Who needs Humira? AbbVie projected to be the top pharma company by sales in 2028: analysts

Reports of the demise of AbbVie—concurrent with the loss of exclusivity for its mega-blockbuster drug Humira—have been greatly exaggerated.  

At least that’s the consensus view of sell-side analysts polled by Evaluate Pharma, who predict that the Illinois-based pharma giant will generate more prescription sales than any company in the industry in 2028.

They see AbbVie's $65.7 billion in expected 2028 sales closely followed by Roche at $65 billion. Johnson & Johnson ($62.3 billion), Merck ($59.7 billion) and Pfizer ($57.1 billion) round out the top 5 in their projections.

Ranking AbbVie at the top is a big switch for some analysts who warned of dire consequences for the company as Humira tumbles over the patent cliff. So far, the versatile autoimmune therapy weathered biosimilar competition in Europe to post $20.8 billion in global sales in 2021.

Next year brings a more ominous threat as AbbVie will have to face biosimilar competitors in the U.S. But the company is in position to absorb the hit thanks to newer autoimmune drugs Skyrizi and Rinvoq, a duo it expects to generate $15 billion combined in 2025.

Meanwhile, other products in AbbVie’s broad portfolio, such as cancer drug Venclexta and the antipsychotic Vraylar, are also chipping in toward growth.

As for the fortunes of Roche in 2028, much will depend on the development of its TIGIT therapies, once hailed as the next-generation of immuno-oncology drugs but now with a clouded future thanks to a recent pair of trial failures.

Pfizer, which topped the list of prescription sales in 2021—fueled by its COVID-19 vaccine Comirnaty—figures to do the same in 2022. But by 2028, the analysts see those sales fading and the company dropping four notches to No. 5.

But that could easily change depending on how Pfizer puts its windfall to use as it looks to acquire promising biotech assets.

On the flip side is Merck, which moves up three slots from No. 7 in 2021 to a predicted No. 4 in 2028 as the company rides its cancer superstar Keytruda. The analysts project Keytruda to generate sales of $30 billion in 2028.

Rounding out the top 10 list is Novartis ($55.2 billion), AstraZeneca ($54.5 billion), Sanofi ($50.8 billion), Bristol Myers Squibb ($44.3 billion) and GSK ($44 billion).

Bristol Myers drops by three notches from its 2021 performance as its big three of Eliquis, Opdivo and Revlimid—which combined for sales of $38 billion in 2021—all will face erosion from generic competition by 2028. Bristol has laid out a plan to generate $25 billion from new launches by 2029.