AbbVie’s new drugs keep post-Humira prospects on track

AbbVie’s new drugs keep post-Humira prospects on track

Better-than-expected sales of some of its new products, including Skyrizi and Rinvoq, helped AbbVie handle a sharp decline in sales of former cash-cow product Humira in the last quarter of 2023.

The group managed fourth-quarter and full-year sales growth marginally ahead of analysts’ predictions – at $14.3 billion and $54.2 billion, respectively – although total revenues still fell 6% on the previous year. AbbVie has acknowledged that 2024 will be a nadir revenues-wise, with a return to growth due in 2025.

At one point Humira (adalimumab) pulled in more than $20 billion a year, but the brand continued the steady decline that started when it lost patent protection a year ago, with a 41% fall in the last quarter of 2023 to $3.3 billion.

New immunology products Skyrizi (risankizumab) and Rinvoq (upadacitinib) helped cushion the blow, however, collectively adding $2.4 billion in the fourth quarter and $11.7 billion for the full year, up nearly $4 billion on 2022.

AbbVie’s head of commercial Jeff Stewart said on the results call that the two products have “substantial room for continued growth” from their current indications – particularly in inflammatory bowel disease – with new indications potentially adding to their momentum “into the 2030s.”

Skyrizi and Rinvoq are already capturing approximately a third of in-play patients across all lines of therapy in the US, even though their combined total prescription share is only in the mid-single digits, said Stewart. Rinvoq is meanwhile seeing a similar pattern in ulcerative colitis and should be joined in this indication by Skyrizi later this year.

Sales could reach $16 billion this year and $27 billion at peak, with Skyrizi capturing $17 billion of that total, according to the company.

Gonzalez staying put, for now

There has been a lot of chatter about the timing of a possible handover at the helm at AbbVie by CEO Rick Gonzalez (pictured above), who has been leading the company for more than a decade, but it looks like that won’t be happening during the post-Humira turbulence of 2024.

Gonzalez said on the call that when the company has “navigated the [loss of exclusivity] and the rest of the business is performing at a higher level – that’s the point where we want to make the transition.”

He indicated that the candidate would likely emerge internally, adding that AbbVie’s board has been placing “a lot of emphasis around ensuring that our internal candidate would get the experiences that we thought were needed prior to making the transition.”