Pfizer takes on Novartis, Lilly with Xeljanz psoriatic arthritis approval

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Pfizer's Xeljanz is headed for blockbuster-land, with $935 million in sales through the year's first nine months.

For the second straight week, there’s a new psoriatic arthritis (PsA) drug on the block.

This week, that drug is Pfizer’s Xeljanz, which nabbed an FDA approval late Thursday to treat patients who haven’t adequately responded to or are intolerant of methotrexate or other disease-modifying medications.

It’s a boost for Xeljanz, which after pulling in $935 million through the first three quarters of the year is on track to crack the blockbuster barrier in 2017. Earlier this year, though, it failed to top AbbVie giant Humira in a head-to-head monotherapy study. And a couple of years back, Pfizer threw in the towel on developing the product for indications in the crowded psoriasis, ankylosing spondylitis and Crohn’s fields, too.

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That’s not to say there aren’t plenty of rivals already playing in PsA. Among them: a pair of next-gen biologics in Novartis’ Cosentyx and Eli Lilly’s Taltz.

RELATED: Novartis looks past psoriasis for even bigger Cosentyx growth frontier

Both Novartis and Lilly are expecting big things from their PsA nods, which Cosentyx grabbed last January and Taltz picked up early this month. The spondyloarthritis markets boast more remaining market opportunity than immunology segments such as rheumatoid arthritis and psoriasis, Novartis recently told investors, and it’s plotting its own head-to-head PsA showdown with Humira.

Lilly, for its part, is counting on the rep relationships it’s built with dermatologists, through Taltz’s psoriasis indication, and rheumatologists, through osteoporosis treatment Forteo, to cue a successful PsA launch.

RELATED: Pfizer's Xeljanz shores up case for ulcerative colitis expansion

Pfizer isn’t stopping with Xeljanz’s psoriatic arthritis entry, though. The therapy has also posted multiple rounds of positive data in ulcerative colitis, and Pfizer has filed for approvals in that indication on both sides of the pond. The FDA, for its part, is set to hand down a decision by March.