Imbruvica, a blockbuster cancer drug marketed by Johnson & Johnson (NYSE:JNJ) and AbbVie (NYSE:ABBV), recently secured its 11th approval. On Tuesday, the Food and Drug Administration approved the combination of Imbruvica and Rituximab as a treatment for patients with previously untreated chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) or small lymphocytic lymphoma (SLL); Rituximab is a cancer drug marketed by Biogen (NASDAQ:BIIB).
This approval was based on positive results from a phase 3 clinical trial. During the trial, CLL patients under age 70 who were treated with a combination of Imbruvica and Rituximab achieved a progression-free survival (PFS) rate -- the amount of time during and after treatment the patient lives with cancer without experiencing worsening symptoms -- of 88% after 37 months. By contrast, patients on chemotherapy drugs and Rituximab achieved a PFS rate of 75%.
Johnson & Johnson originally co-developed Imbruvica with Pharmacyclics, an oncology-focused biotech company that was acquired by AbbVie back in 2015 in a cash and stock transaction valued at $21 billion. Johnson & Johnson and AbbVie equally share the profits (and losses) from the sale of Imbruvica.
With sales of Humira -- by far AbbVie's biggest moneymaker -- losing steam in Europe due to competition from biosimilars, the pharma giant has high hopes for Imbruvica. As CEO Richard A. Gonzalez said: "Imbruvica remains the clear market-share leader across all lines of therapy in CLL. With the largest body of clinical evidence, a robust survival benefit, and the highest category rating in treatment guidelines today, we remain confident that Imbruvica will be a significant growth contributor for many years to come."
During its latest reported quarter -- Q4 2019 -- AbbVie reported net revenue of $1.3 billion from Inbruvica, representing a 28.9% year-over-year increase.