(Adds analyst comments, background on Humira, byline, updates
By Ransdell Pierson
April 25 U.S. drugmaker AbbVie Inc
reported better-than-expected quarterly sales and earnings,
fueled by a sizzling performance from its Humira treatment for
rheumatoid arthritis, the world's top-selling prescription
Company shares rose 2.6 percent in early trading.
Humira sales soared 17.5 percent to $2.64 billion, and
represented almost 58 percent of the company's total sales, it
said on Friday, accelerating from a 13 percent gain for the
injectable drug in the prior quarter.
"Humira's growth was a little more than we expected and
price increases in the United States are probably a big reason,"
said Morningstar analyst Damien Conover. Humira sales came in
$90 million above his forecast.
Conover said Humira is one of the most effective treatments
for rheumatoid arthritis and other inflammatory diseases, and
has milder side effects than many rival drugs. "So it can get
away with big price increases," without great resistance from
The big question is how long will Humira be AbbVie's cash
cow and earnings driver.
Although Humira's U.S. patent lapses in late 2016, AbbVie
officials have predicted it will take years for other drugmakers
to develop their own version of Humira and win approval. To
lessen its reliance on Humira, the company is attempting to
develop treatments for hepatitis C, cancer and other diseases.
It expects approval later this year for a multi-pill
treatment for hepatitis C, a potentially fatal liver disease
that affects more than 3 million Americans. Analysts believe it
eventually could rake in peak annual sales of $3 billion.
The regimen would compete with highly effective new oral
drugs from other drugmakers, including Gilead Sciences Inc's
hot-selling Sovaldi, which can wipe out the hepatitis C
virus months faster than older treatments, with far milder side
AbbVie said it earned $980 million, or 61 cents per share,
in the first quarter, up from $968 million, or 60 cents, in the
Excluding special charges, AbbVie earned 71 cents per share.
Analysts, on average, expected 68 cents, according to Thomson
Global revenues for AbbVie, spun off from Abbott
Laboratories Inc early last year, rose 5.4 percent to
$4.56 billion, above Wall Street expectations of $4.33 billion.
Sales would have risen 6.7 percent, if not for the stronger
dollar, which lowers the value of sales outside the United
The suburban Chicago-based company still expects full-year
2014 earnings of $3.00 to $3.10 per share, excluding special
AbbVie shares rose $1.31 to $50.63 on the New York Stock
(Editing by Jeffrey Benkoe)