- AbbVie had a strong second quarter as higher sales of its top-selling anti-inflammatory drug Humira drove revenues up by 17.9% compared to a year ago. Net profits also rose at a similar rate, the company said Friday.
- Continued growth from cancer drug Imbruvica, acquired by Abbvie in its $21 billion deal for Pharmacyclics last spring, also helped boost revenues.
- Facing a looming biosimilar threat to Humira, AbbVie has doubled down on its investment in oncology—buying Stemcentrx earlier this year for $5.8 billion and signing two collaboration deals with cancer companies CytomX and ArgenX.
Humira continued to be AbbVie's main breadwinner, accounting for nearly 65% of sales in the second quarter. But that lucrative revenue stream is under threat.
Earlier this month a federal panel unanimously recommended a biosimilar version of Humira made by Amgen, setting up a likely approval by the Food and Drug Administration later this year. Meanwhile the Korean biosimilar company Samsung Bioepis recently applied for European approval of its Humira copy, and plans to do the same in the U.S. (Biogen would market that biosimilar in Europe.)
Other companies, such as Coherus BioSciences and Boehringer Ingelheim, are also developing Humira biosims, eyeing to win a share of the $14 billion Humira earned last year in global sales.
The principal patent on Humira, its so-called composition of matter patent, expires in December in the U.S. and in October 2018 in most European countries. AbbVie, however, has maintained it can protect Humira from competition through 2022, when its other patents on the drug expire.
Global sales of Humira totaled $4.15 billion in the second quarter, up 17.4% from the same period a year prior.
Given such reliance on Humira, AbbVie will need strong growth from its other drugs, both approved and in development, if a competitor successfully brings a Humira biosimilar to market.
AbbVie bet $21 billion that Imbruvica could help fill any future shortfall when it bought Pharmacyclics last year. Imbruvica is already on track to reach blockbuster status this year, racking up $439 million in global sales last quarter and $820 million over the first six months of the year.
AbbVie also recently secured approval in the U.S. for its leukemia drug Venclexta and has high hopes for Rova-T, an experimental treatment for small-cell lung cancer which it acquired in its purchase of Stemcentrx. Early data showed some benefit in patients with small cell lung cancer and AbbVie said it hopes to submit the drug for third-line use sometime in 2017.
Elsewhere, sales of AbbVie's hepatitis C drug Viekira grew strongly in international markets, bringing in $332 million. But that covered up for a roughly 61% drop in year-over-year sales in the U.S., likely due to increased competition from rivals like Gilead and Merck.