Humira sales forecast suggests slower growth

Wed Jan 30, 2013 9:00am EST

(Reuters) - AbbVie (ABBV.N), the pharmaceuticals business spun off earlier this month by Abbott Laboratories (ABT.N), forecast 2013 earnings in line with Wall Street forecasts but slowing sales growth for its blockbuster Humira rheumatoid arthritis drug.

The company said it expects low double-digit sales growth for Humira this year. Sales of the drug, by far the company's biggest product, jumped 17 percent last year.

The new company on Wednesday said it expects full-year 2013 earnings of $3.03 to $3.13 per share, excluding special items. Analysts, on average expected $3.08 per share, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

AbbVie said it expects net earnings this year of $2.66 to $2.76 per share.

Abbott last week said global sales of branded drugs that now belong to AbbVie rose 7.4 percent to $5.14 billion.

That topped estimates of some industry analysts, including Wells Fargo's Larry Biegelsen, who had expected $4.8 billion. The rise would have been 8.5 percent if not for the stronger dollar, which lowers the value of sales in overseas markets.

Fourth-quarter sales of Humira jumped 23 percent to $2.68 billion, about $200 million above some analyst forecasts. The growth was a marked acceleration from the prior two quarters and underscores how reliant AbbVie is on Humira, which is expected this year to become the world's top-selling medicine.

The company's second-biggest product is AndroGel, a testosterone gel to treat conditions that result from a lack of the male hormone. It had fourth-quarter sales of $373 million.

Abbott, nicknamed "new Abbott," continues to sell medical devices, diagnostics, nutritional products and generic drugs. It and AbbVie are both located in suburban Chicago.

AbbVie's shares have risen 6.2 percent since they began trading at the beginning of the year on the New York Stock Exchange, compared with a 5.9 percent rise for the ARCA Pharmaceutical Index .DRG of large U.S. and European drugmakers.

(Reporting By Ransdell Pierson; Editing by Maureen Bavdek)

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