Richard Gonzalez, CEO of AbbVie, explained that such pricing was within the company’s expectation but was at the “higher end of the planning scenarios that we laid out”, during an investor call.
Gonzalez cautioned that the company would likely see a 26-27% erosion of Humira (adalimumab) sales, globally – though he highlighted that this figure could change.
Last month, the first wave of Humira biosimilars entered the European market, with Novartis and Amgen’s biosimilars – these were shortly joined, separately, by Samsung Bioepis’ and Mylan’s biosimilars.
With these biosimilars only having been on the European market around two weeks, Gonzalez noted that it is still not clear how approximately a third of the payer negotiations would be decided, in terms of pricing.
“There's a third that is still being negotiated. We have pricing in those markets. We have a pretty good idea of where we stand, but there's still an opportunity for some movement in those markets”, he said. Pricing discussions are expected to conclude in the next month or two, he added.
At the higher end
According to Gonzalez, biosimilar discounts of up to 80% have been observed in Europe – particularly in the Nordic tender countries.
“These are markets where it's winner takes all across the entire TNF [tumour necrosis factor] category, so includes Remicade and Enbrel as well,” he told investors.
“They have a policy of non-medical switching. I'd say they're a bit of an unusual market from that perspective, and that tends to drive deeper discounts,” he added.
With full-year sales of $18.4bn (€16.1bn), an 80% discount would have a high impact on sales but Gonzalez cautioned that the Nordic markets only represent 4-5% of the overall revenue of international business for Humira.
Third quarter results
With biosimilar competition only just entering the market, AbbVie reported global Humira sales were up by 9% to $5.1bn in the third quarter. This growth enabled the company to post a net revenue of $8.23bn, marking a growth of 17.8% compared to the previous year.
In addition, AbbVie reported that Imbruvica (ibrutinib), a treatment for chronic lymphocytic leukaemia, achieved sales of $972m in the third quarter, an increase of 40% on the previous year.
The markets reacted well to the results, with the firm’s share price up by 3.54%, to $82.36, on the previous close, at the time of reporting.