Humira's 17% leap fuels AbbVie Q2 beats

AbbVie HQ

AbbVie was singing a familiar tune Friday as sales of its anchor Humira soared.

The world’s best-selling drug continued its hot streak, posting worldwide sales of $4.15 billion--a year-over-year increase of more than 17%--to best consensus estimates of $3.93 billion. And that performance, in turn, drove a $250 million top-line beat--with revenues hitting $6.45 billion--as well as forecast-topping adjusted diluted EPS of $1.26.

Much of Humira’s sales beat came from the Illinois drugmaker’s home country, but the med also exceeded international expectations by $40 million despite some new rivals. Outside-the-U.S. sales “continue to impress in the face of competition from Remicade and Enbrel biosimilars in the EU,” Goldman Sachs analyst Jami Rubin wrote in a note to clients.

While biosimilars may not be threatening sales abroad, though, Humira has plenty of challengers that are hoping to bite into its U.S. sales--including Amgen, which recently scored an FDA panel’s backing for its version of the blockbuster. But as CEO Richard Gonzalez told investors on the quarterly conference call, AbbVie has “a large portfolio” of IP surrounding its star product, “and we certainly expect that to be able to protect the asset.”

Meanwhile, Humira didn’t get the job done on its own. Imbruvica, the cancer hotshot AbbVie shelled out $21 billion to get its hands on, also surpassed forecasts, pulling in $439 million to the $430 million analysts expected.

As for hep C combo treatment Viekira Pak, though, its struggles continued at home, where it managed just $87 million in sales. The therapy “continues to be weak in the U.S.,” Evercore ISI analyst Mark Schoenebaum wrote in a note, in part because AbbVie refused to match the lowest price put forward in public channels by Merck for new entrant Zepatier.

“We've taken a fairly substantial hit in the U.S. on HCV,” Gonzalez acknowledged.

For now, though, AbbVie’s confident its other products--and pipeline--will be able to guide it through a Humira biosimilar attack when the time comes. “We’ve spent a considerable amount of time building a robust pipeline ... that would allow us to go through even the most bearish impact that’s out there from an analyst standpoint around biosimilars,” Gonzalez said.

And it feels good about the current year’s prospects, too. It tweaked its adjusted diluted EPS guidance range upward, taking it to $4.73 to $4.83 from $4.62 to $4.82.

- read AbbVie's release

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