Abbott Laboratories' $9-billion arthritis drug Humira is poised to become the world's top-selling medicine this year, as reported Wednesday in Yahoo!News.
According to consensus forecasts, neither of last year's biggest sellers, Pfizer's Lipitor or Sanofi and Bristol-Myers Squibb’s anti-coagulant Plavix, will even make it into the top 10 in 2012.
The dramatic shift in the sales landscape, triggered by a record wave of patent expiries, will be centre-stage during the forthcoming quarterly results season as investors weigh up how leading pharmaceutical companies are adapting.
"They've all seen this coming but their ability to manoeuvre is limited," said Simon Friend, global pharmaceutical leader at PricewaterhouseCoopers, adding that "it's a tale of two worlds ... there is certainly a rush to streamline costs and step up looking for new products."
Roche is relatively well-placed in the new era, given its leading position in biotech and cancer drugs, but bottom of the pack is AstraZeneca, which has already warned that earnings will fall by more than 10 percent in 2012 as its antipsychotic Seroquel and other drugs face generic competition.
Humira is expected to retain its market-leading position through 2016, by which time it will rack up sales of $11.75 billion - still short of the $13 billion achieved by Lipitor at its peak.