J&J's Stelara, playing defense in psoriasis, posts more positive Crohn's data

Johnson and Johnson's ($JNJ) Stelara is facing fierce new competition in the psoriasis arena. But the New Jersey drugmaker is looking for ways the med can make its mark in other disease areas, and it's touting new data that could help it get there.

Friday, J&J's Janssen unit announced that the therapy had nailed the primary endpoint in a Phase III study of patients with moderate to severe Crohn's disease who had previously failed--or couldn't tolerate--one or more anti-TNF drugs. In the 741-patient trial, the Stelara group put up a significantly higher response rate than the placebo group at Week 6 of therapy, posting marks of 34% and 22%, respectively.

It's another win for the J&J med, which also came through for the company last October; in a separate Phase III Crohn's study, Stelara topped placebo at inducing a clinical response 6 weeks in, and hit a secondary goal by delivering higher rates of clinical response and clinical remission at the 8-week mark, too.

And it's one the pharma giant could use right now. Next-gen psoriasis drugmakers such as Novartis ($NVS) have put a target on the treatment's back, touting their data as they prep for a market showdown. In addition to Novartis, whose Cosentyx has been racking up sales since winning approval last year, Merck ($MRK), Eli Lilly ($LLY), Valeant ($VRX) and others are all working on candidates that could make Stelara sweat.

Those forthcoming rivals make nabbing a label expansion all the more important for J&J, which would like to hang onto the $2.47 billion Stelara raked in last year. Its sales are already suffering from serious competition to former hep C star Olysio, which is now staring down a trio of combo meds led by Gilead's ($GILD) Harvoni.

The Crohn's development race, on the other hand, thinned out not too long ago, when Pfizer ($PFE) in October bailed on a program for Xeljanz.

- read the release

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