Now that Gilead Sciences (GILD) has won U.S. approval for Sovaldi, investors will shift quickly to focus on tracking the hepatitis C drug's commercial launch.
Gilead is expected to sell a lot of Sovaldi -- and fast. Sell-side analysts, on average, are forecasting U.S. sales of $2.2 billion in 2014, ramping to $6.1 billion in 2015 and $8.5 billion in 2016.
Institutional investors, on average, believe first-year Sovaldi sales will total $2.6 billion, according to a recent survey conducted by ISI Group analyst Mark Schoenebaum.
How does Gilead get to $2 billion-plus in Sovaldi sales in a single year?
The company hasn't provided any sales guidance for the hepatitis C pill yet but here's the roadmap predicted by sell-side analysts:
The company will use the first quarter of 2014 as warm up, delivering "just" $194 million in Sovaldi revenue. The accelerator hits the floor in the second quarter 2014 with sales jumping to $419 million. Third quarter: $611 million. Fourth quarter: $869 million.
[These quarter estimates adds up to $2.1 billion, which is the "old" analyst consensus from two weeks ago. Numbers are already going up.]
Don't worry if you're having a hard time fathoming how a single drug can deliver $2 billion-plus in its first year on the market. It's never been done before.
Vertex Pharmaceuticals' (VRTX) hepatitis C drug Incivek is the current "Fastest Drug Launch Ever" champion.
Approved in May 2011, here's what Incivek sales looked like its first four quarters: $75 million, $420 million, $457 million, $357 million. Total: $1.3 billion.
So, the first year of Gilead's Sovaldi launch is supposed look like Incivek times two.