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Top 20 global drug sales in the first three quarters of 2020

Author: HE Sheng


As the world’s major companies release their 2020 Q3 reports, the latest global drug ranking top 20 list has also been announced. The total sales of the Top 20 drugs were US$114.4 billion.

At the top of the list, Humira is still the king. Humira, AbbVie’s brand name for adalimumab, is a treatment for rheumatoid arthritis and Crohn’s disease, and others. It has been AbbVie’s sales champion for 8 years with a cumulative income of over US$100 billion. Compared with 2019, Humira’s sales this year have increased slightly, but not significantly. In the context of the coronavirus epidemic, the sales of some drugs have declined due to the impact of the new crown. Humira’s sales have not been particularly affected by the epidemic, showing its market stability.

Compared with 2019, the sales for Apixaban, sold under the brand name Eliquis, this year have increased significantly. Apixaban is used to treat and prevent blood clots as well as preventing strokes. This increase in sales is mainly due to the continuous increase in the application of non-valvular atrial fibrillation and the rising market share of oral anticoagulants.

Keytruda, a brand name for Pembrolizumab, has risen from the number four position to the number three one this year. Keytruda is used in cancer immunotherapies. Its sales have soared from US$ 7.9 billion in 2019 to US$ 10.3 billion. The substantial increase in global sales is due to the growth of applications in non-small cell lung cancer and other indications including melanoma.

Aflibercept, which is sold under the brand names Eylea and Zaltrap, is used to treat wet macular degeneration and metastatic colorectal cancer. Its sales have not been affected by the coronavirus epidemic, instead maintaining a steady growth trend. The increase in sales in the Chinese market is one of the reasons why its sales have maintained this growth.

Rivaroxaban, sold under the name Xarelto, has had its global sales increase significantly, from US$ 4.6 billion in 2019 to US$ 7 billion in 2020. Rivaroxaban is a blood thinner to treat and prevent blood clots. This sales increase is likely due to the launch of prefilled injections and strong demand in the Chinese market.

Etanercept, or Enbrel, has had its sales affected by the epidemic. This is coupled with competition from biosimilars in Europe, Japan, and Brazil. Etanercept treats autoimmune diseases.

Biktarvy, sold by Gilead, has had its sales soar, rising from 19th last year to 8th this year. This  increase was from US$ 3.1 billion US$ 5.2 billion. Biktarvy is a treatment for HIV-1.

Roche’s “Big Three” anti-tumor drugs, Avastin, Rituxan, and Herceptin, have all been affected by generic drugs to varying degrees. Rituxan and Herceptin fell out of the Top 10 ranking, and Avastin ranked tenth.

Merck’s main selling drugs are not limited to Keytruda; they also include Gardasil, a vaccine used in the prevention of some strains of human papillomavirus (HPV). Gardasil also made the list this year.

From the company point of view, the entire list has drugs from global Big Pharma companies. Whether related to drug innovation or commercialization, there is still a gap between Chinese pharmaceutical companies and these giants. However, with the rise of a large number of innovative pharmaceutical companies, Hengrui Medicine for instance, perhaps some Chinese company names will be seen on a future Top 20 list.

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