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Looking past Humira, AbbVie boosts sales forecasts for successor drugs

As competition looms for AbbVie’s best-selling drug Humira, company CEO Richard Gonzalez on Tuesday laid out ambitious forecasts for sales of two successor drugs that, when combined, could exceed Humira’s peak.

Speaking to investors at the J.P. Morgan Healthcare Conference, Gonzalez said AbbVie’s medicines Skyrizi and Rinvoq will together earn the pharmaceutical company at least $17.5 billion in 2025 and more than $21 billion in 2027. The new forecasts represent a big bump: as recently as last February, the company was predicting $15 billion in 2025 sales, which was already an increase for the $10 billion AbbVie had estimated back in 2020.

Skyrizi is approved for forms of arthritis, psoriasis and Crohn’s disease in the U.S., while Rinvoq treats arthritis, eczema and ulcerative colitis.

Meeting those lofty forecasts will require significant sales growth. Sales of Skyrizi totaled roughly $2 billion through the first nine months of 2022. Rinvoq brought in $1.1 billion over the same time period.

An injection for a host of autoimmune disorders, Humira has become the best-selling drug in pharmaceutical industry history, with sales topping out at $20.7 billion last year. But Amgen is due to begin selling a lower-cost copycat competitor to Humira on Jan. 31 and a wave of more than half a dozen other biosimilar rivals is set to follow in July.

AbbVie’s sales are therefore likely to sputter in 2023 and 2024 while the company absorbs the impact from Humira’s loss of market exclusivity. Initially, Gonzalez said revenue declines will stem from lowered prices. But as more biosimilar drugs enter, the volume of Humira prescriptions will begin to shrink as well.

The pharma is preparing to soon release 2023 earnings guidance that, according to Gonzalez, should represent a “floor” for revenue.

“We do not anticipate that 2024 earnings will be lower than the initial 2023 guidance,” the CEO added. “Ultimately, we remain well positioned to absorb the impact from the Humira [patent expiration] and we continue to anticipate a path to strong sales growth in 2025.”

That outlook is something of a change from last February, when Gonzalez said the company would “quickly return to growth in 2024.”

Meeting the new Skyrizi and Rinvoq sales targets will require AbbVie to use the same playbook it did with Humira, expanding the drugs’ usage to cover a wide array of inflammatory diseases.

“Humira was the only [drug in its class] to achieve $20 billion in revenue and the reason Humira was able to do that was because of the breadth of the indications Humira was able to cover,” Gonzalez said. “Rinvoq has more breadth than Humira did.”

In addition to currently approved indications, AbbVie is studying Rinvoq in two other rheumatic diseases, three skin conditions and Crohn’s. The company’s testing Skyrizi in ulcerative colitis, too.