Company: Bristol Myers Squibb
2020 sales: $12.15 billion
Diseases: Multiple myeloma, myelodysplastic syndromes, mantle cell lymphoma, follicular lymphoma and marginal zone lymphoma
When Bristol Myers Squibb inked its $74 billion deal for Celgene back in early 2019, the fate of big-selling blood cancer med Revlimid was unknown. Generic threats lurked, but BMS has so far fended off any early copycats, and sales again soared in 2020.
Revlimid, approved in 2005, treats multiple myeloma, myelodysplastic syndromes and other diseases. The drug’s sales reached more than $12 billion last year, making it the pharma industry’s third most lucrative product behind AbbVie’s immunology giant Humira and Merck’s oncology superstar Keytruda.
Revlimid couldn't have reached those heights without price hikes, though. Celgene launched the med at $215 per pill, but after more than 20 price increases, the drug now costs more than $750 per pill, Congressional investigators said in September 2020. And while drugmakers often cite expensive, risky research as a driver of high prices, Celgene raised prices to meet financial targets, the probe found.
Meanwhile, Celgene—and now Bristol Myers—have worked hard to protect the drug from copycat competition. It wasn’t known exactly when the drug would face generics at the time of the BMS buyout, but now the picture is clearer.
Shortly after the deal announcement, the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office refused to invalidate three Revlimid patents, giving Celgene and BMS stronger ground to stand on during settlement negotiations with Dr. Reddy’s Laboratories. Last year, BMS unveiled a settlement that allows the Indian generics maker to launch a volume-limited generic sometime after March 2022.
Two other companies have similar deals, and all three drugmakers can launch unlimited generics in early 2026.
Looking forward, BMS execs insist the company can grow even as Revlimid loses ground to generics in the coming years. Bristol Myers is in the early stages of key launches in anemia, multiple sclerosis and acute myeloid leukemia, and the company just scored two CAR-T approvals.