October 28, 2016 / 11:56 AM / 3 years ago

AbbVie's Humira loses momentum, shares plunge

(Reuters) - A slowdown in sales of AbbVie Inc’s (ABBV.N) Humira arthritis treatment sent the drugmaker’s shares 6 percent lower on Friday, highlighting the company’s heavy reliance on the $15 billion-a-year medicine.

A screen displays the share price for pharmaceutical maker AbbVie on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange July 18, 2014. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

Humira sales increased 11.3 percent in the third quarter, compared with growth of 14.9 percent and 17.4 percent, respectively, in the first and second quarters of 2016.

The drug, also used to treat Crohn’s disease and psoriasis, generated sales of $4.06 billion, about $130 million shy of Wall Street’s expectations.

Humira, the world’s biggest-selling drug, accounted for about 63 percent of AbbVie’s net revenue.

“Humira looks more vulnerable, so there’s a healthy skepticism in the stock market today,” Guggenheim Securities analyst Tony Butler said. “Anything affecting Humira price-wise or demand-wise has a massive impact” on investors.

Amgen Inc (AMGN.O) on Thursday reported flat quarterly sales for its similar Enbrel arthritis drug and cautioned that discounts and rebates to pharmacy benefit managers and health insurers next year would likely negate wholesale price increases for the drug.

AbbVie CEO Richard Gonzalez, in contrast, said on a conference call on Friday that the company has concluded negotiations with insurers for coverage in 2017 and 2018 and encountered no significantly higher hurdles to net prices.

Sales of medicines are affected by many factors, including changes in prices and the volume of prescriptions. AbbVie hiked its U.S. list price for Humira twice this year, by 9.9 percent on Jan. 21 and 7.9 percent on June 23, although rebates and discounts moderated the net price.

Gonzales said Humira prescriptions grew over 13 percent in the quarter, accounting for much of its sales growth.

Credit Suisse analyst Vamil Divan said Humira’s disappointing quarterly performance questions how long it can grow amid competition from other drugs, including looming cheaper biosimilar forms of Humira.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration in September approved Amgen’s biosimilar version of Humira. But AbbVie is trying to block its introduction, contending Humira’s patents should protect it until at least 2022.

On Thursday, Amgen said it would unlikely launch the biosimilar, Amjevita, next year, given the pace of litigation.

AbbVie reported quarterly net revenue rose 8.2 percent to$6.43 billion in the third quarter. On an adjusted basis, revenue was $6.39 billion, missing the average analyst estimate of $6.56 billion, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

Excluding items, the suburban Chicago-based drugmaker earned $1.21 per share, edging past the Wall Street estimate by 1 cent.

Reporting by Natalie Grover in Bengaluru; Editing by Sriraj Kalluvila and Dan Grebler

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