Companies: Roche ($RHHBY), Pharmstandard
2013 Global Sales: $7.78 billion
Indications: non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, CLL

Rituxan, developed by Roche's Genentech, has the distinction of being the first monoclonal antibody treatment for cancer. And even after 15 years on the market, it continues to see its sales grow, up 6% for Roche in 2013. While the drug is approved to treat a number of cancers, including non-Hodgkin's lymphoma and chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL), it also works against rheumatoid arthritis and generates about $1.2 billion a year in that category.

Russia's Pharmstandard makes a version, known as MabThera that generated about $275 million last year from the Russian market.

Given its huge success, Rituxan has been a prime target for biosimilar developers. But creating a version is not an easy task and some of those efforts have already been abandoned. South Korea's Celltrion stopped a late-stage trial in April 2013 while Teva ($TEVA) walked away from its own project in October of 2012.

Nonetheless, Roche has not been standing around awaiting competition. It developed a Rituxan follow-up for CLL that has so far beat out its predecessor at staving off the disease. The company is working to move patients to it before the patent on Rituxan expires in 2018. It also has developed new ways to use Rituxan. European regulators recently approved a subcutaneous version of the drug to treat some patients with non-Hodgkin's lymphoma that cuts the treatment time from two and a half hours for the original intravenous version to 5 minutes. -- Eric Palmer (email | Twitter)

For more:
Special Reports: The 10 best-selling drugs of 2013 - Rituxan/MabThera | Top 20 orphan drugs by 2018 - Rituxan
Roche nabs European approval for time-saving formulation of Rituxan
Roche's new Gazyva beats predecessor Rituxan at staving off CLL
Roche expects to keep Rituxan monopoly until 2015


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