Humira takes top spot in drug sales

Lipitor and Plavix, step aside. A new ruler is taking over the drug-sales kingdom. It's Abbott Laboratories' ($ABT) arthritis drug Humira, with $9 billion in sales expected this year. Lipitor's market share has already dwindled beneath 40% since it lost patent protection in November. Plavix is expected to suffer a similar fate after its exclusivity expires later this quarter.

The shift doesn't just illustrate the rapid and devastating effects of patent expirations on big blockbuster sales. As Reuters notes, it's also emblematic of an industry-wide shift toward expensive biologics and away from classic big-sellers in the small-molecule world. "It's a tale of two worlds," PricewaterhouseCoopers expert Simon Friend told the news service.

Humira's continued strength is paramount for Abbott, which is preparing to spin off its pharmaceuticals business into a separate company. The drug is approved for a wide variety of inflammatory disorders; in fact, it won a new indication in Europe just today, for use against ulcerative colitis, bringing the number of approved uses in the EU to 7. The drug accounts for about half of Abbott's drug sales, Dow Jones notes.

- check out the Reuters piece
- read the Dow Jones news