AbbVie's Humira Still Number 1 in Drug Sales

Merck's cancer medication Keytruda on pace to capture top spot in 2023

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May 03, 2021
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Humira retained the top spot on the list of the top 20 selling drugs in 2020. The AbbVie Inc.(

ABBV, Financial) mega-blockbuster generated revenue of nearly $20.4 billion last year, according to an article in FierceBiotech, which worked with Evaluate Pharma to compile the list.

Investors were probably thinking that Humira sales would follow the trend set in 2019, when demand declined, owing in great part to the introduction of copycat drugs in Europe. In a bit of a surprise, sales of the arthritis treatment gained 3.5% in 2020 thanks to increased demand in the U.S., which accounted for more than $16 billion of its revenue versus about 15% the previous year.

Humira and several well-established drugs benefited from the pandemic, as patients cut down on the frequency of their doctor visits and were reluctant to try newer medications.

The future of the AbbVie treatment still looks bright, at least for the next few years. Humira is expected to remain dominant in immunology since, at $7.7 billion, Johnson & Johnson's (

JNJ, Financial) rival drug Stelara is well behind the leader.

However, looking down the road, Humira will be facing challengers when its patent expires in 2023, paving the way for more biosimilars to enter the fray. AbbVie was well aware a reckoning was coming and has been preparing two medications to help fill the void, the plaque psoriasis drug Skyrizi and arthritis treatment Rinvoq. The company thinks the drugs will score $15 billion in combined sales. AbbVie also has the blockbuster Botox that came along with the company's acquisition of Allergan.

Second only to Humira in 2020 was Merck & Co. Inc.'s (

MRK, Financial) cancer drug Keytruda, which racked up sales of nearly $14.4 billion. All signs point toward Keytruda supplanting Humira at the top of the heap by 2023.

Three drugs were newcomers to the list: AstraZeneca's (

AZN, Financial) cancer med Tagrisso, the Pfizer Inc. (PFE, Financial) and Astellas Pharma (ALPMY, Financial) cancer med Xtandi and Roche's (RHHBY, Financial) multiple sclerosis launch Ocrevus.

Of course, if these drugs moved up to the big 20 list, the same number had to disappear. The trio to suffer this ignominious fate were Biogen Inc.'s (

BIIB, Financial) multiple sclerosis drug Tecfidera, Roche's cancer blockbuster Herceptin and Gilead Sciences Inc.'s. (GILD, Financial) HIV drug Genvoya.

Below is a list of the top-selling drugs in 2020:

Drug

Company

Sales ($billions)

1. Humira

AbbVie

$20.4

2. Keytruda

Merck

$14.4

3. Remlivid

Bristol-Myers Squibb Co. (

BMY, Financial)

$12.2

4. Eliquis

Bristol-Myers/Pfizer

$9.2

5. Imbruvica

AbbVie/Johnson & Johnson

$8.4

6. Eylea

Regeneron Pharmaceuticals Inc. (REGN)/ Bayer AG (BAYN)

$8.4

7. Stelara

Johnson & Johnson

$7.9

8. Opdivo

Bristol-Myers

$7.9

9. Biktarvy

Gilead Sciences Inc. (

GILD, Financial)

$7.3

10. Xarelto

Bayer AG (BAYN)/Johnson & Johnson

$6.9

11. Enbrel

Amgen Inc. (AMGN)

$6.4

12. Prevnar 1

Pfizer

$6.0

13. Ibrance

Pfizer

$5.4

14. Avastin

Roche

$5.3

15. Trulicity

Eli Lilly and Co. (LLY)

$5.1

16. Ocrevus

Roche

$4.6

17. RItuxan

Roche/Pharmstandard PJSC (LSE:PHST)

$4.5

18. Xtandi

Astellas

$4.4

19. Tagrisso

AstraZeneca

$4.3

20. Remicade

Johnson & Johnson

$4.2

Source: FierceBiotech

Disclosure: The author has positions in AbbVie, Johnson & Johnson, AstraZeneca, Gilead Sciences, Bristol-Myers, Gilead Sciences and Amgen.

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