AbbVie's Arthritis Drug Humira Retains Market Dominance Despite Biosimilar Competition, Challenges Biosimilar Industry Viability

Zinger Key Points
  • Humira, priced at nearly $7,000 per month, is the first high-selling drug to compete with numerous biosimilars.
  • At its peak, Humira's annual sales exceeded $22 billion.

AbbVie Inc’s ABBV top-selling arthritis drug, Humira, has managed to retain over 80% of its patients even after facing nine lower-priced rivals in the U.S. over the past year, Reuters reports.

This raises concerns among drug pricing experts and analysts about the sustainability of the biosimilar market in its current form.

Humira, priced at nearly $7,000 per month, is the first high-selling drug to compete with numerous biosimilars.

Following their launch last year, pharmacy benefit managers largely influenced patient access, with minimal incentive for doctors to switch to these alternatives.

Related: AbbVie Is ‘Successfully Positioned To Absorb Humira Biosimilar Erosion’: Analyst.

Lower-priced biosimilars were available through major PBMs such as CVS Health Inc’s CVS Caremark, Cigna Inc’s CI Express Scripts, and UnitedHealth Group’s UNH Optum Rx.

Despite this, few patients switched until CVS removed Humira from its list of covered drugs, according to Reuters.

The biosimilar industry advocates for regulatory changes, claiming that $6 billion in potential savings have been lost since their launches.

AbbVie, which expects a 36% erosion in U.S. sales of Humira this year, previously stated it had to concede on price to gain equal access alongside biosimilars on PBM lists of covered drugs. At its peak, Humira’s annual sales exceeded $22 billion.

Unlike generic drugs, the FDA only allows some biosimilars to be swapped by pharmacists for the branded medicine, with most requiring specific prescriptions.

Last year, a bipartisan group of lawmakers supported legislation to ease biosimilar interchangeability. The government and lawmakers are also scrutinizing PBM agreements with drugmakers.

According to J&J CFO Joe Wolk, the anticipated launch of six biosimilars for Johnson & Johnson’s JNJ $11 billion Crohn’s disease drug Stelara may follow Humira’s trajectory.

Spokespeople for Express Scripts and Optum stated they offered several biosimilar options to lower costs for their employer and insurer clients.

Looking ahead, citing ZS pharmaceuticals consultant Komal Gurnani, Reuters writes that many Humira biosimilars may exit the market before reaching her peak sales prediction of $400 million.

Price Action: ABBV shares are up 0.56% at $169.52 at the last check on Friday.

Photo via Wikimedia Commons

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