CEO Richard Gonzalez has made it clear he expects new oncology drugs to fill the yawning revenue gap AbbVie will experience with the loss of Humira patent protection. The company is prepping for that day with a $139 million expansion at a plant in Ireland where it will add 100 jobs.
An AbbVie spokesperson confirmed today that the drugmaker will invest €113.6 million ($139 million) in a sterile manufacturing expansion at the site in Sligo, Ireland, that will be used to produce cancer drugs. The drugmaker, which will get some financial assistance from the government, intends to add 100 jobs over the next three years.
AbbVie has expanded the Sligo sites several times in recent years, including a $115 million expansion announced in 2014 for producing its oral hep C drugs, another area it moved into as Humira’s patent losses drew nearer.
Humira remains the world’s best-selling drug with more than $16 billion in global sales, and AbbVie continues to defend it doggedly. The drugmaker, in fact, inked a patent settlement with Amgen last fall that will delay that company's biosimilar until 2023.
But investors know eventually the copies will come, so AbbVie has been picking up oncology assets in recent years to prepare. It has a partnership with Roche for expected blockbuster Venclexta, a targeted blood cancer drug that’s approved for a rare form of leukemia. If it wins an expanded use, then it is expected to hit $1.5 billion to $2 billion in sales by the end of the decade and to grow to $3 billion by 2022, putting it among the top-selling cancer meds that year. But that is still a small part of Humira’s sales and so Gonzalez has promised more.
“Oncology will be a major growth driver for AbbVie over the next 10 years and beyond, further diversifying our business,” he said during the company’s third-quarter earnings call.