New Zytiga use could double sales potential

Analysts are rejigging their sales estimates for Johnson & Johnson's prostate cancer pill Zytiga, on the promise that it could target a much larger set of patients. Yesterday, J&J ($JNJ) said it unblinded a study of the drug in patients who'd never had chemotherapy, on indications that Zytiga slowed the cancer's growth and might improve survival.

If Zytiga can win a new indication in that patient group, that would more than double its target market, analysts say. And with pre-chemo patients using the drug for a longer timeframe, the gain in sales could be even larger.

Wells Fargo's Larry Biegelsen told Bloomberg that, thanks to this news, he's reviewing his current sales forecast of $914 million by 2013. "There are roughly twice as many pre-chemotherapy prostate-cancer patients as there are post-chemo patients," Biegelsen said. And right now, Zytiga is only FDA-approved for that post-chemo group.

A broader approval would put Zytiga in head-to-head competition with Dendreon's ($DNDN) vaccine, Provenge. But Christopher Raymond, a Robert W. Baird analyst, told Bloomberg that his survey found that most oncologists would prescribe Zytiga. Meanwhile, Citi analyst Bryan Huang ran the numbers on the potential size of the pre-chemo market; at $5,000 a month for Zytiga--and accounting for competition from an experimental Medivation ($MDVN) drug at about the same price--the pre-chemo market in the U.S. would be $2.5 billion a year, he found. Post-chemo he puts at $800 million.

- read the Bloomberg story
- get more from The New York Times