#FierceMadness: Pfizer's Talzenna, J&J's Spravato hang on for Elite Eight berths

FierceMadness 2020 bracket
Voting begins now to chose the Final Four in #FierceMadness 2020 drug name contest. (Carly Helfand)

Moving into the Final Four of the #FierceMadness drug name tournament, contenders from both Big Pharma and smaller companies remain evenly in play. AbbVie's Skyrizi and Amgen's Evenity made it through the Elite Eight, but so did Alexion's Ultomiris and Vertex's Trikafta. 

But before we move into the Final Four preview, let's recap the Sweet 16, where several matchups were decided by just a handful of votes.

In Infectious Diseases/Primary Care, two close contests saw Evenity eliminate Takeda's Motegrity with a 164-150 vote count and Skyrizi top Roche's Xofluza in a 164-143 decision.

It was a close call in the “battle of the ity’s,” as noted, and there was some uncertainty around the Evenity-Motegrity tilt. “This is a tough choice. Motegrity wins because motility is a clearer benefit (although Evenity is beautiful!),” one person wrote.

In the end, many Evenity commenters liked the "even" and "infinity" connotations of the name. One voter said, “Even and even more—also sounds like infinity,” while another noted that “the persistence of eventuality shall outshine motive and integrity.”

In the category's other contest, Skyrizi beat Xofluza, although many voters were split about the flu drug amid the novel coronoavirus pandemic. There were positive votes “X-O-flu = strike out flu,” but also no’s: “I'd rather think of the sky than anything related to the flu right now.” Skyrizi got the nod for its “blue sky”- and “sky is the limit”-sounding name, with some creative interpretations thrown in. Those included a "greek yogurt rapper," "super cool hovercraft" and, for "Game of Thrones" fans, "Khaleesi's secret fourth dragon."

In the Rare Diseases/Miscellaneous region, the contests were also close. Trikafta edged Alnylam's Onpattro by a 189-182 tally, while vowel-laden, French-sounding favorite Jeuveau from Evolus lost to Ultomiris by a count of 153-144. While Trikafta won many votes for being a groundbreaking cystic fibrosis treatment—one voter said, “I have worked on the development and advancement of Trikafta through the pipeline at Vertex. I have seen, firsthand, the amazing things it has done for the CF community around the world!”—fans also liked the easy-to-say name that reminded them of trifecta. “Sounds like I won something big. I hit the Trikafta!” one wrote.

Ultomiris, which “sounds like a superhero,” edged Jeuveau, the “French inspector solving health mysteries,” by a handful of votes. The “ultimate” name won over comic book enthusiasts, who said, “sounds like the name of a Marvel character” or “the villain from an Avengers movie.”

In Oncology, BeiGene's Brukinsa easily topped Johnson & Johnson's Balversa in the battle of the "B" names, winning by a score of 189-139.

The BTK connection was a game changer for many voters, with Brukinsa also picking up for votes for its strong and brotherly reminders. “Sounds like high end coffee maker or big strong brute,” and “feels like something I would call my brother,” voters said.

The liberty-reminiscent Libtayo from Sanofi and Regeneron, meanwhile, ended its run, with Pfizer's 156-137 Talzenna win. Talzenna “stands tall over the competition,” one person wrote, while another said, “Sounds strong and I thought of Tarzan.” Libtayo fans lobbied hard in the defeat, though, with props to this voter, who wrote, “Life, Libtayo and the pursuit of happiness.”

In the CNS division, Jazz's Sunosi took out play-in contender Aimovig from Amgen by a score of 169-129, with the sun winning the day. “Here comes the sun” was a repeat comment, with other takes, such as, “could use a sunny day in these dark ages,” coming in too. Thinking ahead, another voter said it “reminds me of a summer drink.”

The other contest in the CNS field saw J&J's Spravato eliminate Novartis' Zolgensma with a solid 173-124 victory. Spravato's mechanism helped the winner: “Explains how its used—it's sprayed in the nose,” but it also also got votes for its bravado connection with many voters. “A mashup of ‘spry’ and ‘bravado’ sounds convincing,” one wrote. However, the clever '80s throwback award here goes to “Domo arigato, Mr. Spravato.”

Final Four voting begins now, so vote and comment here through 10 p.m. on Friday. Check back on Monday to find out the last four drug names standing!

Round 3 (Vote here)

Infectious Disease/Primary Care 

 (10) Skyrizi vs. (13) Evenity

Maker: AbbVie
Indication: plaque psoriasis
Sounds like: a Scottish island castle

Maker: Amgen
Indication: osteoporosis
Sounds like: work-life balance in perfect alignment

Rare disease/Miscellaneous

(6) Ultomiris vs. (13) Trikafta 

Maker: Alexion
Indication: paroxysmal nocturnal hemoglobinuria
Sounds like: a cosmetic brand

Maker: Vertex
Indication: cystic fibrosis
Sounds like: three-meat Lebanese kebab


(9) Brukinsa vs. (11) Talzenna

Maker: BeiGene
Indication: mantle cell lymphoma
Sounds like: the bro posse at a hipster consulting firm

Maker: Pfizer
Indication: breast cancer
Sounds like: a hip new Thai restaurant


(11) Spravato vs. (13) Sunosi

Maker: Jazz Pharmaceutical
Indication: narcolepsy, obstructive sleep apnea
Sounds like: incredibly curious 

Maker: J&J Janssen     
Indication: treatment-resistant depression
Sounds like: a newly discovered type of mushroom