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Abbvie’s CEO Gonzalez: We’re Now In Pharma’s ‘Top Tier’

Written by: | readers@forbes.com | Dated: Thursday, April 23rd, 2015

Abbvie chief executive Rick Gonzalez, whose team beat out several more established drug giants in the successful bid for cancer pill maker Pharmacyclics, said today new and existing products will bring “top tier growth through the rest of the decade and beyond.”

Gonzalez’ bold statement, setting the stage for a larger Abbvie, came during this morning’s first quarter call with analysts, predicting bullish growth for a wide range of products, including Humira, the autoimmune treatment facing competition from cheaper biosimilars.

Abbvie surprised some Wall Street analysts by raising full-year earnings guidance to $4.10 to $4.30 from $4.05 to $4.25 a share for the rest of 2015. Abbvie said Humira growth remains strong and its Hepatitis C treatment, Viekira Pak, will hold a “run-rate” of $3 billion in annual sales despite entering a crowded field of pills  sold by Gilead Sciences (GILD).

In less than three years as a standalone company following its spin off from Abbott Laboratories (ABT), Gonzalez reminded analysts his management team plans to bring new growth to not only Pharmacyclics products but existing treatments in the Abbvie pipeline.

As an example, he said Humira’s sales in its last year under Abbott were $9 billion and they are expected to reach $14 billion this year even as analyst after analyst has cautioned about the onset of competition from cheaper biosimilars. “The performance speaks for itself,” Gonzalez said.

Sales rose 10 percent to more than $5 billion in the quarter driven by Humira. The biotech drug, which treats rheumatoid arthritis, Crohn’s disease and myriad other autoimmune conditions, reported an 18 percent increase in sales to more than $3.1 billion despite currency pressures outside the U.S.

Gonzalez said the company’s acquisition of Pharmacyclics (PCYC), the maker of cancer treatment Imbruvica, is on track to close by the end of the second quarter.

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