Opdivo, Praluent and LCZ-696 top a launch crop poised for $27B in sales

What's better than a new drug launch? A launch destined for greatness, of course. For sales and marketing teams, that's about as much job security as you can get. 

And if the prognosticators at Thomson Reuters are correct--frankly, if most prognosticators are correct--the folks with the most job security are those hawking Bristol-Myers Squibb's ($BMY) new cancer immunotherapy Opdivo. Thomson Reuters put the treatment at the top of its blockbusters-to-be list for 2015, with a 2019 sales forecast of $5.68 billion, just the latest set of big expectations for that PD-1 drug.

Plenty of big expectations to go around, too. Opdivo tops a list of 11 meds poised to break the blockbuster barrier, according to Thomson Reuters' annual report on the most promising new drugs. They include closely watched products such as the second-place Praluent, a PCSK9 cholesterol drug from Sanofi ($SNY) and Regeneron ($REGN) that's now at the FDA awaiting a decision. It's pegged with $4.4 billion in 2019 sales.

Novartis pharma chief David Epstein

And of course there's LCZ-696, the Novartis ($NVS) heart failure treatment that's been wearing dollar signs since eye-popping trial data started rolling out. Already dubbed a "megablockbuster" by Novartis pharma chief David Epstein, LCZ-696 carries a $3.73 billion estimate for 2019 sales, per Thomson Reuters.

Sanofi and Novartis each have another new med on the most-promising list: Sanofi's Toujeo, a longer-acting basal insulin designed to follow up on the French drugmaker's top-selling Lantus. Thomson Reuters figures Toujeo can bring in $1.26 billion in 2019 sales. That's a far cry from Lantus' $8 billion haul last year--and Sanofi will have to work hard to grab that kind of share in the increasingly competitive diabetes market, particularly with a Lantus biosimilar poised to pounce.

Novartis' other entry is Cosentyx, its recently approved psoriasis treatment, the first in its class. The company recently unveiled data from a head-to-head trial against Johnson & Johnson's ($JNJ) Stelara, in which Cosentyx topped the older med at clearing the skin. Thomson Reuters sees Cosentyx nabbing just over $1 billion in 2019 sales.

Other drugs with high expectations run the gamut in the pharma business, from Pfizer ($PFE) and its new breast cancer med Ibrance, to Otsuka and Lundbeck's forthcoming schizophrenia and depression candidate brexpiprazole. Amgen ($AMGN) and Astellas and their PCSK9 med evolocumab--a head-to-head rival for Praluent--are pegged with $1.86 billion in 2019 sales. And AbbVie's ($ABBV) new hep C cocktail, Viekira Pak, is expected to reach $2.5 billion by then.

That's a far cry from rival Gilead Sciences' ($GILD) Sovaldi-plus-Harvoni franchise, but with the impending loss of Humira exclusivity, AbbVie can use all the blockbusters it can get. Finally, there's Merck's ($MRK) new iteration of the HPV vaccine Gardasil. The updated version, Gardasil 9, protects against 9 strains of the virus, which can cause cancer. Its 2019 expectations? $1.64 billion.

- get the Thomson Reuters release
- check out the blockbuster report (PDF)

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