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There has been much buzz in the news lately regarding Abbott Lab's (ABT) drug Humira. Humira is Abbott's largest selling drug on the market. It is primarily used to treat Rheumatoid Arthritis, but also carries significant value and potential to treat other auto-immune diseases. The FDA had been concerned over the overall effectiveness of Humira for treating other diseases such as Ulcerative Collitus. However, just recently, the FDA panel announced that they would back the marketing of Humira for treatment of Ulcerative Collitus. While this doesn't mean for sure that Humira will be approved by the FDA for the treatment of Ulcerative Collitus, it is a strong indicator that approval will happen soon because the FDA generally follows the voting of its board (Another similar case happened recently with Novartis (NVS) and their drug for cystic fibrosis).
Humira is labeled as an adalimumab injection and is in a class of medications known as tumor necrosis factor inhibitors. Tumor necrosis factor is a substance in the body that causes inflammation and is a leading catalyst in autoimmune diseases. Humira blocks the actions of tumor necrosis factor, therefore decreasing body-wide inflammation, which makes it an attractive drug for treating many auto-immune diseases and not just Rheumatoid Arthritis.
Diagnosed cases of autoimmune diseases have skyrocketed worldwide over the years. While many of these autoimmune diagnoses might be related to an evolution of better diagnostic tools and advancing research in disease identification, I believe that autoimmune diseases will be found to have a huge lifestyle factor surrounding them. Until the public begins to target specific dietary or lifestyle factors that they are willing to change, I see the number of autoimmune diseases continuing to rise. This, of course, could mean that the market continues to expand for Humira.
The link for the following graph can be found here.
Humira is by far the best drug on the market for treating autoimmune diseases, and has proven to be much more effective than Johnson & Johnson (JNJ) and Merck's (MRK) drug Remicade. Humira's revenue was over $8 billion in 2011, and is expected to top $10 billion annually in 2013. Aside from treating Rheumatoid Arthritis, Humira has also been used to treat Plaque Psoriasis, Psoriatic Arthritis, Ankylosing Spondylitis, and Crohn's Disease. Adding Ulcerative Collitis to the list of diseases that Humira can treat would be another step in the right direction for Abbott and Humira to conquer more of the growing autoimmune market where they already control about 30% of total sales.
Abbott is currently priced at about $65.50 a share. If Abbott gains leverage in the autoimmune market with Humira and is able to grow sales to $12 billion or above annually by 2016, according to Trefis, this would present a 5% upside from the current price estimate of $67.39. However, if sales were to fall to below $7 billion, Trefis believes this could be a potential downside of 4% or more in this segment of business alone. I tend to be optimistic knowing the given circumstances of rising autoimmune diseases and I say Humira and Abbott present a terrific growth opportunity to buy into.