FirstWord Lists – The best-selling cancer drugs in 2013 and 2018: Roche dominates while immunotherapies, Johnson & Johnson emerge as contenders

The industry's 20 biggest-selling cancer drugs generated combined sales of $53 billion in 2013, with Roche's Rituxan, Avastin and Herceptin franchises extending their lead at the top of this league table. With combined sales of around $21 billion, these three drugs alone accounted for approximately 40 percent of the combined value of the 20 biggest-selling products. Factoring in the Tarceva and Xeloda brands, Roche generated 2013 sales of around $24 billion from products included on the list.

By 2018, neither the Tarceva or Xeloda brands are expected to feature among the 20 biggest-selling cancer drugs, however, Roche's Perjeta, Kadcyla and Gazyva franchises are expected to feature based on current consensus forecasts. Most impressive are the lofty positions that these successor products to Herceptin and Rituxan are set to reach by 2018 - see 2013 In Review – Roche's biosimilar defence strategy gains momentum.

In five years' time, the multi-faceted Avastin franchise is expected to set a new commercial benchmark for cancer therapies, with global sales of around $8.3 billion – a figure that will be closely matched by Celgene's Revlimid if consensus forecasts prove to be accurate.

A glance at the 2018 list demonstrates the anticipated rapid emergence of cancer immunotherapies currently in pivotal-stage studies; Bristol-Myers Squibb's nivolumab is expected to generate 2018 sales of around $2.5 billion, with Merck & Co.'s MK-3475 contributing revenues just shy of $2 billion. Sales of Bristol-Myers Squibb's already-marketed immunotherapy Yervoy are also expected to double over the next five years, driven in part by anticipated combination usage with nivolumab.

Johnson & Johnson's emergence as a key oncology player is also expected to crystallise over the next five years, primarily via aggressive anticipated uptake for Imbruvica, which has been co-developed, and will be co-marketed, with Pharmacyclics. This will build on Johnson & Johnson's long-term success with Velcade and the more recent launch of Zytiga, which, according to consensus forecasts, will lose its place as the market-leading prostate cancer treatment to Medivation and Astellas' Xtandi by 2018.

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Versus the $53 billion sales generated by the top 20 products in 2013, those products positioned as the industry's biggest selling in 2018 are forecast to deliver combined revenues of around $70 billion. One interesting trend is a notable jump in the number of blockbuster cancer products between these two time points, which jumps from 18 to 29.

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