Top 10 Best-Selling Cancer Drugs Globally

Nick Mulcahy

June 12, 2014

The blood cancer therapy rituximab (Rituxan/MabThera, Genentech/Roche) was the world's best-selling oncology drug in 2013, with nearly $8 billion in sales, according to industry data.

The figures are for cancer-related sales only, not for other indications or uses. For example, sales of rituximab for rheumatoid arthritis are not included.

The sales data were compiled by EvaluatePharma, a pharmaceutical intelligence company. The information does not include prescriptions data.

Table. Global Top 10 Selling Oncology Drugs in 2013

Drug Sales (in billions) Cancer Indications
Rituximab (Rituxan/MabThera, Genentech/Roche) $7.78 non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, chronic lymphocytic leukemia
Bevacizumab (Avastin, Genentech/Roche) $6.75 colorectal, lung, kidney, and glioblastoma
Trastuzumab (Herceptin, Genentech/Roche) $6.56 breast, esophageal, and gastric
Imatinib (Gleevec, Novartis) $4.69 variety of leukemias and gastrointestinal stromal tumors
Pegfilgrastim (Neulasta, Amgen) $4.39 febrile neutropenia
Lenalidomide (Revlimid, Celgene) $4.28 multiple myeloma, mantle cell lymphoma, myelodysplastic syndromes
Pemetrexed (Alimta, Eli Lilly) $2.70 lung
Bortezomib (Velcade, Takeda and Johnson & Johnson) $2.61 multiple myeloma, mantle cell lymphoma
Cetuximab (Erbitux, ImClone and Merck) $1.87 colorectal, head and neck
Abiraterone (Zytiga, Johnson & Johnson) $1.70 prostate

 

The top 5 best sellers in the United States match up closely with the global list. The top-selling cancer drug in the United States in 2013 was also rituximab, with sales of $3.59 billion, according to additional data.

That was followed by bevacizumab at $2.78 billion, lenalidomide at $2.49 billion, imatinib at $1.94 billion, and trastuzumab $1.93 billion.

A quick comparison of the 2 sets of figures reveals that the United States accounts for a large portion of global sales.

Not Set in Stone

The list of best-selling cancer drugs is sure to be in flux in the coming years; some top sellers face patent expiration and competition is evolving.

For example, in a recent study, rituximab was found to be inferior to obinutuzumab (Gazya), another Genentech agent, on a number of outcomes when both were added to chemotherapy in previously untreated patients with chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL), as reported by Medscape Medical News.

"These findings suggest that obinutuzumab has the potential to eventually replace rituximab for the care of CLL patients," said investigator Valentin Goede, MD, from University Hospital Cologne in Germany.

In addition, ibrutinib (Imbruvica, Pharmacyclics), already in use in the second-line treatment of CLL, is the subject of a phase 3 trial in the first-line setting. Ibrutinib has been repeatedly called "transformative" and "game-changing" in CLL because of unprecedented response rates in patients who have failed on another therapy. The most recent glowing assessments came 2 weeks ago at the annual meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology, as reported by Medscape Medical News.

Ibrutinib is a first-in-class inhibitor of Bruton's tyrosine kinase, which is essential for B-cell-receptor signaling, homing, and adhesion. The majority of B-cell tumors, including CLL, are dependent on Bruton's tyrosine kinase for proliferation and survival.

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