BMS expects fast-growing Eliquis to take the lead over Xarelto, Pradaxa

Bristol-Myers Squibb ($BMY) and Pfizer's ($PFE) next-gen anticoagulant, Eliquis, may have rolled out at a snail's pace. But these days, the drug is topping Bristol-Myers' sales charts--and the company believes it will top the other drugs in its class before long.

Eliquis posted $602 million in Q4 sales, currently trailing market leader Xarelto from Johnson & Johnson ($JNJ) and Bayer and Boehringer Ingelheim's Pradaxa. But that figure is more than double its haul from the same period last year. Full-year sales increased even more than twofold, landing at $1.86 billion. And the way Bristol CEO Giovanni Caforio sees it, that puts the company "well on our way" to becoming the No. 1 new-age clot-buster worldwide.

Of course, if Eliquis wants to get there, it'll have to deal with some hefty competition. Xarelto, in particular, leads all meds in the class when it comes to indications, and its makers are working on a series of clinical trials to keep the label expansions coming.

Eliquis, though, now beats its brethren in new-to-brand patient share in cardiology in 12 markets around the world, Bristol-Myers CFO Charles Bancroft told investors on the company's Q4 conference call. "[S]trong demand trends" are coming out of key markets such as the U.S., Germany and Japan.

Bristol isn't planning to let up on any of the increased spending that helped Eliquis make big gains last year. The company began its DTC efforts in September of 2013, a year in which Q4 Eliquis revenues tallied just $48 million. Since then, it's been watching the expansion roll, and Caforio promised investors that Eliquis would "continue to be competitively resourced and supported in terms of … growth."

After all, more expansion is exactly what Bristol wants to see, especially with so many of its eggs in the immuno-oncology basket. On that front, checkpoint inhibitor Opdivo impressed in its own right, posting a colossal leap to record $475 million in quarterly sales.

- read the call transcript

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