BMS, Pfizer's fast-growing Eliquis is about to steamroll market-leader warfarin: executive

Eliquis grew 40% year over year in the second quarter. (Bristol-Myers Squibb)

Last year, Pfizer and Bristol-Myers Squibb’s Eliquis replaced Johnson & Johnson’s Xarelto as the leader of the novel oral anticoagulant class. And now it’s about to unseat an even bigger foe: warfarin.

The blockbuster is poised to overtake the old-guard clot-fighter, Bristol CEO Giovanni Caforio told analysts on last week’s second-quarter earnings call, and when it does, it’ll lead all oral anticoagulants.

The partners are “now closing the gap” between Eliquis and warfarin, and the lead should change hands “within the coming weeks,” Johanna Mercier, head of U.S. commercial for the New Jersey drugmaker, said on the call.

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BMS and Pfizer have a big second-quarter performance from Eliquis to thank for putting the next-gen blood thinner within striking distance. Nearly six years after launching, the product posted 40% growth for the quarter, lifting sales to $1.65 billion. It’s “just an incredible growth story,” Mercier said.

And it’s not over, executives stressed. “We … continue to see prescription trends that signify further expansion of the NOAC class,” CFO Charlie Bancroft said, predicting a “significant further decline in warfarin usage.” Right now, warfarin boasts nearly 40% share of all prescriptions for oral anticoagulants, but it can claim only about half of that share of new prescriptions.

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Of course, Eliquis’ leading rivals—Xarelto and Boehringer Ingelheim’s Pradaxa, which for years looked down on Eliquis as an underperforming, third-to-market drug—are eager to snap up share from warfarin, too. But “as NOAC usage expands, we expect Eliquis to maintain its leading position in the class with substantial growth momentum going forward,” Bancroft said.

That’s not to say market expansion opportunities that could benefit all three NOAC contenders aren’t still out there. In addition to the “30% of those TRx patients on warfarin that are actually uncontrolled,” there are roughly 1 million patients who are diagnosed and not treated, plus another 1 million that are undiagnosed, Mercier added.