Abbott Laboratories And HUMIRA: Launching A Blockbuster Drug

By Robert Chess, Lyn Denend, Stefanos Zenios
2005 | Case No. OIT44

In a conference room in the northern suburbs of Chicago, excitement was in the air. It was August 2002 and the executive steering committee for Abbott Laboratories’ new rheumatoid arthritis drug had just been notified by the FDA to expect approval significantly ahead of schedule. If everything went smoothly, the compound D2E7 (which had been given the brand name HUMIRA-pronounced hyoo-mera) 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 anti-rheumatic drug (DMARD), when the company purchased Knoll Pharmaceuticals in March 2001. Even though two other major biologic DMARDs had already been approved as therapies for rheumatoid arthritis, Abbott expected HUMIRA to be a “blockbuster” drug for the company. Enbrel, produced and distributed by Immunex (and then acquired by Amgen), was approved in late 1998. Remicade, from Centocor (now a Johnson & Johnson subsidiary), was first-to-market in the summer of 1998 as a treatment for Crohn’s disease and was approved to treat rheumatoid arthritis in 1999. With a significant head start and combined 2002 sales anticipated to exceed $2 billion, these drugs 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, led by Jeff Leiden (president and chief operating officer of Abbott’s Pharmaceutical Products Group), knew that the HUMIRA team would have to carefully orchestrate every aspect of the product’s global launch to quickly and effectively establish HUMIRA in this challenging market. Note: The condensed version of this case explores the drug’s consumer marketing plan, physician sales strategy, and product pricing (27 pages). The complete version also evaluates the company’s customer support model and lifecycle/pipeline management plan for HUMIRA (30 pages).

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