Humira Company: AbbVie 2019 sales: $19.73 billion Projected 2026 sales: $6.83 billion Projected CAGR: -14% Used for: rheumatoid arthritis, polyarticular juvenile idiopathic arthritis, psoriatic arthritis, ankylosing spondilitis, Crohn's disease, hidradenitis suppurativa, ulcerative colitis, plaque psoriasis
Another year, another run at the top of the sales chart for AbbVie's megablockbuster anti-TNF immunology med Humira. But like all good things, Humira's run at the top could soon meet its end at the hands of biosimilar challengers and a stable of other blockbuster drugs hunting its spot.
In 2019, Humira hit $19.73 billion in sales for AbbVie in what will almost certainly be the drug's zenith. Biosimilars have already hit in Europe, and AbbVie is expecting U.S. copycats to storm stateside sales beginning in 2023.
All of that competition could drop Humira to $6.83 billion in sales in 2026, according to Evaluate Pharma. That's nothing to sneeze at but still a shadow of the drug's peak.
Keeping Humira humming until that 2023 cliff will be crucially important for AbbVie as it works to successfully digest Irish drugmaker Allergan after a $63 billion merger
completed in May.
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Humira's early results in Europe while facing just six months of biosim competition has given AbbVie a decent forecast of the drug's future—but there are signs of promise.
In February, CEO Rick Gonzalez said Humira's predicted "stair-step" decrease in market share actually was much more precipitous in the early stages of biosimilar launches, thanks to an immediate pricing battle. Those worse-than-expected conditions led to a 31.1% sales decrease in EU sales in 2019 to $4.3 billion.
While the dropoff was steeper than expected, AbbVie believes the erosion will tail off in the coming years and leave the drug with about two-thirds of the EU market. If that model holds true in the U.S.—where Humira picked up $4 billion in sales in the fourth quarter—it could represent a positive sign for a drug widely expected to crater once numerous biosims hit.
"I’m feeling pretty good about how the strategy played out," Gonzalez told analysts during a February earnings call. "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."
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While AbbVie is looking for signs of life for Humira in the short term, the long-term strategy is to field multiple replacements for the drug's broad label to soak up some of the damage.
For that tall task, AbbVie is turning to Allergan's own bestsellers—blockbuster Botox and antipsychotic Vraylar—as part of the solution, but also to a pair of homegrown launches that together could match Humira's peak sales total.
Psoriasis med Skyrizi, launched in April 2019, and rheumatoid arthritis Rinvoq, launched in October, could eventually hit a combined $20 billion in peak sales, Gonzalez said in January. Getting there would require both drugs to snag approved indications in a hurry, a task AbbVie is working diligently to complete.
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For instance, in June, AbbVie unveiled new Rinvoq data showing the JAK inhibitor topped placebo in clearing eczema patients' skin.
Rinvoq's impressive data could help the drug take its eventual place as the standard of care for second-line eczema patients—a $2 billion indication by SVB Leerink analyst Geoffrey Porges' lights—but a JAK class black box warning could scare many physicians off first-line use.
Meanwhile, Rinvoq has already
matched Humira in terms of efficacy for psoriatic arthritis patients.The drug has also matched Bristol Myers Squibb's Orencia in RA and is seeking an approval in psoriatic arthritis with phase 3 data earlier in June.