While Gilead and Celgene were showing just how significant new pricing competition can be in destroying their forecasting abilities, AbbVie showed up Friday morning with a revenue projection that underscores just how important it is to steer any blockbuster rivalries down the road.
In its Q3 report the company reported that it now expects to see Humira sales climb to close to $21 billion in 2020. To put that in some perspective, CEO Rick Gonzalez had forecast peak sales at $18 billion by 2020 less than two years ago. That $3 billion in extra sales represents the kind of blockbuster revenue most biopharmas would be happy to see from any one of its drugs.
The bold forecast comes after AbbVie $ABBV struck a deal with Amgen to keep its biosimilar for Humira off the market until early 2023. Gonzalez recently was forced to publicly counter suggestions that they were looking to back off a commitment to cap price hikes on Humira to a once-off annual single-digit sum. But they are clearly feeling that that will not hinder them from continuing to garner fresh billions for this market.
Among other things, the growing sales forecast underscores a growing sense in the industry that any pressure from Congress to rein in drug prices has little chance of making a serious dent.
Humira earned $4.7 billion in the third quarter. The bulk of that is from the US market, where revenue was up a whopping 19%. That was easily the lion’s share of the cash the company operates on.
So the timing on competition is extraordinarily important for AbbVie. The company has projected peak annual sales for upadacitinib and risankizumab — which just delivered promising Phase III data — at $4 billion to $5 billion each. That’s still a very risky projection, but continuing to push up revenue on Humira gives them an open window on new product development to prepare for the time the company has to face off against cheaper knockoffs.
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