As AbbVie’s Profits Climb, Company Says Humira Will Remain Potent

CHICAGO (Chicago Tribune/TNS) -

Even as competitors rush to develop low-cost versions of Humira, AbbVie’s powerhouse drug, the suburban Chicago company is doubling down on efforts to keep the medicine ringing up sales and raking in profits.

AbbVie reported Friday that worldwide sales of Humira grew 12 percent in the third quarter to $3.6 billion, a pace that is almost certain to earn it another year as the world’s best-selling medicine.

The company predicted that Humira sales would continue to grow at a strong clip, hitting $18 billion by 2020. That’s a 44 percent jump from last year’s sales of $12.5 billion for Humira.

AbbVie posted overall net earnings of $1.2 billion, or 74 cents a share, for the quarter, up sharply from $506 million, or 31 cents a share, a year ago. Excluding special items, earnings per share were $1.13, up about 27 percent from a year ago, beating analysts’ forecasts.

Revenue was $5.94 billion, up from $5.02 billion a year ago, driven largely by Humira.

AbbVie said it expects overall sales to hit $37 billion by 2020, but not on Humira alone. The company said it has built a “robust pipeline of medicines” with the potential to deliver nearly $30 billion in sales outside of Humira by 2024.

Those products include treatments for multiple sclerosis, leukemia and other cancers. AbbVie said it expects annual sales of Imbruvica, a blood cancer drug, to hit $5 billion within five years. AbbVie got the drug as part of its acquisition of Pharmacyclics earlier this year. Imbruvica rang up sales of $304 million in the third quarter.

In many ways, Humira remains the 800-pound gorilla in AbbVie’s medicine chest. The drug accounted for nearly two-thirds of the company’s revenue last year, as it has this year. The drug’s third-quarter sales were nearly 10 times higher than the company’s No. 2 product, a treatment for hepatitis C called Viekira Pak.

Shares of AbbVie soared 10 percent Friday, closing at $59.55 in heavy trading. The company spent nearly two hours on a conference call with analysts and reporters, laying out details of its pipeline and its plan for keeping Humira strong.