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Pfizer and BioNTech’s COVID-19 vaccine Comirnaty tops the list of best-selling drugs

Ends the nine-year reign of AbbVie’s Humira as the world’s best-selling pharma product

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Citeline (formerly Informa Pharma Intelligence), recently published the “Top 10 Best Selling Drugs” report for data intelligence and analysis on the top performing pharma products by revenues in 2022 and insights on the major themes affecting the highest-grossing drugs and the companies behind their continued development.

2021 saw the global rollout of vaccines being accelerated for the prevention of COVID-19 and these drugs have rightfully made it to the list of top-selling drugs. The global pandemic also ended the nine-year reign of AbbVie’s Humira as the world’s best-selling pharma product, losing its record for peak annual drug sales, not to Keytruda as had seemed inevitable for the past couple of years, but to a product that transitioned from bench to bedside to $40 billion+ dollars in under two years. Pfizer’s Comirnaty, licensed from BioNTech, along with Moderna’s mRNA COVID-19 vaccine Spikevax, capitalised on the once-in-a-generation opportunity by allying life-saving clinical data with tremendous manufacturing scale, aided by large government purchases. These two newcomers have propelled the class of 2021 to a collective $157 billion, representing a dramatic increase over the $101 billion that was itself a record in 2020.

Sitting at the top of the leader board as the best-selling drug during 2021 is Comirnaty, irrespective of being its first year on the market. This is the first time that a single product has achieved more in annual sales than any other in the history of the pharma market. The $41.1 billion in revenues that Pfizer reported are not just a record, but this number is almost twice as large as Humira’s peak annual sales of $21.2 billion. Furthermore, Humira and its peers are supported by an incredible wealth of clinical data across a large number of indications, while Comirnaty’s success is almost entirely underpinned by a single Phase III trial conducted over the course of a few months.

Moderna also had equally astonishing Spikevax sales of $17.7 billion in a single year, despite having no prior experience of drug marketing.

The report informs, “There is a clear divergence that creates two discrete sets of drugs: those that have more or less peaked (Humira, Revlimid, Opdivo) and those that are still sustaining >10 per cent growth rates. Stelara, Eylea and Eliquis are shining examples of longevity, with impressive year-on-year increases despite being in their twilight years. Both Stelara and Eylea have collected broad labels in their respective autoimmune and retinal disorders, with competitors failing to make impression on their market shares. Eliquis will likely continue to grow through to its expiry in 2026 as the chief beneficiary of the transition away from warfarin to novel anticoagulants owing to its excellent data in preventing the risk of stroke and major bleeds.”

It states, “Keytruda continues to collect new indications and solidify its position as the PD-1 inhibitor of choice across the spectrum of solid tumour indications. Conversely, Keytruda’s rival Opdivo is struggling; while it returned to growth in 2021, its sales of $8.5 billion are now less than half those of Keytruda’s. The advantage first ceded with the failure to show efficacy in first-line non-small cell lung cancer has grown larger each year, and it appears unlikely that Opdivo will challenge the upper echelons of this leaderboard in the future. Rather, Opdivo may find itself falling out of the top 10 drugs list sooner rather than later. Humira has the final word in this section on mature drugs, as it remarkably continued to grow its global sales by 4 per cent, despite low-cost competition affecting sales in Europe.”

It further adds, “It remains to be seen how durable sales will be through 2022, as many individuals in western countries completed their primary vaccination courses during 2021. However, with recommendations slowly expanding into younger age groups, and booster programs being favoured to counter subsequent waves of new variants, these two drugs will certainly feature prominently as we adjust to COVID-19’s endemicity. Most forecasts indicate that 2022 will be another highly lucrative year for vaccine developers, with new pricing models through 2023 offsetting a strong decline in volume thereafter.”

(Source: Citeline)

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