Despite pomp and circumstance, 2014's looking short on blockbusters

Biopharma's long-heralded return to R&D ROI may come up short this year, according to EvaluatePharma, and the next class of approved drugs features fewer blockbusters in waiting than in any of the previous four years.

Looking at 5-year-out sales projections, EvaluatePharma sees just three drugs likely to cross the billion-dollar threshold: GlaxoSmithKline ($GSK) and Theravance's ($THRX) COPD therapy Anoro Ellipta, Takeda and Lundbeck's depression drug Brintellix, and Celgene's ($CELG) psoriasis-treating apremilast. For comparison, 2013's list of launched drugs had 10 blockbusters to be, and there have been at least 6 every year since 2010, according to EvaluatePharma's report.

And it looks even worse on a dollar basis: Those three drugs are expected to bring in about $4.3 billion combined in 2018, a figured easily dwarfed by Class of 2013 notables like Biogen Idec's ($BIIB) Tecfidera, which is estimated to bring in $5.1 billion that year, and Gilead's ($GILD) Sovaldi, which is likely to haul in $7.4 billion at its peak.

The coming year's drug launch hangover could have a trickle-down effect on the prolonged bull market for biopharma stocks, the report figures, as investor excitement could come crashing down when the industry fails to deliver the sure bets that helped make 2013 a standout year for publicly traded drugmakers.

That said, things may not end up being so dire. As EvaluatePharma notes, there's a chance Bristol-Myers Squibb ($BMY) and Merck ($MRK) can pick up accelerated approvals and launch their PD-1-targeting cancer drugs before 2014 runs out, which would heap roughly $5.6 billion onto the year's cumulative sales potential. Furthermore, the group didn't include AbbVie's ($ABBV) promising three-drug hepatitis C hopeful in its model, leaving out a treatment the company expects to launch this year.

And 2014 is not without its high-upside contenders. Novartis' ($NVS) serelaxin, designed to treat heart failure, is pegged to bring in about $903 million by 2018, according to the report, and a strong uptake could push it over the billion-dollar line. Same goes for a trio of diabetes treatments from Eli Lilly ($LLY), Boehringer Ingelheim and MannKind ($MNKD).

- check out EvaluatePharma's report

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