Drugmaker AbbVie bumps up profit forecast on strong Humira sales

Charles Rex Arbogast | AP

AbbVie posted higher-than-expected quarterly profit and revenue, driven by demand for its flagship drug Humira, and raised its earnings forecast for the year.

Humira — the world's biggest-selling drug — generated about $14 billion in sales last year and accounted for about 64 percent of AbbVie's net revenue in the quarter.

The drug, used to treat forms of arthritis and Crohn's disease among other conditions, generated sales of $4.15 billion in the quarter, topping the consensus estimate of $3.93 billion, compiled by Evercore ISI.

Humira's main patent lapses in December, opening the drug up to potential competition from cheaper biosimilars being developed by companies including Amgen, Coherus Biosciences and Germany's Boehringer Ingelheim.

Amgen, as the first to seek U.S. approval, could end up first to market, after an advisory panel to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration backed its copycat version earlier this month.

AbbVie, however, has said numerous other patents will stave off the introduction of biosimilar forms of Humira until at least 2022.

"Much of the debate around AbbVie is on the longer-term durability of Humira and on that point we expect nothing to really change despite the strong quarter," Credit Suisse analysts wrote in a note.

To be sure, AbbVie has been diversifying its portfolio to reduce its overwhelming dependence on Humira. The company said in April it would buy cancer drug developer Stemcentrx for $5.8 billion.

Last year, the suburban Chicago drugmaker bought Pharmacyclics and its half-ownership of cancer drug Imbruvica for $21 billion.

AbbVie sells the drug with Johnson & Johnson and said it brought in quarterly sales of $439 million, exceeding the consensus estimate by $9 million.

AbbVie's hepatitis C treatment Viekira Pak, which competes with drugs from Gilead Sciences and Merck, brought in sales of $419 million, versus the consensus estimate of $411 million.

AbbVie raised its adjusted full-year profit forecast to $4.73-$4.83 per share from its previous projection of $4.62-$4.82.

For the second quarter ended June 30, net revenue rose 17.8 percent to $6.45 billion. On an adjusted basis, revenue was $6.43 billion, ahead of the average analyst estimate of $6.2 billion.

Excluding special items, AbbVie earned $1.26 per share, beating the average analyst estimate by 6 cents, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S/.

The drugmaker's stock was up about 1.4 percent in early trading on Friday.