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Experts predict pharma sector to remain strong in 2016

Published on 21/12/15 at 10:53am
Pfizer sign
The report predicts that Pfizer will overtake Novartis to be the industry’s biggest company by sales

The year 2016 is set to see continued growth in research and development productivity, with significant new drug launches and a limited impact of patent expiries, according to a new report.

The report claims blockbuster drug launches will continue to set the tone in 2016, with a dozen therapies seeking FDA approval next year. Roche is set to cement its position as one of the most efficient drug developers by having some of the biggest launches in 2016 – including the multiple sclerosis drug, ocrelizumab, developed by subsidiary Genentech.

Unlike past years, patent expiries will have minimal impact on some companies, thanks to the remaining difficulties of bringing biosimilars to the market in the US. AbbVie’s best-selling drug, Humira (adalimumab), will lose exclusivity in the US in 2016, but is not forecast to lose much of its $16 billion sales, and will remain the industry’s top seller.   

Despite this, investor confidence in the sector may be affected by increased scrutiny by policymakers around drug pricing and tax avoidance strategies, as seen with Pfizer’s recent takeover of Allergan and tax inversion plan.

Buoyed by the Allergan deal, Pfizer will comfortably outstrip closest rival Novartis in sales, at a forecasted $70.4 billion, compared to the latter’s $44.5 billion. Even without Allergan, the report forecasts sales of $48.0 billion for Pfizer alone.  

Also in the top 10 for anticipated 2016 sales are Roche, Sanofi, Merck, GSK, J&J, Gilead, AbbVie and AstraZeneca. The report notes that continued poor performance in GSK’s respiratory division, or good news from J&J’s Imbruvica partnership with AbbVie, could see the two swap positions.

The Pharma & Biotech 2016 Preview report from EP Vantage says 2016 will see:

  • The launch of 12 drug that will achieve blockbuster status by 2020
  • Pfizer overtaking Novartis to be the industry’s biggest company by sales – even without Allergan
  • AstraZenca slipping to the bottom of the top 10 biggest companies
  • Humira remaining the industry’s biggest selling drug
  • Gilead topping 2016’s biggest launches with its combination HIV drug, Genvoya
  • AbbVie and AstraZeneca facing the biggest patent risks
  • Payer concerns on pricing could further dampen valuations

Commenting on the findings, report author Lisa Urquhart says: “The picture may look very rosy as the recent uptick in productivity appears to be continuing and for many, the threat of biosimilars is just that, and not a reality. The one fly in the ointment for the industry could be the continued focus on pricing. Concerns around pricing from payers and politicians have already impacted valuations and we could see a further slide in 2016.”

In the foreword to the report, the authors conclude that with signs of payer activism over pricing still limited, “biopharma is still a good place to be” in 2016.

Joel Levy 

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