Humira rings up $20.7B in 2021, but AbbVie still mum on post-biosimilar expectations

After falling just short of the $20 billion figure in annual sales for three straight years, AbbVie's Humira finally topped the elusive mark—and did it by a comfortable margin—generating $20.7 billion in revenue last year.

The number was boosted by $5.33 billion in sales in the fourth quarter, which exceeded expectations and provided another reminder of the power of the versatile superstar which somehow resumed its upward trajectory after stagnating from 2018 to 2020. The growth came despite biosimilar competition outside the U.S. and pandemic effects.

Hefty price increases for Humira, which have come under the scrutiny of Congress, have certainly played a role in the med's U.S. sales trajectory.

But that will change soon as Humira will face biosimilar competition at home. In 2023, Humira will have to compete with nine launches of Humira knockoffs, including six at home from formidable makers such as Amgen, Samsung, Boehringer Ingelheim, Mylan, Novartis and Pfizer.

Amgen’s Amjevita is set to launch first in January of next year. Boehringer Ingelheim’s Cyltezo follows in July and will have a particular advantage as it has been established as an “interchangeable” offering. That means pharmacists can freely substitute it for Humira, while other biosimilars must be prescribed.

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The loss of exclusivity is a daunting prospect for AbbVie. Perhaps that’s why the company is not yet providing Humira sales guidance for investors who are anxious to find out what kind of hit the company expects in 2023.  

“We’ve said basically that we should be thinking about 45% erosion plus or minus 10%. That’s probably a reasonable range,” CEO Rick Gonzalez said during Wednesday’s conference call. “We certainly want to provide guidance when we have confidence that we can provide you a high degree of specificity of what that guidance looks like.”

When pressed again when the guidance could come, Gonzalez said he could commit to providing it during “the third-quarter call.”

“We understand it’s an important issue for investors,” Gonzalez said. “We have said that we expect (earnings per share) to decline in 2023.”

On the flip side, AbbVie is quick to provide guidance on the two medicines that it is counting on to compensate for the inevitable fall of Humira. The company held to its previous projection that Skyrizi and Rinvoq will generate a combined $15 billion in sales by 2025, with each accounting for $7.5 billion.

In 2021, the duo pulled in a combined $4.6 billion, showing the upward trajectory to back up AbbVie’s claim.

“Over the next few months, we expect to add several new indications to the list of approved uses for these two assets at which point Skyrizi and Rinvoq will be commercialized across all of Humira’s major indications, plus atopic dermatitis,” Gonzalez said. The CEO added that the company expects the combined peak sales of the two to “exceed the peak revenues achieved by Humira.”

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Overall, the company reported revenue of $14.9 billion for the quarter, roughly 36% of which was provided by Humira. For the year, AbbVie’s revenue clocked in at $56.1 billion, a 22% increase on its figure from 2020.