How Amgen Makes Billions On Just A Few Drugs

As unpleasant as chemotherapy is, infections can make it even worse. As the “old saying” goes, if you can reduce the risk of sepsis in cancer patients, the world will be heading your way. Amgen Inc. (AMGN), an American multinational biopharmaceutical company, has achieved precisely this goal and extended hundreds of thousands of lives in the process.

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

Key points to remember

  • 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 (about 25 products), Amgen is one of the largest independent biotech companies in the world.
  • 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 (about 18 products), Amgen is one of the largest independent biotech companies in the world. The company also made at least 10 major business acquisitions.

Top Selling Amgen Products

In 2017, the company generated $22.8 billion in revenue. 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 best-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 acquired (Immunex). Enbrel is patented until 2028. The cost of Enbrel is $1,640.91 per weekly dose of 50 milligrams. So far, generic attempts to replicate the drug have only been able to reduce that price by a few hundred dollars. Amgen sold $4 billion worth of Enbrel in fiscal 2021.

Another of Amgen’s best-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 Neulasta for $1.7 billion in fiscal 2021.

Amgen’s second-tier offerings – EPOGEN, XGEVA and Prolia – also account for a large portion of the company’s sales. EPOGEN (erythropoietin) is used to treat anemia, XGEVA (denosumab) is used to prevent bone events, and Prolia (denosumab) is used to treat osteoporosis. The cost for 10 milliliters of Epogen is approximately $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 medicine and Sensipar/Mimpara is used to treat a common complication in patients with kidney failure. The cost of four milliliters of Aranesp is around $818. The cost of providing KYPROLIS powder for injection is $433. The cost of a supply of 30 tablets of Sensipar/Mimpara is $852.

In fiscal 2019, Amgen recorded $758 million in sales of Aranesp; $654 million in KYPROLIS sales; and $252 million in Sensipar/Mimpara sales.

A small range of products generates huge profits

Although these prices are actually exorbitant, for most people who will be able to receive these treatments, health insurance will cover some of the cost. Without an adequate and comprehensive health insurance plan, the cost of these treatments would be prohibitive. However, for those who can afford these drugs, they can literally save lives (and probably be worth the high cost).

The essential

Amgen and its development team have offered relief to many suffering patients. By devoting its resources to relieving physical pain, the company found its market and generated huge profits. For fiscal 2019, the company reported total revenue of $23.9 billion. However, the company faces increasing competition from generic products and biosimilar treatments. This translated into a 1% decline in total revenue in the fourth quarter of 2019 (compared to the fourth quarter of 2018).