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Best Selling Drugs Will Soon be Biologics, But Not Owned by Biotechs

A recent Reuters article noted that "the world's six biggest-selling drugs in 2014 will all be biotech products." Interestingly enough, only one of them is actually owned, at least partially, by a biotech company.

Top of the list, based on a report from research firm Evaluate Pharma, is Avastin (bevacizumab), an anti-cancer antibody with projected 2014 sales of $9.23 billion. To be fair, Avastin was developed by, and until recently marketed by, biotech bellwether Genentech. But Genentech was acquired by partner and part-owner Roche earlier this year.

Pegged for second is Abbott's Humira (adalimumab), an anti-inflammatory antibody for rheumatoid arthritis, psoriasis, Crohn's disease and other indications. The drug was originally developed through a collaboration between BASF and Cambridge Antibody Technology â€" but Abbott took over BASF's part of the deal and CAT was acquired by AstraZeneca plc. While Abbott certainly has some biotech aspects to its business, it's overall size and breadth fall into pharma territory.

Third is Genentech/Roche's Rituxan (rituximab), an antibody for cancer and arthritis.

Fourth is anti-inflammatory antibody Enbrel (etanercept), sold by Amgen and Wyeth. This is the one drug on the list that biotech still has its hands in, at least for now. Enbrel was developed by Immunex, which merged with Amgen back in 2002. Although Wyeth has been a partner since the early days, Amgen has thus far held onto its share of the rights and its independence.

Projected to come in fifth is Sanofi-Aventis's diabetes drug Lantus (insulin glargine), and in sixth place is yet another Genentech/Roche drug, anti-cancer antibody Herceptin (trastuzumab).

What does this tell us? That the system works, I suppose. That biotech is good at making drugs and big pharma is good at selling them.

Test Tube image by Flickr user marshlight, CC2.0