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CVS to Replace AbbVie’s Blockbuster Humira With Cheaper Rivals

(Bloomberg) — The biggest US drug-benefits manager is making a move that will take a bite out of sales for one of the world’s top-selling medications.

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Starting April 1, CVS Health Corp. will no longer offer AbbVie Inc.’s Humira to most of the millions of patients in its commercial prescription plans. Instead, they’ll be directed to cheaper copycats of the anti-inflammatory drug that became available last year.

CVS’s Caremark unit is the first major pharmacy benefit manager to announce such a shift. It’s a blow for AbbVie, which managed to keep Humira on PBMs’ lists of covered drugs even when plans added lower-cost versions alongside it.

Humira sales topped $21 billion in 2022, the biggest drug outside of Covid vaccines. With the rise of copycats, known as biosimilars, analysts project sales of Humira to drop to about $9 billion this year.

AbbVie shares fell as much as 4% in trading after US markets closed. A company representative said changes to formularies were expected and that Humira remains widely available.

CVS’s drug plans began adding some of the first new versions of the drug from Sandoz Group AG and other rivals last year. At the same time, CVS joined with Sandoz to co-produce a version of a Humira biosimilar through a new business unit called Cordavis.

Patients who are being switched from Humira to biosimilars will get 60 days’ notice and assistance with the change, CVS said. The substitution is expected to save CVS’s clients more than 50% compared with 2022 prices, before biosimilar competition.

Humira will still be available for employers or health plans that want to keep access to it, CVS said. The changes don’t affect patients on Medicare or Medicaid plans.

CVS’s Cordavis unit will also start selling a version of Humira with AbbVie in the second quarter, though it won’t be preferred on CVS’s commercial drug plans.

(Updates with AbbVie trading and company comment in fifth paragraph.)

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