The lag between the arrival of biosimilar competitors to blockbuster Humira (adalimumab) in international markets and the US has given AbbVie a chance to try strategies to retain market share before copycats come for its key territory.
Rick Gonzalez, CEO of AbbVie, explained to investors on a recent quarterly conference call how the experience defending Humira from biosimilar rivals in markets, such as Europe, will inform the US strategy.
Gonzalez said, “The strategy that we'll put in place is the exact same strategy that we did in the international markets. Our goal is to maintain as much share as we can in as profitable of a way as we can. There is no market exactly like the US market outside the US. But what I would say is we would expect it to be competitive like the international markets.”
AbbVie found biosimilar competition outside the US to be more intense than it anticipated. Based on what happened when analogous products, such as Remicade (infliximab) faced biosimilar competition, AbbVie expected Humira sales to fall gradually over several years. Instead, Humira took a big hit immediately.
Gonzalez thinks the fast rate at which Humira sales fell reflects the strategies used by biosimilar manufacturers, which entered the market en masse and then fought fiercely for market share.
The CEO said, “International biosimilars were more aggressive than we had anticipated. The biosimilar competitors ... priced more aggressively than we had seen with the analogues.”
Gonzalez expects similar dynamics to play out in the US. With AbbVie bracing itself for the entry of seven biosimilar competitors in 2023, a price war could break out as those companies seek to claim the biggest piece of the market. US sales of Humira totaled almost $15bn (€14bn) last year.
AbbVie expects to lose a sizable slice of the sales shortly after biosimilars enter the market. However, based on what happened outside the US, AbbVie is optimistic that the sharp decline will level off and leave it with a decent share of the Humira market.
Gonzalez said, “Our strategy was to make sure that we could maintain as much share as possible of Humira and maintain it as profitable as possible and we can now step back and look at what does that look like. Well, what it basically looks like is we have maintained about two thirds of the volume.”
The upshot is that, while Humira lost share faster than anticipated, AbbVie has been able to keep hold of a sizable slice of ex-US markets. AbbVie’s next challenge is to do the same in the US.