AbbVie takes $2.1 billion charge on cancer drug ahead of US price negotiation

By Leroy Leo

(Reuters) – AbbVie, girding for government price negotiations on its big-selling cancer drug Imbruvica, on Friday disclosed a $2.1 billion charge related to an expected drop in revenue once the new price for U.S. Medicare patients goes into effect.

The Illinois-based drugmaker’s leukemia pill in August was selected as one of the 10 drugs subject to the first-ever price negotiations by U.S. Medicare insurance plans with a stated government goal of saving $25 billion per year on drug costs by 2031.

While new prices for the first 10 drugs have yet to be negotiated and will not go into effect until 2026, AbbVie said it had used an undisclosed placeholder price that led it to estimate “a significant decrease in the estimated future cash flows” from the drug.

The selected drugs are among the most costly to the Medicare program for Americans age 65 and older. Imbruvica had sales of $908 million in the third quarter, exceeding Wall Street estimates of $863 million.

While AbbVie raised its annual profit forecast as sales of its top-selling arthritis drug Humira fell less than expected in the face of new competition, its shares were down more than 4% in morning trading.

Humira’s global third-quarter sales fell 36% to $3.55 billion, but topped analysts’ estimates of $3.48 billion, according to LSEG data.

Over half a dozen biosimilars, or near copies, of Humira entered the market this year, including from Sandoz, Amgen and Boehringer Ingelheim.

Despite the fresh competition, Humira has maintained favorable positions on insurance drug coverage lists. AbbVie in July trimmed its 2023 view for Humira sales erosion to 35%, from 37% earlier.

The company’s newer immunology drugs Skyrizi and Rinvoq generated sales of $2.13 billion and $1.11 billion, respectively, ahead of analyst expectations of $2.10 billion and $1.02 billion.

AbbVie said it now expects 2023 adjusted profit of $11.19 to $11.23 per share, up from the $10.86 to $11.06 range it forecast earlier this month. For the third quarter, it reported revenue of $13.93 billion, beating estimates of $13.71 billion. An adjusted profit of $2.95 per share topped analysts expectations by 9 cents

(Reporting by Leroy Leo and Christy Santhosh in Bengaluru; Editing by Maju Samuel and Bill Berkrot)