Club of 2018 confirms big biotech’s ascendancy

Data Insights

Discomforting as this week’s wobble in US biotech stocks has been, the ascendancy of the sector is beyond doubt. Nothing shows this better than an analysis of these companies’ growing representation in the exclusive club of the 50 biggest-selling drugs between now and 2018 (see table).

True, some big pharmas are maintaining the senior sector’s blockbuster reputation, though not without help from their junior friends. And, as EvaluatePharma data reveal, there now seems to be no stopping biotech’s biggest representatives like Gilead Sciences, which in five years could boast no fewer than three top-50 drugs and six in the top 100.

A couple of the senior sector’s companies – Roche and Novartis – do remain pivotal. But beyond, big pharma’s dominance diminishes sharply, with Lilly and AstraZeneca especially hard hit and set to have just one top-50 drug each in 2018, against four and three respectively last year, as patent expiries on Crestor, Nexium, Cymbalta and Cialis take their toll.

Roche’s upper hand in any case comes thanks to drugs like Avastin, Rituxan, Herceptin, Kadcyla and Perjeta, and thus largely owes its success to Genentech. And of course AbbVie’s sole representative is Humira, the global best seller of both last year and 2018, which as a monoclonal antibody is certainly no typical big pharma drug.

Number of drugs in the global top 50 (big pharma)
2006 2012 2018
Roche 4 3 5
Novartis 2 3 4
Merck & Co (incl S-Plough) 4 4 3
Pfizer (incl Wyeth) 7 6 3
Johnson & Johnson 4 1 2
Sanofi 6 3 2
Bristol-Myers Squibb 1 1 2
Eli Lilly 1 4 1
AstraZeneca 4 3 1
GlaxoSmithKline 3 1 1
Abbott Laboratories/AbbVie 1 1 1

Meanwhile, not only do Gilead and Biogen each boast three of 2018’s expected top 50 products, Gilead has two in the top 20: the antivirals sofosbuvir and Stribild are forecast to be pulling in $6.2bn and $3.4bn a year by then.

No less amazing is Novo Nordisk’s impact on the scene. Despite the Danish company’s disappointments this year, its diabetes franchise will contribute four of the industry’s top 50 drugs within five years, analysts expect; back in 2006 Novo was an outlier, with just one. And Regeneron Pharmaceuticals makes it into the 2018 top 50 thanks to Eylea.

Big biotech and others
Drugs in the top 100 Drugs in the top 50 Drugs in the top 20
2006 2012 2018 2006 2012 2018 2006 2012 2018
Novo Nordisk 1 6 6 1 2 4 0 0 2
Gilead Sciences 1 2 6 0 2 3 0 0 2
Biogen Idec 1 1 3 0 1 3 0 0 1
Amgen 5 5 3 4 4 3 2 2 1
Celgene 0 1 2 0 1 1 0 0 1
Regeneron Pharmaceuticals 0 0 1 0 0 1 0 0 0

Big biotech has also diluted pharma’s share on the 100 best sellers, EvaluatePharma shows. For instance Pfizer and AstraZeneca could each boast more than 10 drugs in this category in 2006 – though this retrospectively adds Wyeth to Pfizer – yet by 2018 these two companies’ influence is set to be more than halved.

Of course, much depends on the accuracy of analyst forecasts, which have in many cases become unrealistic. Nevertheless, big pharma’s falling share of the world’s biggest sellers might concern executives who have done much to rebuild hope in the wake of some particularly severe patent expiries.

To the extent that the blockbuster is still big pharma’s ideal drug, the answer might lie in deal-making.

To contact the writer of this story email Jacob Plieth in London at jacobp@epvantage.com or follow @JacobEPVantage on Twitter

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