FirstWord Lists – Pharma's biggest growth drivers

The pharma industry's 50 biggest growth driver drugs contributed incremental growth of $37 billion in 2014, with the top 10 delivering $22.5 billion.

Almost half of this figure was contributed by Gilead Sciences' Harvoni (hepatitis C), which recorded sales of $10.2 billion in 2014 – thereby positioning it as the fastest new drug launch of all time. Johnson & Johnson's Olysio – another hepatitis C therapy – was the second largest growth driver in 2014 versus 2013 ($2.3 billion), with this success driven by combination use with Harvoni.

Each of the 50 largest growth drivers identified by FirstWord delivered incremental sales growth of $200 million.

The list includes 14 oncology products (28 percent of the top 50), which contributed combined incremental sales growth of $5.2 billion (14 percent of the top 50 growth contribution). Celgene's Revlimid ($700 million) was the leading oncology growth driver, followed by Perjeta (Roche; breast cancer) and Zytiga (Johnson & Johnson; prostate cancer).

Pharmacyclics and Johnson & Johnson's Imbruvica (B-cell malignancies) was the eighteenth largest growth contributor in 2014 and the fourth largest oncology growth contributor ($492 million). AbbVie recently agreed to acquire Pharmacyclics for $21 billion.

Eight products – all biologics – indicated for inflammatory and gastrointestinal indications delivered combined growth of $3.9 billion, with almost half of this contribution from AbbVie's TNF-inhibitor Humira. Biosimilar competition to the TNF-inhibitors – now a reality in Western Europe – remains the key trend to watch in this segment.

Four multiple sclerosis products (Biogen Idec's Tecfidera and Tysabri, Novartis' Gilenya and Sanofi's Aubagio) generated combined incremental sales growth of $3.4 billion. Tecfidera was the third largest overall driver, delivering sales growth of $2 billion.

Despite an increase in competitive headwinds, the six diabetes drug inclusions delivered incremental sales growth of $2.3 billion. Sanofi's basal insulin Lantus was the leading diabetes-specific growth driver, with incremental sales of $836 million, although the French company has guided towards franchise sales being broadly flat in 2015 due to pricing pressures in the US market.

Sales of the direct factor Xa inhibitors – Bayer/Johnson & Johnson's Xarelto and Bristol-Myers Squibb/Pfizer's Eliquis – continue to impress, delivering growth of $1.6 billion and $628 million, respectively. After a weaker-than-expected launch, Eliquis' performance may be considered particularly impressive. Data for the competing oral anticoagulant, Boehringer Ingelheim's Pradaxa – a direct thrombin inhibitor – is unavailable.

Regeneron Pharmaceuticals and Bayer's ophthalmic therapy Eylea continues to perform strongly ($894 million), its performance boosted by additional approvals outside of the core wet age-related macular degeneration (AMD) setting. Growth for Eylea continues to blunt expansion of Novartis and Roche's Lucentis which recorded flat sales over 2013-2014.

The four largest growing HIV therapies delivered incremental sales growth of $1.7 billion, comprising $1.3 billion from three Gilead franchises (Stribild, Complera and Truvada) and $434 million from GlaxoSmithKline's Tivicay/Triumeq franchise.

Johnson & Johnson and Roche both accounted for five product inclusions (including co-marketed products), followed by Gilead with four. Gilead is the runaway performer in terms of revenue growth; fuelled by the astonishing performance of Sovaldi, the company generated $11.5 billion from products included on the list.

Johnson & Johnson recorded incremental growth of $4 billion from industry-leading growth drivers in 2014, with Bayer and Biogen Idec both recording contributions of $2.5 billion. Despite slowing growth for some of its key franchises (both Avastin and Rituxan fell outside the top 50), Roche recorded incremental sales of $1.8 billion from its five products on the list, as did AbbVie – exclusively from the Humira franchise.

A similar list in 12 months' time is likely to see the inclusion of the first PD-1 inhibitors: Bristol-Myers Squibb's Opdivo (melanoma, non-small-cell lung cancer) and Merck & Co.'s Keytruda (melanoma), which are expected to have a significant impact on the commercial fortunes of these companies. That said, despite being viewed largely as a pipeline 'story' and notwithstanding a modest decline in overall revenues during 2014, Bristol-Myers Squibb delivered a healthy $1.4 billion contribution from the Eliquis, Yervoy, Sprycel and Orencia franchises.

'Big Pharma' dominates the list of pharma's largest growth drivers, owning – or having a hand – in 34 of the 50 products (68 percent), while large cap biotechnology companies fully or partially market 12 of the products (24 percent). Mid-cap biotech companies Alexion Pharmaceuticals and Incyte are present – notably so in Alexion's case with its paroxysmal nocturnal haemoglobinuria (PNH) therapy Soliris ($682 million) – while UCB punches above its weight via Cimzia, which has recently become a blockbuster product. A Japanese pharma presence is limited to Astellas and Otsuka.

See also FirstWord Lists – The best selling drugs in 2014

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