launches matched the sales ranges seen with the class of 2012. And then there are several meds whose numbers are in the dark, as yet undisclosed by the companies that birthed them--perhaps for disappointing reasons.

The year's top launch won't surprise anyone: It's Biogen Idec's ($BIIB) multiple sclerosis pill Tecfidera, with $876 million in 2013 sales. It hit the market with great fanfare and has been racing ahead ever since. Second in line? Celgene's ($CELG) multiple myeloma treatment Pomalyst, approved for patients who've failed on multiple therapies. That drug racked up $305 million in 2013 sales.


Roche's ($RHHBY) Kadcyla, its hotly anticipated armed-antibody treatment for advances HER2-positive breast cancer, qualifies for third place with $266.2 million in sales. In fourth place is Sovaldi, which managed to suck up $139 million between its Dec. 6 launch and New Year's Day. Fifth place goes to Bayer's radiotherapy treatment for prostate cancer patients, Xofigo; it pumped out $55.2 million last year.

You'll notice that, among this line-up of top-performing drug launches, only two belong to certified Big Pharma. It's Bayer and Roche versus Big Biotech--Biogen, Celgene and Gilead.

Gene News has more on its list of 18 newly approved drugs with numbers available, so for the skinny on your favorite new launch, check it out. But as the publication notes, don't come looking for info on Johnson & Johnson's ($JNJ) diabetes med Invokana, Sanofi's ($SNY) Kynamro, Bayer's pulmonary arterial hypertension med Adempas, and a few more. Those companies are keeping results close to their chests. We may have to wait till the end of this year to get a good look.

- see the Gene News coverage

Special Report: Top 15 Drug Launch Superstars - Tecfidera