Strong Sales of Humira, Imbruvica and HCV Drug Mavyret Drive AbbVie’s Strong First Quarter


Humira, the world’s best-selling drug, keeps on churning out positive sales results for AbbVie, despite looming challenges. During the first quarter of 2018 sales of rheumatoid arthritis drug Humira grew 14.4 percent globally, including 11.4 percent growth in the United States.

Humira is the key economic driver for AbbVie. During the first quarter the drug generated $4.71 billion. Last year the drug generated $18.43 billion in revenue for the company, about two-thirds of AbbVie’s total revenue last year.

AbbVie has been working hard to keep Humira a strong provider. During the first quarter the company the company struck a deal with Samsung Bioepis for all intellectual property-related litigation regarding Imraldi, its biosimilar to Humira. Under terms of the settlement, AbbVie said it will grant Samsung Bioepis a non-exclusive license to AbbVie's intellectual property relating to Humira beginning on June 30, 2023, in the United States.

During the call with investors, AbbVie Chief Executive Officer Richard A. Gonzales said he is confident the company will not see biosimilar challenges to Humira until at least 2022.

In addition to strong revenue from Humira, AbbVie’s first quarter was also strongly supported from sales of oncology drug Imbruvica, which netted $762 million in global revenues, including $624 million in the U.S. The company said that reflects 38.5 percent growth. Gonzales touted the strength of Imbruvica. He said the oncology drug “has continued to expand its position as the clear market share leader across all lines of therapy in CLL (chronic lymphocytic leukemia).” Gonzales said the appeal of Imbruvica to prescribers is its “strong durable response” and “superior survival benefit over standard of care,” according to transcripts.

Another key driver for AbbVie during the quarter was its hepatitis C pipeline, helmed by Mavyret. Approved last year, Mavyret is a drug that will treat all types of HCV in an eight-week timeframe – which is about four weeks faster than rival HCV drugmaker Gilead Sciences top-selling treatment. In total AbbVie’s first-quarter global HCV net revenues were $919 million, the company reported. Gonzales said Mavyret has achieved a market share of about 45 percent in the United States, giving the company access to more than three-fourths of “the covered lives, with the majority of that access at parity.”

With a strong first quarter for its HCV pipeline, AbbVie said it is projecting full-year HCV sales of approximately $3.5 billion.

With the three drugs supporting the stool called AbbVie, the company reported net revenues of $7.934 billion in the first quarter. Not only that, the company raised its full-year earnings forecast to as much as $7.76 per share. That was enough to make investors quite happy with AbbVie’s quarterly report. Shares of AbbVie were trading at $97.76 as of 2:25 p.m.

During the call, AbbVie hit on some of its highlights for the first quarter. The company submitted a Biologics License Application (BLA) to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for risankizumab for treatment of patients with moderate to severe plaque psoriasis. The BLA is supported by strong data from a Phase III psoriasis trial. The drug is being co-developed with Boehringer Ingelheim.

Additionally, the company touted another experimental rheumatoid arthritis treatment, upadacitinib. At the end of 2017, the company released positive top-line results from its JAK1-inhibitor.

During the quarter AbbVie and Voyager Therapeutics entered into an exclusive strategic collaboration to develop vectorized antibodies directed against tau for the treatment of Alzheimer's disease and other neurodegenerative diseases. The collaboration combines AbbVie's monoclonal antibody expertise with Voyager's gene therapy platform to generate adeno-associated viral vectors for the treatment of neurodegenerative diseases.

While the AbbVie’s pipeline undoubtedly yielded positive results during the first quarter, Gonzales said the company is also benefitting from changes to the U.S. Tax Code. During Thursday’s call, Gonzales said the company sees the reforms as an important business driver.

“It has enabled more efficient access to foreign cash and the ability to deploy it effectively within the U.S. We previously highlighted a number of our plans to capitalize on this flexibility, including investing roughly $2.5 billion in capital projects in the U.S. over the next five years, as well as our commitment to a one-time charitable contribution of approximately $350 million to select not-for-profit organizations,” Gonzales said.

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