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Within traditional big pharma’s sphere, it is hard to believe that Eli Lilly was the biggest riser two years in a row, but the returns do not lie. From January 2014 through to the end of 2015 the Indianapolis-based group rose an incredible two thirds, with the one-year gains of 2015 amounting to 22%. Lilly was particularly bedevilled by the patent cliff of 2011 and 2012, losing Zyprexa and Cymbalta along the way, and thus had to fight its way back from a low base.
The progress of Trulicity and Cyramza, along with the promise of baricitinib, ixekizumab and the great mystery, its Alzheimer’s disease project solanezumab, are helping to drive Lilly along.
Bristol-Myers Squibb’s rise is not as surprising, as its cancer immunotherapy Opdivo is now the poster child for innovation in the pharma sector.
Sanofi, on the other hand, rebounded well in 2015 following a tumultuous 2014. Selecting a new chief executive, signing some licensing deals and declaring itself ready for more dealmaking seems to have brought the French group back into investors’ favour.
Big pharma fallers were led by AbbVie – which had been among the top risers in 2014 as it tried to acquire Shire – along with Novartis and Merck & Co.
In spite of being in some of the sector’s most popular therapy areas, hepatitis C, immunology and oncology, AbbVie had a hard go of 2015 on the public exchanges. A desperate-looking takeout of Pharmacyclics and fears about Humira biosimilars have to be weighing heavy on AbbVie.
Novartis’s position atop pharma sales rankings did little to prevent it from having a bad year, as its Alcon ophthalmology business struggled while its heart failure drug Entresto failed to meet launch expectations. Generic competition for its top-seller, Gleevec, emerged when Sun Pharma announced that it had launched its version in early February 2016, and this also served as a factor in Novartis’s troubles.
Merck & Co’s presence on the top fallers list is more surprising, given that it too has a leading immuno-oncology agent – but looming generic competition for Zetia and Vytorin, along with a steep loss in revenue for its European Remicade business, cannot be helping.