PharmExec Blog

Blockbuster Drugs — Alive and Well

Jacky Law

Jacky Law

Jacky Law says that news of the blockbuster’s death has been greatly exaggerated. But it may no longer be the preserve of Big Pharma.

There was a time not so long ago when people would pay good money to find out where the industry was at, let alone where it was going. Now, thanks to technology, intelligent snapshots can be obtained at the touch of a button.

The latest EvaluatePharma Yearbook, published earlier this month, is a good example. This digest of key pharma stats is based on consensus forecasts from leading analysts to 2016 and shows, among other things, that the blockbuster is far from dead.
Abbott’s anti-rheumatic, Humira, for example, is forecast to hit sales of more than $10 billion by 2016, almost double its 2009 figure of $5.6 billion (see Table 1). This impressive performance ousts Roche’s multi-purpose cancer drug, Avastin, from the number one slot it is expected to occupy by 2012 when the patent on Pfizer’s Lipitor has expired. Sales of Avastin have been downgraded following disappointing results in prostate and stomach cancers. Approved indications include colorectal, lung, breast (conditional) and kidney cancers as well as an aggressive form of brain cancer, glioblastoma.

Humira’s crown at the top of the table is not the only thing these rankings reveal. Another is the dominance of biotech (largely because of the premium prices complex biologics can command) with only two of 2016’s top-selling drugs — Crestor and Advair — being based on small molecule chemistry. A third is the dominance of certain therapeutic areas, notably anti-rheumatics and cancer, proving significant rewards are still to be had when science can deliver equally significant improvements in areas of unmet need. Of the top ten drugs, three (Humira, Enbrel and Remicade) treat the widespread condition, rheumatoid arthritis, and three treat various cancers.

The final observation from the table is that even drugs that are not yet approved can make an entry. Amgen’s osteoporosis antibody, Prolia, has, however, received a positive advisory committee review and a launch is widely anticipated this year. Indeed, of the 20 or so major product launches expected in 2010, the EvaluatePharma database forecasts that seven have the potential to generate sales of more than a billion dollars by 2014.

The blockbuster, it seems, is far from dead. However, revenues from these big-earning drugs are less likely than ever before to go into Big Pharma accounts. EvaluatePharma analysts point out, “Whereas in 2009, Big Pharma dominated the league table by being involved with 18 or the 20 biggest expected launches, this year half of the products could be commercialized by smaller and more specialized companies.”

So, the blockbuster is not only very much alive, it is breathing new life and changing an industry long dominated by a handful of extremely large companies.

For the full version of this article, click here.

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