Companies: AbbVie, Johnson & Johnson
2018 U.S. sales: $4.1 billion
Used for: mantle cell lymphoma, chronic lymphocytic leukemia, Waldenstrom's macroglobulinemia, marginal zone lymphoma, chronic graft-versus-host disease
AbbVie and Johnson & Johnson’s cancer drug Imbruvica has racked up label expansion after label expansion, and in 2018, it made even more headway on that front.
Imbruvica pulled in $4.1 billion in U.S. sales, a 37.3% increase year over year. That sales jump was the second-largest among 2018's top U.S. sellers and helped place Imbruvica as AbbVie's second-best-seller behind immunology titan Humira.
AbbVie and J&J's partnership on Imbruvica began with the former's 2015 acquisition of developer Pharmacyclics for $21 billion at $261.25 per share. In defending the roughly 25% share premium AbbVie paid for the acquisition, CEO Richard Gonzalez touted Imbruvica's sales potential and said multiple companies were bidding for the biotech.
Pharmacyclics entered a co-development agreement with J&J's Janssen in 2011, splitting revenue and development costs between the two companies.
Imbruvica has adopted an aggressive pursuit of new indications—including 10 FDA approvals since 2013—to success in recent years, with some misses along the way.
In July, phase 3 trials in non-Hodgkin lymphoma fell flat after data showed adding Imbruvica to the standard-of-care chemo regimen didn’t improve event-free survival in previously untreated diffuse large B-cell lymphoma patients.
Closely following that flop, Imbruvica scored another FDA nod in August for Waldenström's macroglobulinemia, an ultrarare blood cancer.
Imbruvica followed up that win with its 10th FDA approval in January 2019, this time in previously untreated CLL or small lymphocytic lymphoma combined with Roche’s Gazyva.