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AbbVie sees 37% drop in Humira sales this year as biosimilars hit U.S. market

FILE PHOTO: The logo for AbbVie is displayed on a screen at the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) in New York City

By Leroy Leo and Mariam ESunny

(Reuters) - AbbVie Inc said on Thursday it expects sales of its flagship rheumatoid arthritis drug Humira to decline 37% this year due to competition from cheaper biosimilars in the United States, but sees that stabilizing by the end of 2024.

Stabilization of Humira sales after the initial erosion, coupled with strong growth of its newer drugs Skyrizi and Rinvoq for autoimmune disorders, could provide a floor to its earnings in 2024.

The company expects 2024 earnings to be no lower than $10.70 per share, matching the low end of its 2023 adjusted profit outlook of $10.70 to $11.10 per share.

That outlook proved reassuring to investors concerned about further earnings declines, and AbbVie shares were up more than 3%, even though the 2023 profit forecast was well short of Wall Street estimates of $11.65, according to Refinitiv data.

Amgen Inc recently launched Amjevita, the first biosimilar competition for Humira in the United States. At least seven others are expected to debut this summer.

Truist Securities analyst Robyn Karnauskas said the company's forecast of a 37% drop in Humira sales removes a key overhang for the stock as it is at the lower end of a 35-55% fall the company had previously estimated.

The sales decline is expected to be driven by both volume erosion and price erosion, with most of the decline in volume seen in the second half, when more biosimilars hit the market, AbbVie Vice Chairman Robert Michael said on a conference call to discuss results.

"Now it's a question of what will the volume erosion look like?" he said.

In the fourth quarter, Humira sales dropped 26.5% to $573 million in international markets such as Europe, where it already faces competition from multiple less expensive versions.

Overall, Humira sales rose 4.6% to $5.58 billion, in line with estimates, lifted by growth in the U.S. market.

Sales of AbbVie's Humira https://fingfx.thomsonreuters.com/gfx/mkt/klpygdjaypg/4fQMr-sales-of-abbvie-s-humira.png

The drugmaker has been hoping Skyrizi and Rinvoq can help replace the lost revenue from Humira, which has been the world's biggest-selling non-COVID prescription drug.

Skyrizi's sales of $1.58 billion beat analysts' estimates of $1.52 billion, while Rinvoq missed as its $770 million in sales came in below expectations of $816.14 million.

Excluding items, AbbVie earned $3.60 per share in the fourth quarter, beating analysts' average estimates by 4 cents.

(This story has been corrected to show equal impact of price and volume erosion on Humira's forecast, instead of more impact by volume erosion, in paragraph 7)

(Reporting by Mariam E Sunny and Leroy Leo in Bengaluru, and Patrick Wingrove in New York; Editing by Sriraj Kalluvila and Anil D'Silva)