AbbVie will soon have a new chief commercial officer, who’ll assume the heavy responsibility of navigating the Illinois pharma’s marketing transition from megablockbuster Humira.
Carlos Alban plans to retire as vice chairman and chief commercial officer at the end of the first quarter 2021, AbbVie disclosed Thursday. Taking his place will be Jeffrey Stewart, currently AbbVie’s head of U.S. commercial operations.
Both are longtime AbbVie employees. Alban joined the company 34 years ago, back when it was still part of Abbott, and advanced to the CCO title amid an executive team consolidation in late 2018. At the time, he was named as one of four senior managers reporting directly to CEO Richard Gonzalez.
Stewart joined Abbott in 1992 as part of TAP, a former U.S. joint venture Abbott had with Takeda. He was Abbott’s vice president of proprietary pharmaceuticals overseeing the U.S. market—while Alban was the senior VP—when the company spun AbbVie off into a separate pure-pharma play.
Perhaps the most important job in front of Stewart is the gradual transition of AbbVie’s commercial focus from aging megablockbuster Humira to new, growing meds such as psoriasis treatment Skyrizi and rheumatoid arthritis therapy Rinvoq.
So far, the two drugs have not disappointed. In the third quarter, Skyrizi and Rinvoq together brought in $650 million in sales. That put the two meds “well ahead of all comparable launch analogs in their initial indications,” Gonzalez said during an investor’s call a few days ago.
Skyrizi’s $435 million haul and Rinvoq’s $215 million both beat industry watchers’ expectations by double-digit percentages. If they continue on this growth trajectory, the two could easily exceed the $10 billion-by-2025 sales target AbbVie previously set for the medicines, Gonzalez said.
As of Q3, Skyrizi had snagged a 33% U.S. market share among new and switching patients, and Rinvoq about 16% in its indication. The numbers were impressive given that COVID-19 is posing a challenge for promoting newer meds, with dermatology as one of the hardest-hit therapeutic areas as doctor visits lagged.
The launches of Skyrizi and Rinvoq are doing so well that SVB Leerink analyst Geoffrey Porges recently said the pair could drive top- and bottom-line performance for AbbVie for three to four years at least.
AbbVie’s actively expanding the drugs into other lucrative indications, too. It expects approvals next year for Rinvoq in psoriatic arthritis, ankylosing spondylitis and atopic dermatitis, which could by itself add multibillion-dollar revenues at peak, Gonzalez said. It’s also eyeing psoriatic arthritis for Skyrizi and inflammatory bowel disease for both drugs.
The two new launches' success has AbbVie’s commercial capabilities to thank. Its marketing muscle, especially in immunology, has long been proven with Humira, which is bracing for a U.S. biosimilar attack starting in 2023.
Because of the new launches and the Allergan acquisition, Humira’s share in AbbVie’s revenues has dropped from about 60% to about 40% now, and Porges figured it would fall further to low-30% right before Humira’s patent cliff.
Editor's Note: A previous version of the story misspelled Jeffrey Stewart's last name.