AbbVie expects Skyrizi, Rinvoq to eclipse Humira's sales peak, CEO Gonzalez says

As U.S. biosimilars put AbbVie’s megablockbuster Humira on watch, the company is already congratulating its immunology successors Rinvoq and Skyrizi on jobs well done.

Thanks to the pair of meds’ “outstanding” launches—which are pegged to deliver some $7.5 billion in combined sales this year—AbbVie now has a “high degree of confidence” in Rinvoq and Skyrizi’s potential to “ultimately exceed the peak revenues achieved by Humira,” CEO Rick Gonzalez told investors Friday.

Should that prediction come to pass, AbbVie will have achieved “the strategic objective we had for replacing Humira,” the CEO said on the company’s third-quarter earnings call.

Skyrizi in particular has continued to “exceed our expectations,” AbbVie Chief Commercial Officer Jeffrey Stewart added on the call. He noted that in psoriasis, Skyrizi is now capturing nearly “one out of every two new and switching patients in the U.S. biologic market,” with the company’s leading total prescription share now clocking in at roughly 27%.

The med is “ramping very nicely” in psoriatic arthritis, too, where it’s expected to chip in roughly $500 million in 2022 sales alone. Skyrizi’s Crohn’s disease launch is also “progressing very well,” Stewart pointed out.

Rinvoq, for its part, continues to gain “positive momentum” in rheumatoid arthritis. At the same time, global prescriptions are “also ramping nicely” in psoriatic arthritis, ankylosing spondylitis and non-radiographic axial spondyloarthritis, the AbbVie CCO explained.

Even with all the attention on its immunology heirs apparent, the drugmaker isn’t throwing in the towel on Humira just yet.

“Our intent has always been to maintain broad formulary access so that we can compete effectively with forthcoming biosimilars,” Gonzalez said.

At present, the company foresees formulary access of at least 80% of all U.S. covered lives, with that percentage set to increase as the company hashes out additional contract discussions “between now and the end of the year,” the CEO added.

“As a result, we anticipate strong access for U.S. Humira throughout 2023 and project biosimilars will share access as they become available,” he explained.

The company isn’t issuing 2023 sales guidance on Humira just yet, with Gonzalez saying AbbVie plans to do so on its fourth-quarter earnings call. Still, he hinted at what’s to come for the company overall: “[W]hen we issue our EPS outlook, we expect the lower end of the range to represent floor earnings,” Gonzalez said, noting many investors are interested in determining whether AbbVie will see “trough earnings” in 2023 and 2024, following Humira’s decline.

The executives’ comments came as AbbVie reported total third-quarter sales of $14.81 billion, up 5.4% operationally. Immunology continued its reign as the company’s top business overall, growing revenues more than 16% to $7.651 billion.

Over the three-month stretch, Humira remained the star of the show as Rinvoq and Skyrizi wait in the wings. Those gains helped offset “temporary economic headwinds” plaguing AbbVie’s aesthetics business, which pulled down $1.3 billion for the period, Gonzalez said in a statement in the company’s earnings press release.

In its last third quarter of true market supremacy, Humira carried its weight in the U.S., lifting sales 7.4% to $4.96 billion. The drug fared worse in international markets, where biosimilars are already taking a toll. Ex-U.S., the drug pulled down $603 million, marking a 16.8% operational revenue plunge.

With U.S. biosimilars to Humira expected to encroach starting in January, AbbVie has big hopes riding on Rinvoq and Skyrizi. At the start of the year, the company prophesized combined peak sales of more than $15 billion for the meds by 2025.

Humira, for its part, delivered a $20.7 billion sales high last year. As the world’s all-time best-selling drug, Humira has generated more than $200 billion over the course of some 20 years.

For now, meanwhile, launch siblings Rinvoq and Skyrizi appear to be growing nicely.

Skyrizi generated about $1.4 billion for the quarter, climbing 78.3% operationally, while Rinvoq lifted sales 59.3% to $695 million.

Rinvoq just nabbed its sixth FDA approval, too. Earlier this week, the drug bagged a green light to treat adults with active non-radiographic axial spondyloarthritis (nr-axSpA). The approval specifically covers patients with objective signs of inflammation who’ve either failed on or weren’t suitable for tumor necrosis factor (TNF) blockers like Humira.

On the biosimilar front, Amgen is the first company getting a crack at competition with its copycat Amjevita, set to launch in January 2023. It will be followed by the likes of Coherus, Fresenius Kabi, Pfizer, Samsung Bioepis, Sandoz and Viatris.