AbbVie's Testosterone: Impact Of Health Concerns

| About: AbbVie Inc. (ABBV)

By Jeff Bailey

Feeling listless, less interested in your partner than you’d like, sleepy after dinner?

The folks at AbbVie (NYSE:ABBV) have been asking questions like that for some time, steering middle-aged men feeling like, well, middle-aged men to go see their doctor and ask for some testosterone, namely the company’s AndroGel. The drug saw sales nearly double in the years after AbbVie’s former parent, Abbott (NYSE:ABT), acquired it, and AndroGel has been the second biggest selling drug for AbbVie since it was spun off from Abbott a little more than a year ago.

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ABBV data by YCharts

With a seemingly endless supply of middle-aged American men in a funk, it would seem the drug’s growth, at least through 2015 when generic competition is expected, could be dramatic. AndroGel controls about 60% of the market for testosterone in the U.S., according to AbbVie’s third-quarter 10-Q.

But health concerns are mounting and gaining more attention. Today has to be something of a low point for the testosterone managers at AbbVie headquarters in North Chicago, Ill.: The New York Times carried not one, but two separate articles on the health dangers of testosterone. One in the Tuesday Science section recounted a study warning of “five times the number of cardiovascular problems, including heart attacks and strokes,” among older testosterone users in a study. The concerns have figured in YCharts’ AbbVie coverage.

The other, on the Times op-ed page, ran under the headline, “Don’t Ask Your Doctor About 'Low T'’,” Low T being the marketing phrase AbbVie uses on its website, The op-ed article noted that obesity, diabetes and use of certain other prescription drugs can reduce testosterone and suggests men tackle those problems rather than take drugs like AndroGel, which can increase cardiac risks. The author also penned a book, “Refuel: A 24-Day Eating Plan to Shed Fat, Boost Testosterone, and Pump Up Strength and Stamina,” and it’s doing pretty well over at Amazon (NASDAQ:AMZN). Perhaps these concerns aren’t going away.

The health concerns could already be taking their toll. Sales of AndroGel fell 10% last year to $1.04 billion, and the decline accelerated in the fourth quarter, with sales falling 21% to $289 million.

The latest commentary on AndroGel sales from AbbVie seems to be this from the third-quarter 10-Q:

“AndroGel sales for the third quarter and first nine months of 2013 were impacted by rebates implemented during the second half of 2012 and certain account losses in early 2013. AndroGel continues to hold the number one market share position in the U.S. testosterone replacement market, with approximately 60 percent of the market share. AndroGel 1% sales are expected to be impacted by generic competition in 2015.”

We’ll hope the remarks in the 10-K are a little more on topic. You can unleash financial advisor tools on AbbVie stock. YCharts Pro's AbbVie Rating is strong for fundamentals.

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ABBV Revenue (Quarterly) data by YCharts

There are promising new AbbVie drugs coming along, of course, particularly aimed at hepatitis C, and its flagship drug, the rheumatoid arthritis blockbuster, Humira, rose 15% last year to an astounding $10.7 billion. Beneath Humira, though, there are lots of AbbVie drugs suffering sales declines. And the AndroGel health concerns don’t help.

Disclosure: None