Johnson & Johnson's Stelara, pressured on all sides, breaks into adolescent psoriasis market

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J&J's Stelara generated $1.81 billion in H1 sales.

Johnson & Johnson’s Stelara has plenty of new competition in the adult psoriasis market, so it’s gone where many of its rivals haven’t: the adolescent population.

Friday, the medication picked up a nod in patients 12 years of age or older with moderate to severe plaque psoriasis. The go-ahead comes on the back of data from a phase 3 study showing that at least two-thirds of patients receiving Stelara had registered clear or minimal psoriasis by the week 12 treatment mark.

While a Johnson & Johnson spokesman couldn’t say just how many treatable patients the new nod would add to Stelara’s patient pool, he did cite World Health Organization stats showing that about one-third of plaque psoriasis patients develop the condition before 20 years of age. And plaque psoriasis impacts 80% to 90% of the U.S.’ 7.5 million psoriasis sufferers.

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That’s good news for Stelara, which is staring down a lot of new faces on the psoriasis scene. One of those is the drug’s own portfolio-mate, Tremfya, a J&J med that snagged FDA approval in July; it followed behind three other in-class approvals in Novartis’ Cosentyx, Eli Lilly’s Taltz and Valeant’s Siliq.

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Stelara bears approvals in psoriatic arthritis (PsA) and Crohn’s, too, though the competitive landscapes in those disease areas aren’t much thinner. Cosentyx snapped up its own PsA OK early last year, and Taltz and Pfizer pill Xeljanz are chasing their own. On the Crohn’s front, Stelara is contending with biosimilars to anti-TNF giant Remicade, and biosimilars to AbbVie goliath Humira are on the way, too, though it’ll still be awhile before they can launch.

Despite the market crowding, though, Stelara managed to post 17.3% growth through the first six months of 2017, putting up $1.81 billion in sales compared with last year’s’ $1.54 billion H1 haul. That performance pushed J&J’s total immunology haul to $5.89 billion for 2017’s first half, offsetting some of Remicade’s biosimilars-induced decline.