'Poor' Humira performance triggers Q3 sales miss for AbbVie, but SG&A beat keeps EPS in line

Humira

For the third quarter, AbbVie bested analyst expectations in several areas. There was just one problem: The company missed on revenue, and specifically on revenue for closely watched behemoth Humira.

AbbVie’s top-line haul checked in at $6.39 billion, falling $173 million short of consensus estimates. And the company’s top seller was a big reason for the gap, with U.S. sales of $2.65 million underperforming expectations by $107 million--and ex-U.S. sales missing slightly, too.

That kind of Humira performance--which Credit Suisse analyst Vamil Divan termed "poor"--isn’t exactly what investors were looking for following last month’s FDA approval of Amgen’s biosimilar, Amjevita. While it'll still be a long time before the Big Biotech can launch its copy, the Q3 showing "adds a negative data point to the debate around the longer-term durability of Humira,” he wrote in a Friday note to clients.

AbbVie CEO Rick Gonzalez, though, downplayed the blip on the company’s conference call, promising that “this brand continues to grow extremely well--and the vast majority of that growth is volume.”

In the drug’s three major market segments, Humira is standing its ground despite increasing competition from next-gen meds and biosimilars of its anti-TNF rivals. The product still holds the No. 1 market share position in both rheumatology and dermatology, and it’s seeing double-digit volume growth in GI, Gonzalez said.

And in the non-Humira category, AbbVie did actually see some sales beats--including a big one from blood-cancer med Imbruvica, the drug that prompted the Illinois drugmaker to shell out a whopping $21 billion last year to buy maker Pharmacyclics. The oncology star brought in $501 million for Q3, topping the expected $482 million.

On top of that, AbbVie’s sales miss “was more than offset” by an SG&A beat of about $150 million, an R&D beat of about $50 million, and a tax beat of about $100 million, Evercore ISI analyst John Scotti wrote in his own investor note Friday. The result was an EPS mark of $121 that came in one cent above consensus.

- read AbbVie's release

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