In the words of the legendary James Brown, I feel good.
Early this year, I bought a position in AbbVie (ABBV 0.39%). The big pharma stock is on track for 2017 to be its best year ever. And I'm sitting on a nice gain of 57%, a little higher than AbbVie's year-to-date gain because of the timing of when I bought the stock.
Now that 2017 is drawing to an end, though, it's time to focus on the new year. Will AbbVie's success continue into 2018? Here's what I think investors should expect from the drugmaker next year.
Another great year for Humira and Imbruvica
As Humira goes, so goes AbbVie. That statement has been true since AbbVie was spun off from Abbott Labs in 2013. And it will still be true in 2018.
The good news for investors is that Humira should enjoy another great year. AbbVie expects that the drug will generate sales topping $18 billion this year. I wouldn't be surprised if Humira brings in close to $20 billion in 2018. Sure, the drug's sales growth rate will taper off with biosimilar competition in Europe in the second half of the year. But I look for AbbVie to be quite pleased 12 months from now with Humira's performance.
While Humira will remain critical for AbbVie's fortunes, Imbruvica is becoming increasingly important as well. AbbVie should make around $2.5 billion from the cancer drug in 2017. This total doesn't reflect revenue that Imbruvica generates for AbbVie's partner, Johnson & Johnson (JNJ -0.16%). AbbVie is on track to double its revenue from Imbruvica by 2020. I expect 2018 sales for the drug will increase by 30% to 35%, which would add at least $750 million to AbbVie's top line next year.
AbbVie's dependence on Humira will decrease even more in 2018 as a result of launches of new products. The drugmaker won Food and Drug Administration approval in August for hepatitis C drug Mavyret. AbbVie's list price for Mavyret was lower than that for Gilead Sciences' Epclusa, although net prices for the drugs are roughly equivalent. My view is that Mavyret will quickly gain significant market share, with 2018 sales of $1 billion or more.
Look for AbbVie's endometriosis drug elagolix to also make a splash next year. The FDA granted priority review for the drug in October. An approval decision is expected in the early part of the second quarter of 2018. AbbVie is also evaluating the drug in a late-stage study for treatment of uterine fibroids. Elagolix should have blockbuster potential, although the financial impact won't be as great next year assuming the drug wins approval. I think that the FDA will approve the drug for treating endometriosis, and I expect another successful launch for AbbVie.
Next year should also be a busy one for AbbVie's development program. The company will likely report data from the aforementioned late-stage study of elagolix in treating uterine fibroids. AbbVie and J&J should announce results from a late-stage study of Imbruvica in combination with other drugs in treating diffuse large B-cell lymphoma (DLBCL) in mid-2018 as well.
Perhaps the biggest news from AbbVie's pipeline, though, could come from two new drugs. The company will report results from a pivotal study of Rova-T as a third-line treatment for small cell lung cancer next year. Assuming all goes well, AbbVie thinks that it could potentially launch Rova-T as early as late 2018.
And Humira could soon have company. AbbVie reported positive results in September from its second late-stage study of upadacitinib (ABT-494) in treating rheumatoid arthritis. The company expects data from a couple of other pivotal studies in 2018 and plans to file for regulatory approval of the drug.
Based on its impressive track record, I believe that AbbVie is the best big pharma stock on the market today. I think AbbVie will retain that honor in 2018.
My view is that investors can expect even stronger earnings growth next year than AbbVie will produce in 2017. The company recently boosted its dividend by 11%. I think we'll see another dividend hike of around that level in the fourth quarter of 2018.
What I don't expect is another year of 50% or higher gains. Much of the expected growth for AbbVie is baked into the stock price. However, I think 2018 will still be a solid year for investors. This time next year, I fully expect to still be feeling good.