How Amgen Makes Billions On Just A Few Drugs

As unpleasant as chemotherapy is, infections can make it even worse. Like the "old saying" goes, if you can reduce cancer patients’ risk of sepsis, the world will beat a path to your door. Amgen Inc. (AMGN), an American multinational biopharmaceutical company, has accomplished precisely that goal and extended hundreds of thousands of lives in the process.

Founded in 1980 as Applied Molecular Genetics, Amgen's current specialty is in human therapeutics. Historically, some of Amgen’s most successful drugs–Neupogen, Prolia, Vectibix, among others–have been used to treat low white blood cell counts, osteoporosis, and colorectal cancer, respectively.

Key Takeaways

  • Amgen employs hundreds of scientists, making it one of the largest private employers in Ventura County, California.
  • While the company’s product line is remarkably small (approximately 25 products), Amgen is one of the world's largest independent biotechnology companies.
  • The company's top-selling drugs between 2017 and 2019 were Enbrel, Neulasta, Prolia, XGEVA, Aranesp, KYPROLIS, EPOGEN, and Sensipar/Mimpara.

Amgen employs hundreds of scientists, making it one of the largest employers in Ventura County, California. The company's headquarters are located in Thousand Oaks, California. While the company’s product line is remarkably small (approximately 18 products), Amgen is one of the world's largest independent biotechnology companies. The company has also made at least 10 major corporate acquisitions.

Top-Selling Amgen Products

In 2017, the company generated a revenue of $22.8 billion. The company's top-selling drugs between 2017 and 2019 were Enbrel, Neulasta, Prolia, XGEVA, Aranesp, KYPROLIS, EPOGEN, and Sensipar/Mimpara.

Enbrel (etanercept) is one of Amgen's top-selling products. It is used to combat severe arthritis and similar inflammatory diseases. First synthesized in the 1990s, it was sold to a company that Amgen later bought (Immunex). Enbrel is patented through 2028. The cost of Enbrel is $1,640.91 per weekly 50-milligram dose. So far, generic attempts at replicating the drug have only been able to reduce that price by a couple of hundred dollars. Amgen sold $4 billion worth of Enbrel in the fiscal year 2021.

Another one of Amgen's top-selling drugs is called Neulasta. Neulasta (pegfilgrastim) is used to treat neutropenia; it acts as a white blood cell stimulant. The cost of Neulasta is $6,417.99 per dose. Amgen sold $1.7 billion worth of Neulasta in the fiscal year 2021.

Amgen’s second-tier offerings–EPOGEN, XGEVA, and Prolia–also make up a large portion of the company’s sales. EPOGEN (erythropoietin) is used to treat anemia, XGEVA (denosumab) is used for the prevention of skeletal-related events, and Prolia (denosumab) is used to treat osteoporosis. The cost for 10 milliliters of Epogen is around $356. The cost of XGEVA is $2,717.15 per dose. The cost of Prolia is $1,477.16 per treatment every six months.

Aranesp, KYPROLIS, and Sensipar/Mimpara are other products that generate a huge amount of sales for Amgen. Aranesp (darbepoetin alfa) is used as a treatment for anemia, KYPROLIS (carfilzomib) is an anti-cancer drug, and Sensipar/Mimpara is used to treat a complication that is common in patients with kidney failure. The cost for four milliliters of Aranesp is around $818. The cost of the supply of one powder for injection of KYPROLIS is $433. The cost for a supply of 30 tablets of Sensipar/Mimpara is $852.

In the fiscal year 2019, Amgen reported $758 million in sales from Aranesp; $654 million in sales from KYPROLIS; and $252 million in sales from Sensipar/Mimpara.

Small Product Line Generates Huge Profits

While these prices are, in fact, exorbitant, for most people that will be able to receive these treatments, health insurance will cover a portion of the cost. Without an adequate and comprehensive health insurance plan, the price of these treatments would be cost-prohibitive. However, for those that can afford these drugs, they can be literally life-saving (and presumably worth the high cost).

The Bottom Line

Amgen and its development team have offered relief to many patients that are suffering. By setting its resources to alleviating physical pain, the company has found its market and generated tremendous profits. For the fiscal year 2019, the company reported total revenues of $23.9 billion. However, the company is facing increasing competition from generic products and biosimilar treatments. This was reflected in a decrease in total revenues of 1% in the fourth quarter of 2019 (compared to the fourth quarter of 2018).

Article Sources
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  2. Amgen. "United States."

  3. Amgen. "About Amgen."

  4. Amgen. "Products."

  5. Amgen. "2019 Letter to Shareholders," Page 3.

  6. Amgen. "Letter to Shareholders 2019, " Page 4, 8.

  7. Amgen. "Letter to Shareholders 2021," Page F-14-16, F-41.

  8. Amgen. "Letter to Shareholders 2017," Page 2.

  9. Amgen. "Letter to Shareholders 2019," Page 3.

  10. U.S. Food and Drug Administration. "Label - Etanercept (Enbrel), Immunex Corporation," Page 1.

  11. Amgen. "Letter to the Stakeholders 2021," Pages 4-6, 58.

  12. Enbrel. "Paying for Enbrel."

  13. Amgen. "Letter to the Stakeholders 2021," Pages 58.

  14. Neulasta. "Paying for Neulasta."

  15. XGEVA. "Home."

  16. Prolia. "How Prolia Works."

  17. EPOGEN. "What Is EPOGEN?"

  18. XGEVA. "Paying or XGEVA."

  19. Prolia. "Paying for Prolia."

  20. Sensipar. "Home."

  21. Aranesp. "Home."

  22. Amgen. "Letter to the Shareholders 2019," Pages 2,44.

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