After 5 years, Eliquis' growth ceiling is nowhere in sight: Bristol-Myers CEO

SAN FRANCISCO—People often ask Bristol-Myers Squibb CEO Giovanni Caforio how much growth is still ahead for Eliquis, the next-gen anticoagulant the company shares with Pfizer.

His answer? Plenty.

"There’s still significant growth ahead,” Caforio told investors Tuesday at the J.P. Morgan Healthcare Conference, despite the fact that the FDA first approved the product just over five years ago.

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While Eliquis and others in its class of next-gen anticoagulants are “rapidly penetrating” the warfarin market from a total prescriptions perspective, in the U.S., the class still boasts just 55% of the market. New-to-brand prescriptions, on the other hand, are “already three-quarters of the market, so right there, there is clearly opportunity for growth,” Caforio pointed out.

And the way he sees it, as that number picks up, Eliquis—the class’ “leading agent”—is “clearly going to be growing disproportionately,” he said.

Eliquis is coming off a strong 2017 in which it stole the market-share crown from Xarelto, a Johnson & Johnson med. Sales of Eliquis topped Wall Street estimates in the first and second quarters, and while the product couldn’t follow up in the third quarter thanks to a U.S. coverage gap, it did post worldwide growth of 39% and an 8% sequential increase in total prescriptions as part of a performance Bristol CFO Charlie Bancroft called “exceptional.”

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J&J and partner Bayer, meanwhile, aren’t just sitting around with Xarelto. In August, the pair rolled out data showing that Xarelto, when paired with aspirin, could top aspirin alone—the current standard of care—at slashing the likelihood of a cardiovascular event in patients with coronary artery disease and/or peripheral artery disease.

Xarelto “will benefit significantly” from those results, Bayer pharma head Dieter Weinand said during a Monday fireside chat, adding, “it’s quite compelling clinical data. We think that will help us grow Xarelto on a global scale.”