Top 10 Biologic Drugs in the United States

These Drugs Are Changing the Way Illnesses Are Treated

Biologics are drugs made from complex molecules manufactured using living microorganisms, plants, or animal cells. Many are produced using recombinant DNA technology. They're sometimes referred to as biopharmaceuticals or biological drugs.

Biologics are changing the ways doctors treat common conditions that have plagued people for years. They've revolutionized the treatment of many serious and chronic illnesses and have nudged traditional small-molecule drugs out of the top sales slots. 

Rheumatoid arthritis, certain cancers, and diabetes have the greatest numbers of dedicated biologic treatments.

Generic Biologics

While most drugs are chemicals synthesized from other chemicals, biologics are much more expensive due to their complex manufacturing process. Because of their high cost, there is a great demand for generic versions of biologic medications.

Several pharmaceutical companies are lobbying for the right to manufacture generic versions. However, because they are so difficult to manufacture, there are concerns about the ability to manufacture generics both safely and reliably.

They're not exactly generics, but in recent years, numerous biosimilars have come on the market, usually at a much lower cost than the original biologic they're based on.

Top 10 Biologics

The top 10 biologic drugs all have exceeded the monetary definition of a "blockbuster," meaning they've generated more than $1 billion in annual sales, according to 2017 sales data reported by drug manufacturers.

1

Humira

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The anti-inflammatory drug Humira (adalimumab) is not only the best-selling biologic, it's one of the best-selling drugs worldwide, regardless of class. 

Humira is approved for:

Manufacturer: AbbVie, an Abbott Laboratories spinoff

Global Sales in 2017: $18.4 billion

Generic name: Adalimumab

Launch date: 2002

2

Rituxan

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Rituxan (rituximab) was developed by IDEC Pharmaceuticals. It's currently co-marketed in the United States by Biogen Idec and Roche subsidiary Genentech.

Rituxan is approved for:

Manufacturer: Roche

Global Sales in 2017: $9.2 billion

Generic name: Rituximab

Launch date: 1997

3

Enbrel

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Enbrel (etanercept) was developed by researchers at Immunex. Today the drug is co-marketed in North America by Amgen and Pfizer, by Takeda Pharmaceuticals in Japan, and by Wyeth in the rest of the world.

Enbrel is approved for:

  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Plaque psoriasis
  • Psoriatic arthritis

Manufacturer: Pfizer/Amgen

Global Sales in 2017: $7.9 billion

Generic name: Etanercept

Launch date: 1998

4

Herceptin

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Herceptin (trastuzumab) was developed by Genentech, now a Roche subsidiary, and UCLA's Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center.

Herceptin is approved for: HER2+ breast cancer

Manufacturer: Roche

Global Sales in 2017: $7.4 billion

Generic name: Trastuzumab

Launch date: 1998

5

Avastin

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When launched in 2004, Genentech's Avastin (bevacizumab) was one of the most expensive drugs on the market, with a $4,400 monthly price tag.

Avastin is approved for:

Manufacturer: Roche

Global Sales in 2017: $7.1 billion

Generic name: Bevacizumab

Launch date: 2004

6

Remicade

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Remicade (infliximab) was originally developed by Centocor Ortho Biotech, which is now Janssen Biotech, a Johnson & Johnson subsidiary.

Remicade is approved for:

  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Crohn's disease
  • Ankylosing spondylitis
  • Psoriatic arthritis
  • Plaque psoriasis
  • Ulcerative colitis

Manufacturer: Johnson & Johnson/Merck & Co.

Global Sales in 2017: $7.1 billion

Generic name: Infliximab

Launch date: 1998

7

Lantus

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Lantus (insulin glargine injection) was developed at Sanofi-Aventis's biotechnology research center in Frankfurt-Höchst, Germany.

Lantus is approved for: Diabetes

Manufacturer: Sanofi

Global Sales in 2017: $5.7 billion

Generic name: Insulin glargine [rDNA origin] injection

Launch date: 2000

8

Neulasta

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Neulasta (pegfilgrastim) is manufactured by Amgen Pharmaceuticals.

Neulasta is approved for: Neutropenia related to cancer chemotherapy

Manufacturer: Amgen

Global Sales in 2017: $4.7 billion

Generic name: Pegfilgrastim

Launch date: 2002

9

Avonex

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In the U.S., Avonex (interferon beta-1α) is marketed in by Biogen Idec and by Merck under the brand name Rebif.

Gemany's Fraunhofer Institute for Interfacial Engineering and Biotechnology IGB and CinnaGen Company cloned Interferon beta-1α and since 2006 the drug has been sold as CinnoVex, a biosimilar, in Iran.

Avonex/Rebif is approved for: Multiple sclerosis (MS)

Manufacturer: Biogen Idec

Global Sales in 2017: $2.1 billion

Generic name: Interferon beta-1α

Launch date: 1996

10

Lucentis

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Developed by Genentech, the injectable drug Lucentis (ranibizumab) is marketed in the U.S. by Genentech and outside the U.S. by Novartis.

Lucentis is approved for: Age-related macular degeneration

Manufacturer: Roche, Novartis

Global Sales in 2017: $1.5 billion

Generic name: Ranibizumab

Launch date: 2006

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