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January is the kind of month that can make your head spin.
January lends us a default perspective looking back while also forwards. In doing so, we might better see the big picture and what this offers in terms of setting goals and aligning resources. Warren Buffet is almost as famous for suggesting methods to focus priorities, as he is for having sacks of money lying around. Almost. The best place to start looking is what worked last year.
Humira will be the top selling drug in 2021 with around $20 billion in sales, followed by Keytruda at nearly $17 billion, then Revlimid a little under $13 billion, with the rest of the best all coming in around $8 billion—Eliquis, Eylea, Opdivo, Stelara, Biktarvy, Imbruvica, and Xarelto—all household names, if they were not so challenging to pronounce (1). What stands out is the rising complexity and technical bravery of the research and development that went into making these drugs effective and accepted.
Pharmaceutical sophistication has advanced in lockstep with the startling discoveries of the golden biotech era. While working in-the-trenches, it makes sense to intellectually understand how a therapeutic antibody might block a PD 1 receptor, or why a ubiquitin E3 ligase (a kissing cousin of thalidomide) induces tumor cell apoptosis. What requires end-of-year clarity to comprehend is that we are entering at long last an era when we can, shockingly, use the word cancer and the word cure, in the same sentence. This key obvious trend, becoming an imperative in the financial accounting of industry performance, has been somewhat obscured by the limelight stealing COVID-19 vaccines, pills, and rapid tests.
This takes nothing away from pandemic success stories. It does not diminish the salutary effects of increased and improved communications skills across the board. It will have occurred to some of our more alert readers that vaccine and therapeutics sales during 2021 will have dramatically changed the picture of who came out on top in the sales of drugs this year. But that’s precisely the point—those large numbers for COVID-19 vaccines and treatments hide the importance of ongoing progress toward multiple other cures. Pandemic discussion has taken the oxygen out of the room for everyone else. January is the kind of month that can make your head spin.
Statista, Projected Top 10 Global Pharmaceutical Products by Sales in 2026, Statista.com, accessed Dec. 14, 2021.
Chris Spivey is the Editorial Director at BioPharm International.
Vol. 35, No. 1
When referring to this article, please cite it as C. Spivey, “January Makes Your Head Spin,” Pharmaceutical Technology 46 (1) 10 (2022).