J&J's Stelara may be under fire in psoriasis, but it's positioned to score elsewhere

Novartis ($NVS) is aiming to distinguish new psoriasis med Cosentyx from the rest of the next-gen field by building up its label, adding nods for conditions including ankylosing spondylitis. But it'll have some competition in that space, too.

Johnson & Johnson's ($JNJ) Stelara--currently approved for treating plaque psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis--will eventually give the Swiss drugmaker a run for its money in the field, according to research and consulting firm GlobalData. It expects the med to launch for that condition in the U.S. and 5 European countries--France, Germany, Italy, Spain and the U.K.--in the second half of 2020, following up with a rollout in non-radiographic axial spondyloarthritis in the first half of the following year.

The result? Combined axial spondyloarthritis sales of $244.7 million in 2024, it predicts.

Novartis is counting on an ankylosing spondylitis green light--for which it's already made filings in both the U.S. and Europe--to help Cosentyx stand out from the crowd of new-age psoriasis fighters. Companies like AstraZeneca ($AZN), Merck ($MRK) and J&J are hard at work on their own contenders, but as Novartis pharma chief David Epstein told investors on the Q2 conference call, go-aheads in ankylosing spondylitis and psoriatic arthritis could help take the product's sales as high as $5 billion.

Novartis needn't worry too much, senior GlobalData analyst Heather Leach said in a statement. "Key opinion leaders interviewed by GlobalData expressed a preference for Cosentyx as a first-line therapy, if reimbursed, or following the first anti-TNF failure," she said.

Where Stelara will be able to make its mark, though, is in patients with Crohn's and ulcerative colitis. The therapy is currently in Phase III development as a treatment for both maladies, and if it wins approvals, it'll likely become "the preferred treatment option for patients with inflammatory bowel disease"--a comorbidity frequently seen with axial spondyloarthritis.

By then, blockbuster Stelara may be able to use the boost: In psoriasis, Cosentyx and AZ's brodalumab have both topped the treatment in head-to-head trials.

- read GlobalData's release

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