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The World’s Best-Selling Drug Just Lost a Key Patent Battle

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AbbVie's main product could be facing competition. But how soon?Photograph by Kris Tripplaar — Sipa USA / AP

AbbVie’s Humira, the best-selling drug on the planet with a staggering $14 billion in 2016 sales, has lost a key patent battle with a prospective rival product by the small biotech Coherus Biosciences.

The rheumatoid arthritis and psoriasis medicine has recently been a target of biopharma companies that are trying to make generic Humira copycats called “biosimilars.” That’s not surprising given both Humira’s market reach and the steep price of the brand name medication—which has a list price of about $4,500 for a set of two syringes before discounts and rebates, making it a prime target for cheaper alternatives.

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Coherus is developing one such biosimilar and won its case against one of Humira’s patents. Still, the drug has plenty of intellectual protection (at least for now). Its various patents are expected to protect sales through 2022.

Once the drug does fall off the patent cliff, however, AbbVie could be in for some rough times. Humira sales make up more than 60% of its revenues.