Abbott Laboratories and HUMIRA: Launching a Blockbuster Drug By Stefanos Zenios, Robert Chess & Lyn Denend

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In August 2002, the FDA had notified the executive steering committee for Abbott Laboratories’ new rheumatoid arthritis drug to expect approval significantly ahead of schedule. If everything went smoothly, the compound D2E7 (brand name HUMIRA) would be approved for sale in the United States before the end of the year. This gave Abbott and its HUMIRA brand team no more than four months to complete preparations for the product’s launch. Abbott acquired D2E7, a biologic disease-modifying antirheumatic drug, when the company purchased Knoll Pharmaceuticals in March 2001. With a significant head start and combined 2002 sales anticipated to exceed $2 billion, Enbrel (from Immunex, later acquired by Amgen) and Remicade (from the Johnson & Johnson subsidiary Centocor) would provide HUMIRA with tough competition. Yet, with the rheumatoid arthritis market expected to grow to over $7.5 billion by 2008, there was still a significant opportunity for Abbott. The executive steering committee knew that the HUMIRA team would have to orchestrate every aspect of the product’s global launch carefully to quickly and effectively establish HUMIRA in this challenging market.

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