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AbbVie weak on new drug sales, but Humira stays strong

World’s biggest-selling drug has record quarter while Imbruvica and Venclexta fall short
AbbVie Humira adalimumab

AbbVie missed sales expectations for the fourth quarter as growth products for cancer and hepatitis C grew slower than hoped, although top brand Humira delivered another record quarter.

TNF blocker Humira (adalimumab) put in another stellar performance, with sales rising 15.5% to $4.3bn and helping to boost group revenues 6% to $6.8bn. However, biosimilar competition to the immunology blockbuster is expected from next year in the big US market, which accounts for two thirds of the drug's sales.

AbbVie's shareholders want newer drugs such as Imbruvica (ibrutinib) and Venclexta (venetoclax) for cancer and its hepatitis C franchise to build momentum before that happens.

The new drugs are indeed growing, but not quite at the rate expected by analysts. Haematological cancer drug Imbruvica saw sales rise 49% to $511m - around $30m less than expected - while Venclexta is still in the early stages of roll-out and has yet to break into AbbVie's list of top-selling drugs, but is estimated to have made around $20m in 2016 as a whole.

The company expects Roche-partnered Venclexta to make around $125m this year in its initial indication of relapsed/refractory chronic lymphocytic leukaemia (CLL), and gather momentum quickly from 2018 as additional indications get approval. Imbruvica - which is also sold by Johnson & Johnson - should hit $2.4bn in sales this year, of which $2bn will come from the US, it said.

Meanwhile, hepatitis C therapy Viekira has systematically failed to meet sales expectations since its launch in early 2015, and fourth quarter sales came in at $311m, down 44% overall and declining more than 70% in the US in the face of stiff competition from Gilead Sciences and Merck & Co.

AbbVie's chief executive Rick Gonzalez told investors on a conference call that Humira is holding up well despite rising competition from "new classes of drugs and indirect biosimilar competition in international markets," referring to biosimilars of rival TNF blockers Remicade (infliximab) sold by J&J and Amgen's Enbrel (etanercept).

He said that despite competition from drugs with new mechanisms - such as Novartis' new IL-17 inhibitor Cosentyx (secukinumab) for psoriasis, psoriatic arthritis and ankylosing spondylitis - Humira's market share is actually growing slightly.

Shares in AbbVie closed down 2% after the results announcement.

Article by
Phil Taylor

30th January 2017

From: Sales

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