Top 5 New Drug Launches of 2019 -- and the Biotech Stocks That Could Win Big

Every year, biopharmaceutical companies introduce new drugs to the market. Some of these drugs become big winners. Others don't.

Market research company EvaluatePharma analyzed all of the drugs that could launch in 2019. The company then projected how much each drug could potentially generate by 2024. Alexion Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ: ALXN), AbbVie (NYSE: ABBV), Aimmune Therapeutics (NASDAQ: AIMT), and bluebird bio (NASDAQ: BLUE) came out on top in EvaluatePharma's ranking of the top five new drug launches expected this year. Here are the drugs that made the list.

1. Ultomiris (Alexion)

EvaluatePharma thinks that the top new drug launched this year will be Alexion's Ultomiris. The drug received FDA approval earlier than expected in December for treating adults with ultra-rare blood disorder paroxysmal nocturnal hemoglobinuria (PNH).

Ultomiris could reach sales of nearly $3.5 billion by 2024, according to EvaluatePharma's projections. It's off to a good start: Alexion reported sales for the drug of $24.6 million in the first quarter.

2. Upadacitinib (AbbVie)

AbbVie's upadacitinib is expected to be the No. 2 new drug launched in 2019. EvaluatePharma thinks the drug could generate sales approaching $2.2 billion by 2024.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is expected to make an approval decision for upadacitinib in treating rheumatoid arthritis in the third quarter of 2019. That could be the the first of several approved indications. AbbVie is also evaluating upadacitinib in late-stage clinical studies targeting atopic dermatitis, Crohn's disease, psoriatic arthritis, and ulcerative colitis.

3. Risankizumab (AbbVie)

Upadacitinib wasn't AbbVie's only immunology drug to make EvaluatePharma's top five list. Risankizumab ranks third with projected 2024 sales of more than $2 billion.

AbbVie won FDA approval for risankizumab in April for treating plaque psoriasis, and the company launched the drug under the brand name Skyrizi earlier this month. AbbVie CEO Rick Gonzalez said in the company's Q1 conference call that Skyrizi should have "more than 50% commercial access by the end of July." That would reflect broad access to the market achieved more quickly than any other psoriasis drug in recent history. AbbVie expects sales for Skyrizi of around $150 million this year.

4. LentiGlobin (Bluebird)

EvaluatePharma thinks that gene therapy LentiGlobin could rake in nearly $1.9 billion by 2024. Bluebird expects European approval for the drug in treating transfusion-dependent beta-thalassemia (TDT) in the second quarter of 2019. Assuming the drug wins approval, the biotech will launch it under the brand name Zynteglo.

An even bigger market opportunity shouldn't be too far behind. Bluebird plans to file for U.S. approval of LentiGlobin by the end of the year.

5. AR101 (Aimmune)

Aimmune's peanut allergy drug AR101 looks like another big winner in EvaluatePharma's estimation. The market research company projects that the drug could pull in almost $1.8 billion by 2024.

However, EvaluatePharma might be a little too optimistic about AR101 launching this year. Aimmune CEO Jayson Dallas said in the company's Q1 conference call that a filing for European approval of the drug is expected in mid-2019. He added that the FDA's review of AR101 could potentially take until January 2020.

Are the stocks good picks?

You might think that with blockbuster drugs either already on the market or likely on the way soon, these biotech stocks would be good picks right now. And you'd be right, in my opinion.

Alexion's Ultomiris should be a great successor to the company's older blockbuster PNH drug Soliris. Sales for AbbVie's top-selling drug Humira are beginning to slip, but Skyrizi and upadacitinib, along with the company's other newer drugs and pipeline candidates, should enable the company to continue growing.

Bluebird also has a very strong pipeline. In addition to LentiGlobin/Zynteglo, the biotech has another promising gene therapy in late-stage development with Lenti-D. Bluebird is also working with Celgene on developing cancer cell therapies ide-cel and bb21217.

All of Aimmune's hopes are riding on AR-101 right now. But with tremendous sales potential for the drug and Aimmune's market cap of only $1.3 billion, I think the stock looks attractive.

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Keith Speights owns shares of AbbVie and Celgene. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Bluebird Bio and Celgene. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.