Biosimilars won't stop Enbrel, Humira from growing through 2022: Analyst

Never fear, makers of anti-TNF giants: Those pesky biosimilars? They won’t be halting revenue growth anytime soon, Leerink Partners analysts predict.

Taking into account current trends in prescription data, continued pricing power and competition--both branded and biosimilar--the analysts now figure Amgen’s Enbrel and AbbVie’s Humira will continue their ascents until 2022, hitting $6.7 billion and $15 billion in peak U.S. sales, respectively.

“The broad labels and still relatively low biologic penetration in approved disease indications should provide ample room for growth into the end of the decade, and durable price increases should compound that growth for the drug class,” Leerink’s Geoffrey Porges wrote in a Wednesday note to clients.

That’s welcome news for Amgen and AbbVie, both of which are doing their best to thwart biosimilar challengers. Late last month, Novartis’ Sandoz won FDA approval for its Enbrel copy, and thanks to a unanimous July advisory committee backing, an Amgen Humira knockoff may soon snag its own green light. But the branded drugmakers are hoping that flexing their legal muscles can prevent launches from happening anytime soon.

Amgen and AbbVie have good reason to want to stop their new rivals in their tracks. In 2015, anti-TNF sales made up 25% of Amgen’s top-line tally and 61% of AbbVie’s total revenue, leaving both companies vulnerable, Porges noted.

And when the biosims eventually do roll out, he figures they’ll lop off up to 30% of each med’s sales haul in their first year and continue to steal share after that--though “the actual biosimilar pricing, interchangeability regulations and labelling, and formulary activity create wide error bars around this erosion,” he pointed out.

Porges had one more piece of good news to share for anti-TNF makers, too. For now, he sees “limited cross-over competition between biosimilars of one molecule and residual branded sales of another”--meaning that copies of fellow blockbuster Remicade aren’t likely to encroach on Enbrel and Humira’s territory.

Porges’ counterparts haven’t all forecast such a sunny near-term future for the behemoth class of anti-inflammatories, though. In 2015, Citi’s Andrew Baum argued that Humira would take a hit beginning in 2018, with revenue slipping from a peak of $16 billion all the way down to $6 billion in 2022. EvaluatePharma's new World Preview report pegs 2022 sales for Humira only slightly below Porges' estimates--at $13.6 billion--and Enbrel higher, at $7.2 billion.

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