- Sales of AbbVie Inc.'s mega-blockbuster Humira continued to grow during the third quarter, rising nearly 16% to $4.7 billion and contributing generously to the company's $7 billion in revenues for the period.
- Humira's strong performance comes amid increasing competition from biosimilars and other TNF inhibitors. Despite those threats, AbbVie continues to remain confident in the drugs prospects; on a Friday earnings call, company executives said they now expect global Humira sales to reach $21 billion in 2020, well above the $19.3 billion consensus among analysts.
- Come the day where Humira sales start to erode, AbbVie has a string of immunology candidates it believes can pick up the slack. In particular, the drugmaker predicts upadacitinib and risankizumab could bring in $6.5 billion and $5 billion, respectively, by 2025.
While AbbVie relies on a single product in Humira for the bulk of its revenues, the North Chicago, Illinois-based company has staved off investor concerns over diversification by building up a robust pipeline of late-stage drugs.
Immunology drugs remain the focal point, and will likely be some of AbbVie's biggest breadwinners in the next few years. Regarding Humira, the company has successfully defended against biosimilar rivals such as Amgen's Amjevita. In September, the drugmakers reached an agreement wherein Amgen won't start selling its copycat in the U.S. until 2023.
CEO Rick Gonzalez noted that the markets in which Humira operates have shown growth — somewhat of a departure from statements Celgene executives gave earlier this week in explaining why their psoriatic arthritis drug Otezla (apremilast) had relatively flat U.S. sales in the third quarter.
"What is being confused here is the slow down in a product versus the slow down in a market," Gonzalex said in the Oct. 27 earnings call, explaining that Otezla operates in the more mild psoriasis market while Humira is prescribed frequently for patients with more moderate to severe forms of the disease.
"We really compete in more of the moderate patient population where the biologics tend to compete; that rate has stayed the same or accelerated," he said. "In fact it has actually accelerated a bit because you'll have patients that don't adequate response on Otezla then move on to a biologic."
Humira (adalimumab) sales won't keep up forever, though. Key to the company's future growth in immunology are upadacitinib and risankizumab. The former, an oral Janus kinase 1 (JAK1) inhibitor, notched positive clinical results earlier this year in both rheumatoid arthritis and Crohn's diseasee, while the latter, an interleukin-23 (IL-23) inhibitor, is under investigation as a treatment for Crohn's disease, psoriatic arthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.
AbbVie released data from three pivotal Phase 3 studies showing risankizumab bested Stelara (ustekinumab) and and Humira in efficacy for treating psoriasis. AbbVie plans to launch both risankizumab and upadacitinib in 2019, and anticipates they will each garner billions of dollars in the years following their approval.
In oncology, AbbVie has Phase 3 or registrational readouts for four drugs — Imbruvica (ibrutinib), Venclexta (venetoclax), Elagolix (ABT-620) and Depatux-m (ABT-414) — that should come before the end of 2017. Those results will be in a variety of cancer types, including relapsed or refractory chronic lymphocytic leukemia and recurrent glioblastoma.
AbbVie stock opened at $92.70 per share, up 3.5% from the previous close.