AbbVie trims forecast for Humira sales drop on favorable coverage

(Reuters) -AbbVie on Thursday trimmed its 2023 view for declining sales of its flagship arthritis drug Humira despite new competition, as favorable positions on insurance drug coverage lists helped it continue to reach U.S. patients.

FILE PHOTO: Test tubes are seen in front of a displayed Abbvie logo in this illustration taken, May 21, 2021. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration/File Photo

The U.S. drugmaker said it now expects Humira sales to fall by 35% instead of 37%.

AbbVie raised its annual profit forecast to $10.90 to $11.10 per share after beating analysts’ estimates for second-quarter earnings on a lower-than-expected fall in Humira sales and strong demand for newer treatments.

Humira’s sales trajectory is top of investors’ minds following the U.S. market entry of eight biosimilars of one of the world’s biggest selling drugs.

AbbVie has two-year deals with pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs) for Humira’s placement on their reimbursement lists, Chief Commercial Officer Jeffrey Stewart said on a conference call.

“I would say based on these dynamics, we’re confident that Humira access will remain quite meaningful in 2024,” he said.

AbbVie shares surged 5.3% to $149.41.

CVS Health’s Caremark, Cigna Group’s Express Scripts, and UnitedHealth Group’s Optum RX – the PBMs that recommend insurance coverage for 80% of the U.S. prescription drug market – opted to cover Humira alongside a few of the new biosimilars in 2023.

The PBMs negotiate prices with drugmakers on behalf of their corporate and health insurer clients and earn revenue by taking a percentage of the savings they garner.

Global Humira sales tumbled 25.2% to $4.01 billion for the second quarter, but topped diminished Wall Street estimates of $3.94 billion, according to Refinitiv data.

Analysts had said Amgen, whose Amjevita was the lone Humira biosimilar available in the U.S. during the second quarter, has not been able to switch over as many Humira patients as anticipated since its drug’s January launch.

“While Humira biosimilars have entered the market, competitors are priced at parity, potentially resulting in lower erosion than investors expected for the quarter,” said BMO Capital Markets analyst Evan Seigerman. Humira has a U.S. list price of $6,922 per month.

Out of the seven other drugmakers that launched Humira close copies this month, three kept their list prices within 5% to 7% of AbbVie’s, while two priced at an 85% discount and two offered both types of prices.

AbbVie is leaning on newer immunology drugs Skyrizi and Rinvoq to make up for the expected drop in Humira sales.

Skyrizi recorded global sales of $1.88 billion, beating analyst expectations of $1.82 billion, while Rinvoq sales of $918 million topped estimates of $897 million.

The drugmaker increased its 2023 Skyrizi sales forecast by $200 million to $7.6 billion during Thursday’s investor call.

AbbVie also raised its forecast for 2023 neuroscience drug sales by $300 million to $7.7 billion.

The company recorded $685 million in global sales of Botox for cosmetic use, down 1.4%, but slightly higher than analysts’ estimate of $683 million.

An AbbVie executive said the company expects international aesthetics to see high single-digit growth in 2023. Excluding items, AbbVie reported a profit of $2.91 per share, beating the average analyst estimate of $2.81.

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