The Top 10 Biologic Drugs in the United States

These Drugs Are Changing the Way Illnesses Are Treated

Biologic drugs have nudged traditional small-molecule drugs out of the top sales slots. Rheumatoid arthritis, cancers and diabetes have the greatest number of dedicated biologic treatments. They are changing the ways doctors treat common conditions that have plagued individuals for years. 

What Are Biologics?

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

Biologics have revolutionized the treatment of many serious and chronic illnesses. While most drugs are chemicals synthesized from other chemicals, biologics are produced from living matter. The complex manufacturing process for biologics is why they tend to be much more expensive than other medications. 

Because of their high cost, there is a great demand for generic versions of biologic medications, particularly the ten listed below. Several companies are lobbying for the ability to manufacture generic versions, though because they are so difficult to make, there are concerns about manufacturing generics safely and reliably. 

Top 10 Biologics

The 10 drugs listed below have all greatly exceeded the monetary definition of a blockbuster which designates the drug has more than $1 billion in annual sales.In biologics, where the markets are typically smaller than for other kinds of drugs, that kind of profit is remarkable. 

Biologics began facing competition from biosimilars, sometimes referred to as biogenerics, in 2015 when Rituximab was developed by IDEC Pharmaceuticals under the name IDEC-C2B8.[1] The U.S. patent was issued in 1998 and expired in 2015. Humira lost its patent protection in 2016, while Remicade will lose its protections in 2018.  

The numbers below are for the 2014 fiscal year, the last available date for biologic revenue data:


Woman rubbing hands
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The anti-inflammatory drug Humira was not only the best-selling biologic; it was the best-selling drug worldwide, regardless of class. 

Indications: Rheumatoid arthritis, plaque psoriasis, Crohn's disease,  ulcerative colitis, ankylosing spondylitis; psoriatic arthritis, polyarticular juvenile idiopathic arthritis

Manufacturer: AbbVie, an Abbott Laboratories spin-off

Global Sales in 2014: $13 billion

Generic name: Adalimumab

Launch date: 2002 More


Woman's skin being examined at doctor
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Remicade was originally developed by Centocor Ortho Biotech, which is now Janssen Biotech, a Johnson & Johnson subsidiary.

Indications: Rheumatoid arthritis, Crohn's disease, ankylosing spondylitis, psoriatic arthritis, plaque psoriasis, ulcerative colitis

Manufacturer: Johnson & Johnson/Merck & Co.

Global Sales in 2014: $10.1 billion

Generic name: Infliximab

Launch date: 1998 More


Patient in hospital
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Rituxan (rituximab) was developed by IDEC Pharmaceuticals under the name IDEC-C2B8. Rituxan is currently co-marketed in the United States by Biogen Idec and Roche subsidiary Genentech.

Indication: Non-Hodgkins lymphoma, chronic lymphocytic leukemia,  rheumatoid arthritis

Manufacturer: Roche

Global Sales in 2014: $7.3 billion

Generic name: Rituximab

Launch date: 1997 More


Doctor examining woman's hands
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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.

Indication: Rheumatoid arthritis, plaque psoriasis, psoriatic arthritis

Manufacturer: Pfizer/Amgen

Global Sales in 2014: $9.1 billion

Generic name: Etanercept

Launch date: 1998 More


Mom helping son test blood sugar
Tom Merton/Caiaimage/Getty Images

Lantus was developed at Sanofi-Aventis's biotechnology research center in Frankfurt-Höchst, Germany.

Indication: Diabetes

Manufacturer: Sanofi

Global Sales in 2014: $8.1 billion

Generic name: Insulin glargine [rDNA origin] injection

Launch date: 2000 More


Woman getting a mamogram
Echo/Cultura/Getty Images

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

Indication: Breast, colorectal, kidney, non-small-cell lung, glioblastoma, ovarian cancers

Manufacturer: Roche

Global Sales in 2014: $6.8 billion

Generic name: Bevacizumab

 Launch date: 2004 More


Woman receiving mammogram
Echo/Cultura/Getty Images

Herceptin was developed by Genentech, now a Roche subsidiary, and the University of Californa-Los Angeles' Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center.

Indication:  HER2+ breast cancer

Manufacturer: Roche

Global Sales in 2014: $6.6 billion

Generic name: Trastuzumab

 Launch date: 1998 More


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Indication: Neutropenia related to cancer chemotherapy

Manufacturer: Amgen

Global Sales in 2014: $4.6 billion

Generic name: Pegfilgrastim

Launch date: 2002 More


Eye doctor and patient
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Developed by Genentech, ranibizumab, an injectable, is marketed in the United States by Genentech and by Novartis outside the U.S.

Indication: Age-related macular degeneration

Manufacturer: Roche, Novartis

Global Sales in 2014: $4.2 billion

Generic name: Ranibizumab

Launch date: 2006 More


Nurse feeding patient
Peter Dazeley/Photographer's Choice/Getty Images

Avonex is marketed in the United States 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-1a and since 2006 the drug has been sold as CinnoVex, a biosimilar, in Iran.

Indication: Multiple sclerosis (MS)

Manufacturer: Biogen Idec

Global Sales in 2014: $3 billion

Generic name: Interferon beta-1a

Launch date: 1996 More

Promising biologics in the pipeline:

There are many more biologic medications on the horizon, including drugs to treat melanoma and other cancers. Sanofi and Regeneronhave partnered to develop Alirocumab, a monoclonal antibody for treating hypercholesterolemia. Janssen has received the FDA's "breakthrough" therapy designation for development of its multiple myeloma treatment, Daratumumab, a monoclonal antibody. Merck has also received breakthrough therapy designation by the FDA for MK-3475, a monoclonal antibody, intended for advanced melanoma and other cancers.