For the first time in many years, AbbVie's blockbuster immunology med Humira showed some cracks as biosimilar challengers rushed the European market in 2019. But for AbbVie––with an Allergan megamerger in the works and two exciting new launches––the future looks bright even with its sales workhorse losing steam.
AbbVie hit $33.27 billion in net revenue in 2019 on the back of mostly stable sales for Humira and boosts from blood cancer meds Imbruvica and Venclexta.
Still, the story of 2019 for AbbVie was the arrival of European copycats for Humira, which sent sales of the megablockbuster plummeting in the back half of the year.
In Europe, Humira's sales dropped
31.1% to $4.3 billion, a significant slide tied directly to biosim entries on the market and aggressive discounting that caused a steep initial patent cliff.
Despite the bad omens, there's still room for hope for Humira before U.S biosims strike in 2023. According to CEO Rick Gonzalez, AbbVie's market share in Europe could stabilize at around two-thirds––providing long-term hope that Humira's forecasted sales decline could be easier to bear than initially thought.
"I’m feeling pretty good about how the strategy played out," Gonzalez told analysts during a fourth-quarter earnings call in February. "Our strategy was to make sure that we could maintain as much share as possible and maintain it as profitably as possible. The strategy that we’ll put in place (in the U.S.) is the exact same as we put in the international market."
Worldwide, Humira pulled in $19.17 billion in 2019, a 4% decline from the previous year.
With its flagship drug faltering, AbbVie scored big wins from blood cancer meds Imbruvica and Venclexta, which posted $4.67 billion and $792 million in annual sales, respectively. Venclexta's sales more doubled from the previous year, and Imbruvica increased more than 30%.
RELATED: Will Allergan's specialty drug woes drag down post-merger AbbVie?
With 2019 in the books, AbbVie is looking at a much different future if its $63 billion merger with Allergan closes in mid-2020, likely making the new company the fourth-largest drugmaker in the world.
AbbVie will not only take on Allergan's blockbuster Botox and fast-growing antipsychotic Vraylar, but it will also assume the Irish drugmaker's faltering aesthetics business, which some analysts forecast could add a drag to the new business' bottom line.
Allergan’s U.S. specialty business, which includes cosmetic and therapeutic Botox and the drugmaker’s facial aesthetics products,
posted just 0.7% year-over-year growth in the fourth quarter to $1.82 billion. In a move to allay concerns about that flat growth, AbbVie said in January it would launch Allergan Aesthetics, a global subsidiary under the umbrella of the combined AbbVie-Allergan company—fueling talk of a sale or spinoff.
Meanwhile, AbbVie's homegrown portfolio of new launches, including immunology newcomers Skyrizi and Rinvoq, could be in line for big things ahead.
In January, Gonzalez said both drugs could
combine for $20 billion in peak sales after picking up Humira's range of indications as well as one other profitable market––eczema––with blockbuster potential of its own.
Skyrizi, the company’s April launch, scooped up about 25% of the “in-play” market share by January 2020, Gonzalez said, referring to new patients and patients switching treatments. Rinvoq hit the market in August and gained about 9% of the “in-play” share at the time.