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 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 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.

Biologics are changing the ways doctors treat common conditions that have plagued individuals for years.

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.

Top 10 Biologics

The 10 drugs on the list all have exceeded the monetary definition of a "blockbuster" which designates a drug as having generated more than $1 billion in annual sales. Figures are based on 2018 sales data reported by the respective manufacturers for revenues generated in 2017.

01
Humira

Woman rubbing hands
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The anti-inflammatory drug Humira was not only the best-selling biologic; it is one of the best-selling drugs 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 spinoff

Global Sales in 2017: $18.4 billion

Generic name: Adalimumab

Launch date: 2002

02
Rituxan

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 2017: $9.2 billion

Generic name: Rituximab

Launch date: 1997

03
Enbrel

Doctor examining woman's hands
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Enbrel 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 2017: $7.9 billion

Generic name: Etanercept

Launch date: 1998

04
Herceptin

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

Indication:  HER2+ breast cancer

Manufacturer: Roche

Global Sales in 2017: $7.4 billion

Generic name: Trastuzumab

Launch date: 1998

05
Avastin

Woman getting a mamogram
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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 2017: $7.1 billion

Generic name: Bevacizumab

Launch date: 2004

06
Remicade

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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 2017: $7.1 billion

Generic name: Infliximab

Launch date: 1998

07
Lantus

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

Indication: Diabetes

Manufacturer: Sanofi

Global Sales in 2017: $5.7 billion

Generic name: Insulin glargine [rDNA origin] injection

Launch date: 2000

08
Neulasta

Chemotherapy
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Indication: Neutropenia related to cancer chemotherapy

Manufacturer: Amgen

Global Sales in 2017: $4.7 billion

Generic name: Pegfilgrastim

Launch date: 2002

09
Avonex

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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 2017: $2.1 billion

Generic name: Interferon beta-1a

Launch date: 1996

10
Lucentis

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 2017: $1.5 billion

Generic name: Ranibizumab

Launch date: 2006