4. Eliquis

Pfizer and BMS split marketing efforts on Eliquis, a blood thinner that pulled in more than $9 billion in 2020. (Pfizer and BMS)

Company: Bristol Myers Squibb and Pfizer 
2020 sales: $9.17 billion  
Disease: Nonvalvular atrial fibrillation 

As Pfizer and Bristol Myers Squibb seek to bolster their presence in treating cancer and rare diseases, their shared mass-market med Eliquis keeps driving growth. 

The drug, an anticoagulant first approved in 2012, hauled in more than $9 billion last year, enough to rank it in the top five of the world’s bestselling medicines. Under a partnership between the drugmakers, Pfizer and BMS jointly develop and commercialize the drug, which BMS discovered. 

Pfizer funds around half of development costs, and the companies share profits and losses equally. In some countries, Pfizer sells the drug and pays BMS fees. 

Eliquis has been on a tear in recent years after crossing the blockbuster threshold in 2015.  

The rapid Eliquis growth comes as Pfizer and Bristol Myers Squibb have each undergone big changes. In Pfizer’s case, the company offloaded its generics and off-patent business Upjohn to focus more on innovation and new drugs. For its part, BMS recently acquired Celgene to bolster its presence in oncology and other high-growth treatment areas. 

Of course, the onset of the pandemic last year presented challenges for the companies in marketing their shared blockbuster. 

RELATED: Bristol Myers Squibb's blood thinner Eliquis soars on COVID-19 demand, but Opdivo could suffer: execs 

The total number of new oral anticoagulant prescriptions fell last year during the pandemic, Bristol Myers CFO David Elkins said on a conference call in February. By early 2021, volumes were starting to rebound, he reported. As stockpiling increased and evidence emerged that blood thinners could improve COVID-19 outcomes, sales leaped 37% in the first quarter to $2.6 billion. 

Over the course of the year, that growth moderated. Eliquis’ global sales last year reached $9.17 billion, a 16% increase versus 2019.  In the long run, the company believes the “growth outlook for Eliquis remains strong as we continue to grow the oral anticoagulant class” and as BMS bolsters its share within the class, Elkins said. 

RELATED: Pfizer, BMS' Eliquis tops Xarelto, vitamin K drugs for site-specific bleeding risks in French real-world study 

Pfizer reported $4.95 billion in Eliquis alliance revenues and direct sales, an 18% increase, thanks to continued uptake. The drug delivered share gains in the oral anticoagulant market, but lower net prices in the U.S. provided a drag on the growth. 

Amid the pandemic challenges, BMS and Pfizer last year touted real-world results from a French study that showed their med topped vitamin K antagonists and Xarelto—a rival from Johnson & Johnson and Bayer—at reducing intracranial and gastrointestinal bleeds, as well as general bleeding. Against Boehringer Ingelheim’s Pradaxa, however, the results were mixed. 

4. Eliquis