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AbbVie’s Humira sales drop in line with analyst projections, and pharma takes Imbruvica impairment charge

AbbVie said Humira, one of the world’s biggest-selling drugs, still brought in $3.5 billion in sales in the third quarter, though the 36% dip in year-over-year…

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AbbVie said Humira, one of the world’s biggest-selling drugs, still brought in $3.5 billion in sales in the third quarter, though the 36% dip in year-over-year revenue was in line with Wall Street projections now that roughly 10 biosimilars have entered the market.

In its third-quarter earnings call on Friday, the pharma giant emphasized the performance of its next-generation immunology drugs, Rinvoq and Skyrizi, citing their growth as the company raised its full-year revenue guidance by $600 million on Friday morning.

Rob Michael

Skyrizi and Rinvoq, which grew 52.1% and 59.8%, respectively, generated a combined $3.2 billion in sales in the third quarter. Together, the treatments are expected to exceed Humira peak revenues by 2027, AbbVie president and operating chief Rob Michael said on the analyst call.

‘Master class’ 

Michael declined to give exact 2024 guidance for Humira during the call, but said $8 billion in US sales next year is “not a reasonable expectation given the price dynamic.”

“We’ve been able to maintain significant volume with the majority of the impact today driven by lower price,” CEO Rick Gonzalez said.

BMO Capital Markets analyst Evan Seigerman characterized AbbVie’s playbook as a “master class of how to thoughtfully manage” loss of exclusivity, writing in a Friday morning note to clients that the Humira erosion was “well under control.”

Total revenues were $13.9 billion in the third quarter, about $200 million higher than analysts’ projections, though they were down 6% compared to the same quarter a year ago.

Carrie Strom

A “weakness in aesthetics” was the “only outlier,” per a note from William Blair’s Tim Lugo, with sales coming in about $100 million below estimates. Carrie Strom, president of Global Allergan Aesthetics, pointed to “broader macroeconomic dynamics.”

Asked by analysts if the popularity of weight loss drugs like Novo Nordisk’s Wegovy could impact AbbVie’s aesthetics division, Strom said, “Anything that gets [a] subset of patients engaged in their appearance, which these weight loss products can do — that’s a positive tailwind for our business.” She added that many of the company’s customers are also cross-selling GLP-1s, in addition to aesthetic products like Botox.

Meanwhile, AbbVie said sales of its Johnson & Johnson-partnered blood cancer medicine Imbruvica dropped 20% to $908 million in the quarter. The BTK inhibitor was among the first 10 medicines added to the drug price negotiation list established by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services.

AbbVie also said it’s taking a pre-tax impairment charge of $2.1 billion on Imbruvica, citing the anticipated impact of the price negotiations on the drug’s financial performance.

Room for M&A 

AbbVie reiterated that it’s not planning to do a big deal anytime soon.

“We’re in a fortunate position from that standpoint. There are many companies in our sector who need to go out and do lots of BD to be able to drive the growth that they’re trying to achieve,” Gonzalez told analysts. “We’re not in that position. But I’d say the bulk of what we’re looking at is we’re looking to add assets that could give us incremental pipeline and revenue growth towards the end of this decade, and into the ‘30s.”

The company recently hit “go” on its option to buy discovery-stage Parkinson’s disease biotech Mitokinin. Gonzalez said buying assets that aim to treat anxiety and mood disorders are also of interest.

“We obviously have the financial wherewithal to go out and do transactions,” Gonzalez said, promising to act quickly if AbbVie finds compelling assets.

More deals in AbbVie’s core areas of immunology and oncology could also happen, including assets that can pair up with other treatments to improve the effectiveness of inflammatory bowel disease and rheumatology drugs, the CEO said.

AbbVie also has a “high level of interest” in next-generation CAR-T technology and T-cell engagers, Gonzalez said. The Chicago-area Big Pharma backed out of partnerships on both of those fronts in the third quarter, including a gene-edited CAR-T with Caribou Biosciences and a BCMA-targeting T cell engager out of Harpoon. It also fully reneged on I-Mab’s CD47 program.

Asked if AbbVie had an interest in last week’s antibody-drug conjugate deal between Merck and Daiichi Sankyo, which represented one of the largest licensing pacts in industry history, Gonzalez pointed to its own internal pipeline.

“We believe we have what we need with 400,” Gonzalez said, referring to its c-Met-targeting ADC ABBV-400, which is in Phase I. “We believe that platform — and we own that platform, we developed it internally — gives us everything that we need in that area.”

It also has ABBV-706 in clinical development, though the company gave up on two early-stage ADCs earlier this quarter: ABBV-011 and the Pfizer-partnered ABBV-647, Endpoints News previously reported.

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