As the third-quarter earnings season draws to a close for US and EU-based pharmaceutical manufacturers, it is an opportune time to assess those individual product franchises that are the fastest growing across the industry in terms of absolute sales growth contribution. The table below lists the 20 highest growing products during the first nine months of 2012 versus the same period in 2011.
The blockbuster growth drivers
A handful of products – Sanofi's Lantus, Abbott's Humira and Merck & Co.'s Januvia/Janumet – appear set to add over $1 billion dollars in global revenues during 2012.
Growth drivers of this magnitude are naturally important to the companies that market them. However, the current run rate for Lantus highlights the significance of pending competition from Novo Nordisk's degludec franchise (which some analysts believe could in the long term assume a 50 percent share of Lantus' current market) and the prospect of biosimilar competition. See also ViewPoints: Competitors intensify posturing in multi-billion dollar insulin market ahead of Novo Nordisk’s AdCom  and Spotlight On: Defence of key brands remains paramount at Sanofi and Novartis .
Similarly, Humira will likely be targeted by various biosimilar developers over the next few years. For Abbott, the product remains integral to its pharmaceutical business – soon to be spun out under the AbbVie brand (see ViewPoints: New AbbVie – same challenges  – accounting for around 51 percent of total drug sales.
The entrenchment of biologics
Lantus and Humira represent two of nine biologics on the list, which is inclusive of Roche's three flagship oncology antibody products; Rituxan, Herceptin and Avastin. The longevity of these brands – a characteristic applicable to most biologics on the list – is illustrated by a year-on-year revenue contribution of $624 million from the Rituxan franchise, which was launched in 1997. Roche continues in its efforts to 'evergreen' these franchises and protect revenues from potential biosimilar competition. If analyst forecasts are accurate, Roche's recently launched HER2 breast cancer therapy Perjeta (used in conjunction with Herceptin) will be on this list in a year's time. See ViewPoints: Q3 results further confirm that biosimilars are now the key overhang for Roche .
Alongside Humira, the presence of Remicade and Enbrel is further evidence of the entrenchment of key biologic franchises. How the anti-TNF market develops as a result of competition from biosimilars and newer entrants – such as Pfizer's tofacitinib – remains to be seen.
Rapid uptake achievable
A number of products on the list demonstrate that it remains viable to launch game-changing therapies that can rapidly assume significant revenues. Vertex's hepatitis C treatment Incivek is the strongest example during the first nine months of 2012 (the product having been launched in mid-2011), although in this instance revenues have already begun to slow on a sequential quarterly basis due to patient warehousing by physicians who are awaiting the launch of an all-oral treatment with fewer side-effects in the next couple of years.
Other examples of recent launches with strong early revenue growth include Regeneron's Eylea for macular degeneration, Novartis' Gilenya for multiple sclerosis and Johnson & Johnson's Zytiga for prostate cancer. See also ViewPoints: Q3 results will confirm Regeneron's Eylea as one of fastest new launches ever .
Key therapeutic areas continue to dominate
In terms of therapeutic focus, a number of disease areas dominate the list; diabetes, oncology and autoimmune diseases. Looking at forecast revenues for anticipated key growth drivers that have yet to reach the market, this therapeutic mix will not change significantly over the next five years. See FirstWord Lists: Pharma's largest pipeline opportunities .
Areas of likely growth will be the aforementioned hepatitis C market and multiple sclerosis, with the asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) segments also expected to expand via new products from GlaxoSmithKline and Novartis.