BMS' Eliquis is 'relatively close' to snagging market lead from J&J's Xarelto, CEO says

Bristol CEO Giovanni Caforio says his company's next-gen anticoagulant is "relatively close" to snagging the market lead.

Last January, Bristol-Myers Squibb CEO Giovanni Caforio said the new-age anticoagulant his company shares with Pfizer was well on its way to taking the market lead over Xarelto from Johnson & Johnson. And this January, it’s knocking on Xarelto’s door.

“The next phase of growth for Eliquis” will come from nabbing the lead spot in the total prescriptions ranking, and “we think we are relatively close to achieving that,” Caforio said during a presentation at the J.P. Morgan Healthcare Conference.

Third-to-market Eliquis already has the No. 1 spot in the institutional setting, including hospitals, and among cardiologists, where it’s surpassed not only next-gen products but old standby warfarin as well. And in the overall market, which includes primary care physicians, its new-to-brand lead on J&J’s star is now at 10%.

“We are beginning to see very, very strong momentum” there, he said.

After a glacial start that underwhelmed analyst expectations by a longshot, Eliquis finally began to pick up the pace in 2014 on the back of an increased marketing spend. And now, Xarelto—which has been sitting pretty in first place since it overtook Boehringer Ingelheim’s Pradaxa—doesn’t look quite as safe as it used to.

Of course, there’s still plenty of room for both drugs to grow, considering the grip warfarin still has on the market. As of last October, 54% of patients were still using the older, less-convenient therapy, thanks in part to the fact that the newer meds—save Pradaxa—have no reversal agent to stop severe bleeding in an emergency.

J&J—along with partner Bayer, which markets the drug overseas—is also banking on its clinical trial program to churn out some new indications for Xarelto, and that’s exactly what it expects to see happen, worldwide pharma chairman Joaquin Duato told investors on last year’s Q3 conference call. J&J is conducting 10 trials with new indications or label expansions in mind, and those line extensions—combined with those the company is planning for Type 2 diabetes med Invokana—“have the potential to drive $3 billion to $5 billion in incremental sales for the cardiovascular franchise,” he said.