AbbVie beats forecast as Humira sales surge

Reuters

By Ransdell Pierson

Oct 25 (Reuters) - AbbVie Inc on Friday reportedstronger-than-expected results for the third quarter, as boomingsales of its Humira arthritis treatment and Synthroid thyroidreplacement drug more than offset lower demand for othermedicines.

Shares of the drugmaker, which was split off at thebeginning of the year from Abbott Laboratories Inc, rose2.4 percent.

Humira, a treatment for rheumatoid arthritis, psoriasis,Crohn's disease and other conditions, is the world's top-sellingprescription drug. Sales have risen steadily since it wasintroduced in 2002.

The injectable drug's global sales soared 19.1 percent to$2.77 billion in the quarter, outpacing 16 percent growth in theprior quarter.

Humira accounted for almost 60 percent of total sales,illustrating AbbVie's growing reliance on a product that willlose U.S. patent protection in late 2016.

Many analysts, however, expect sales of Humira to keepgrowing after its patent expires because it may take many yearsfor generic drugmakers to develop and win approvals for complex"biosimilar" forms of the biotech drug.

In the meantime, AbbVie is hoping to develop and marketlucrative new drugs, including oral treatments for hepatitis Cthat could be approved by early 2015 and a promising treatmentcalled ABT-199 for various blood cancers.

"The AbbVie story is good as long as Humira grows, and it'sgrowing above expectations," said Barclays analyst Tony Butler,who said the quarterly sales topped his forecast by $100million. Humira sales were helped by a 15 percent price increasein the United States over the past year, he added.

Morgan Stanley analyst David Risinger predicted Humira'sannual sales will jump another 30 percent, to $13 billion, by2016.

"It should have peak sales similar to Lipitor," Risingersaid, referring to Pfizer Inc's cholesterol fighter,which had been the world's top-selling drug until it lost patentprotection in late 2011.

AbbVie said it had earned $964 million, or 60 cents pershare, in the third quarter, compared with $1.59 billion, or$1.01 per share, a year earlier.

Excluding write-downs of intangible assets and other specialcharges, profit was 82 cents per share. That was 4 cents abovethe analysts' average estimate compiled by Thomson ReutersI/B/E/S.

The company, based in suburban Chicago, raised the low endof its 2013 earnings forecast to $3.11 per share from $3.07,while keeping the high end at $3.13.

Sales rose 3.3 percent to $4.66 billion, beating Wall Streetexpectations of $4.52 billion.

Synthroid sales jumped 23 percent to $161 million, whilesales of Creon, a digestive enzymes drug, rose almost 10 percentto $101 million.

But sales of TriCor and Trilipix, drugs used to lower bloodfats called triglycerides, fell 88 percent to $39 million due tocompetition from cheaper generics.

Sales of AndroGel, a topical testosterone gel, and of HIVtreatment Kaletra, both fell 11 percent.

Shares of AbbVie were up 2.4 percent at $49.09 in afternoontrading on the New York Stock Exchange.

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