Week's news analysis

Top 10 blockbusters' resilience in 2020

By The Editor - 5 october 2020

Were the Top 10 best-selling pharmaceutical drugs in the world impacted by social distancing measures, delays in elective surgeries, prioritization of Covid-19 patients during the first nine months of 2020? As most drugmakers have just announced their third quarter results, it is clear that Big Pharma's resilience is a reality, while blockbusters still make their way.

1. In Immunology, sales of Humira totalled $14.67 billion during the first nine months of 2020. Abbvie's blockbuster registered 5.8 % growth during the first quarter, a slight decrease of - 0.7 % during the second quarter due to biosimilar competition and a 4.4 % growth during the third quarter. The blockbuster faces biosimilar competition in Europe and will lose patent protection in the United States in 2023.

2. Keytruda, Merck & Co's oncology blockbuster registered total sales of $10.4 billion. Sales were up 45 % during the first quarter, 29 % during the second and 21 % during the third, reflecting "continued strong momentum" in non-small-cell lung cancer, as well as uptake in other oncology indications. During the third quarter, Keytruda gained approval in the United States of an expanded indication as monotherapy for the treatment of adult patients with relapsed or refractory classical Hodgkin lymphoma (cHL) based on the Phase 3 Keynote-204 trial and an updated pediatric indication for the treatment of pediatric patients with refractory cHL or cHL that has relapsed after two or more lines of therapy. It also obtained two approvals in Japan, as monotherapy and combination therapy.

3. Sales of Revlimid (Bristol-Myers Squibb) reached $8.8 billion during the first nine months of 2020, up 10 % versus 2019. It was the company's biggest seller. During Q3, sales reached $3 billion (up 10 %). In September, the American drugmanufacturer announced that its wholly owned subsidiary, Celgene, and Dr. Reddy's Laboratories settled their litigation related to patents for Revlimid in the United Sates. The medicine is used to treat adults with multiple myeloma (MM). It also stimulates the immune system and has promising perspectives on fighting against the Covid-19 pandemic.

4. Opdivo had sales of $5.1 billion during the first nine months of 2020, down 4% versus 2019. Bristol-Myers Squibb's medicine is an immune checkpoint inhibitor that blocks a mechanism used by cancer cells to avoid being targeted and destroyed by immune cells. In October, a committee of the European Medicines Agency approved Opdivo for the treatment of adults with unresectable advanced, recurrent or metastatic esophageal squamous cell carcinoma (ESCC) after prior fluoropyrimidine- and platinum-based combination chemotherapy. Still in October, the FDA approved Opdivo plus Yervoy (ipilimumab) for the first-line treatment of adult patients with unresectable malignant pleural mesothelioma (MPM).

5. Eylea registered sales of $5.7 billion during the period, up 3 % versus the same period of 2019. Regeneron's blockbuster eye treatment sales rose to $2.10 billion in the third quarter, topping estimates of $1.75 billion, according to four analysts polled by Refinitiv. Wet macular degeneration market is set to be a fast growing segment in the future. Regeneron recorded net product sales of Eylea in the United States, whereas Bayer recorded net product sales of Eylea outside.

6. Eliquis (BMS and Pfizer alliance) reached sales of $3.68 billion, up 18 % during the first nine months of 2020. Growth was mainly driven by continued increased adoption in non-valvular atrial fibrillation, as well as oral anti-coagulant market share gains.

7. Sales of Enbrel used to treat inflammatory conditions, reached $3.69 billion for the first nine months of 2020. During the third quarter, sales decreased 3 % ($1.3 billion), as the drug continued to lose share with lower growth of the rheumatology segment due to Covid-19. Net selling price was also flat year-over-year.

8. Mab Thera/Rituxan reached sales of $3.8 billion, down 27 % versus the same period of 2019. Roche's second biggest-selleris indicated to treat forms of blood cancer, rheumatoid arthritis and certain types of vasculitis. The sales decline was driven by all regions, due to the launch of biosimilars in the United States, in most European markets and in Japan.

9. Avastin, indicated for advanced colorectal, breast, lung, kidney, cervical and ovarian cancer, and relapsed glioblastoma (a type of brain tumour), reached total sales of $4.42 billion, down 22% versus 2019. Sales of Roche's blockbuster were impacted by the biosimilar competition in the United States, Europe and Japan. In May and November 2020, both the FDA and the EMA approved Tecentriq (atezolizumab) in combination with Avastin (bevacizumab) for the treatment of adult patients with advanced or unresectable hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) who have not received prior systemic therapy.

10. Stelara, a biologic for the treatment of a number of immune-mediated inflammatory diseases from Johnson & Johnson, reached sales of $5.3 billion during the first three quarters of 2020. Each quarter the product released growths in sales (+29.5 % in Q1, + 8.6 % in Q2, +1.9 % in Q3). Last July, the FDA approved an expanded indication for Stelara as a treatment for pediatric patients (6-11 years of age) who struggle with the skin lesions or plaques associated with moderate to severe plaque psoriasis (PsO).

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