FirstWord Lists – Pharma's biggest growth driver drugs (H1 2014)

The hepatitis C therapies Sovaldi (Gilead Sciences) and Olysio (Johnson & Johnson) were the largest growing pharmaceutical brands during the first half of 2014 (versus the first half of 2013), delivering six-month sales of $5.8 billion and $1.2 billion, respectively. Sovaldi's rapid uptake – which represents the fastest new drug launch of all time – has triggered widespread debate about the price of this therapy and the ability of healthcare systems to bear associated costs, while success for Olysio has been driven by its use in combination with Gilead's product.

AbbVie's Humira continued its route towards eclipsing Lipitor's peak annual sales performance and delivered an absolute increase in sales of around $1 billion for the first half of 2014 versus the comparable period last year. The TNF-inhibitor continues to grow at a steady pace, although AbbVie's high level of dependency on the Humira franchise was widely cited as one the reasons for its recently agreed acquisition of Shire.

Biogen Idec's Tecfidera – an oral therapy for the treatment of multiple sclerosis – continues to deliver strong growth, its H1 2014 performance driven not only by continued uptake in the US, but its long awaited launch in the EU. Broader growth for the oral MS market is illustrated by the presence of Novartis' Gilenya and Sanofi's Aubagio among the top 25 growth drivers also.

The oral anticoagulant Xarelto continues to act as a key growth driver for both Bayer and its US marketing partner Johnson & Johnson, delivering a year-on-year increase in sales of $834 million for the first half of 2014. Leadership of this market looks secure for Xarelto – a status which appears to have been conferred by its once-daily dosing – but competition from Bristol-Myers Squibb and Pfizer's Eliquis may intensify over coming quarters. After a sluggish launch, Eliquis generated a year-on-year increase in sales of $243 million.

From a company perspective, Johnson & Johnson continues to hold the industry's strongest position in terms of revenue growth generated from recently launched (i.e. in the past five years) products, with this status reflected by the inclusion of five leading growth drivers for H1 2014 (either marketed directly or co-marketed), which together delivered net revenue expansion of $2.9 billion.

Roche's portfolio of cancer therapies also features prominently, with the inclusion of Perjeta, Herceptin, Kadcyla (all HER2-positive breast cancer) and Avastin (various solid tumours). Strong growth for the launch phases of Perjeta and Kadcyla demonstrates success on the part of Roche to enhance its existing leadership of the HER2 breast cancer market, while continued revenue expansion for Herceptin and Avastin is clear demonstration of the commercial longevity for biologic therapies. This trend is also illustrated by continued strong growth for the various TNF inhibitors and Sanofi's basal insulin Lantus.

Other newish launches that feature as key growth drivers include Gilead's Stribild and Celgene's Pomalyst. Notably absent are any GlaxoSmithKline brands – despite the UK company securing approval for five new products with the FDA in 2013 (the HIV therapy Tivicay sits just outside this list and generated $158 million during the first six months of 2014). Pricing pressure in the respiratory segment is to blame for slower than anticipated launches for GlaxoSmithKline's Breo Ellipta and Anoro Ellipta franchises, with lack of any 'oral' diabetes launches among the list partially a reflection of increased pricing pressure in this disease area also.

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