AbbVie 'comfortable' after Humira biosim launch, as CEO forecasts 'stable' sales for star med into next year

In the first earnings stretch since a Humira biosimilar reared its head in the U.S., AbbVie is taking a cautious approach to guidance, though in general, the company is playing it cool.

“It’s early on, but I’d say, so far, we’re comfortable with how things are playing out,” CEO Rick Gonzalez said of the recent debut of Amgen’s Humira copycat Amjevita in the States. Speaking to investors on an earnings call Thursday, Gonzalez caveated, “we’re two weeks into the biosimilar activity, so it’s a little difficult to give you precise predictions.”

Gonzalez made his comments after AbbVie logged full-year 2022 revenues of $58.05 billion, representing 5.1% growth operationally. At the same time, AbbVie’s 2023 guidance, which predicts earnings per share in the range of $10.70 to $11.10, came in short of a consensus figure of $11.73 per share, Barron's reports.

Speaking to the earnings forecast, Gonzalez admitted "the range is a little bit wider than what we normally project.”

The guidance accounts for direct biosimilar competition with U.S. Humira sales, which are expected to slip some 37% this year. That’s at the lower end of AbbVie’s previous erosion projection of 35% to 55%, Gonzalez explained.

The most “significant impact” on Humira going forward will be price, the CEO pointed out. This year, prices should be somewhat predictable because “we obviously know what the pricing is in the contracts that we’ve put together,” he said.

AbbVie has secured broad formulary access for its med, which should enable Humira to “compete for patient volume at parity to biosimilars," chief commercial officer Jeffrey Stewart added.

Helping to soften the blow are AbbVie’s immunology successors Rinvoq and Skyrizi, which the company expects to together eclipse Humira’s peak sales by 2027.

This year, the company figures its immunology duo will pull down $11.1 billion, representing nearly 45% growth year-over-year.

As for Rinvoq and Skyrizi’s latest showing, the drugs performed “exceptionally well” in 2022’s fourth quarter, Stewart said on the earnings call.

For the last three months of the year, the immunology franchise delivered total revenues of more than $7.9 billion, up almost 20% operationally, the CCO said.

Skyrizi, for its party, bested AbbVie’s own guidance, turning in more than about $1.58 billion in worldwide sales for the period. Stewart highlighted positive momentum across the med’s indications in psoriasis, psoriatic arthritis and Crohn’s disease, where rheumatologists use the drug in tandem with its sibling Rinvoq.

Rinvoq delivered sales of $770 million for the three-month stretch ending Dec. 31, with global prescriptions “ramping nicely across Rinvoq’s four approved indications,” Stewart added.

Humira, meanwhile, generated global sales of around $5.6 billion for the quarter, growing 6% operationally. 

Over in oncology, Imbruvica is proving to be another thorn in AbbVie’s side. Total hematologic oncology sales slipped 11.2% to $1.6 billion. Imbruvica’s global revenues were around $1.1 billion, nearly a 20% decline. The med’s U.S. performance continues to be thwarted by “challenging market and share dynamics attributed to the pace of COVID recovery, as well as increasing competition,” Stewart explained.