The 10 best-selling drugs of 2013

There has been talk in recent years about how the industry should expect fewer blockbusters and how drugmakers need to look toward selling more products for fewer dollars, euros, pounds or yen. But it is the big sellers, the blockbusters--no, megablockbusters--that drug execs aspire to develop. And a look at the top 10 best-selling drugs globally can't help but impress with its big numbers.

First of all, each of the top 10 best-selling drugs in the world knocked out more than $5.5 billion in sales last year, according to data provided by the market intelligence gurus at EvaluatePharma. Together, the top 10 turned in $76.38 billion in sales. Yes, that's more than $75 billion in sales from just 10 products. One other drug, Eli Lilly's ($LLY) Cymbalta, topped the $5 billion mark, but having lost its patent in December, it's headed for a serious nosedive this year.

The treatment categories that these 10 represent are also pretty interesting. The top three best-selling drugs, Humira from AbbVie ($ABBV), Enbrel from Amgen ($AMGN) and Pfizer ($PFE) and Remicade, which Janssen shares with Merck ($MRK), all treat rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and other autoimmune diseases. Rituxan, Roche's ($RHHBY) cancer drug which comes in at No. 6, is also used frequently for RA. By the way, Roche has the most drugs on the list--three--with colon cancer treatment Avastin and breast cancer treatment Herceptin falling in behind Rituxan, which is approved for a number of uses, including chronic lymphocytic leukemia.

In addition to RA and cancer treatments, there is GlaxoSmithKline's ($GSK) asthma drug Advair; Sanofi's ($SNY) diabetes drug Lantus; cholesterol-lowering Crestor from AstraZeneca ($AZN); and the antipsychotic drug, Abilify, which Otsuka shares with Bristol-Myers Squibb ($BMY). It is also interesting to note that all but Abilify, Advair and Crestor are biologics, so they're expected to avoid the huge patent cliff crashes that small-molecule drugs have to suffer. And Advair, which is already off patent, has held its own because of the difficulty of copying GSK's Diskus inhaler.  

A note on sharing. The numbers we provide here are worldwide sales figures from EvaluatePharma, which includes sales from each partner. That means sometimes the totals will be more, even significantly more, than what you might remember being reported for a single company.

So please read through the report and see what makes these 10 stand above other drugs in their treatment areas, what they have meant for the companies that own them, and what their near-term future portends. Then, if you have thoughts you would like to share, add your comments, or contact us via email or Twitter. -- Eric Palmer (email | Twitter) or Carly Helfand (email | Twitter)

The 10 best-selling drugs of 2013