Sovaldi, Keytruda march into the Elite Eight as #FierceMadness comes down to the wire

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The #FierceMadness Sweet Sixteen saw no shortage of action this weekend. Top-seeded Zerbaxa and Vimizim came one step closer to the ultimate prize. Sixteenth-seeded Saxenda's Cinderella story finally came to an end. And over here, we had our very own Sally Field "You like us!" moment when someone cared enough to either round up 1,024 of their nearest and dearest to vote in the oncology bracket, or automate the process with a bot that cast a ballot for Imbruvica every four seconds.

At the end of it all, we're left with just 8 drugs that still have a shot to bring home the glory--and plenty of questions about which it'll be. Only two things are clear: It'll be a battle till the end, and it's up to you to make it happen for your favorite entrant.

So keep voting away (or, you know, getting your computer to do it) through tomorrow night, when we'll close the polls and see who's moving on to--gasp!--the Final Four. And in the meantime, if you happened to name any of the remaining contenders--or if you work with someone who did--please get in touch. We'd love to talk to you for a real, nontrivial story on the process.

On with the Elite Eight!

-- Carly Helfand (email | Twitter) and Damian Garde (email | Twitter)

Anti-infective Region

As one voter opined, Cresemba "sounds like a whole new month of the year, a Christmas/December mash-up." Apparently, 200 of you found that prospect as terrifying as we did, and that was enough to land Zerbaxa--which "sounds like a Carlos Santana album"--in the Elite Eight. But though "X marks the spot for beating infection," Zerbaxa's fellow X-laden Cubist powerhouse, Sivextro, couldn't replicate its success. It fell--with 122 votes to Sovaldi's 200--to the Gilead hep C wunderkind, which, according to one reader, sounds like "solved--like the pill has solved my problem." But while it may not ease the pain from the smarting fourth-round loss, Sivextro will take home a prize in the reader-submitted poetry category. "... After the sun set upon the ruins, Sivextro sat upon the throne unchallenged, feared, and satiated," one wordsmith sonorized. Just beautiful.

No. 1 Zerbaxa vs. No. 7 Sovaldi

Zerbaxa
Maker: Merck ($MRK)
Indication: Bacterial infection
Sounds like: A flowering plant species you shouldn't touch if you find it in the woods

Sovaldi
Maker: Gilead Sciences ($GILD)
Indication: Hepatitis C
Sounds like: A celebrated opera composer

Cardiometabolic and Respiratory Region

At one time, Afrezza--or, as some of you have taken to calling it, "Af-rezzzzzzza!"--seemed to have it all: A catchy pseudo-Italian moniker, a relatively easy path to the later rounds, and a devoted following ("I'm with the Afrezza Nation!" one supporter proclaimed. "We're coming for you, Invokana!"). Thing is, they're not. Afrezza went down to Trulicity by a score of 176-117, meaning it'll be the "space-age college freshman who chases her crush to NYU" that'll get a shot at the J&J drug. Speaking of, Invokana cruised to a 169-113 victory at Saxenda's expense, ending the magical run for the tiny No. 16 seed in an outcome that no doubt disappointed whoever predicted that "Saxenda beats Invokana just like a mysterious World War I spy beats an Eastern European shot putter." Going back to the upcoming conference final, there's not much point in belaboring the details when one voter has already put it so well: "Trulicity sounds like an artificial sweetener. Invokana sounds like a Wiccan festival." So you have that to look forward to.

No. 5 Invokana vs. No. 6 Trulicity

Invokana
Maker: Johnson & Johnson ($JNJ)
Indication: Diabetes
Sounds like: The hostess at a pagan ceremony

Trulicity
Maker: Eli Lilly ($LLY)
Indication: Diabetes
Sounds like: A truly next-generation dating app

Oncology Region

Before we get into what happened in the round of 16, let us take a wistful pause. "Blincyto is my child," wrote one reader as the votes poured in. "As the project manager on Blincyto, I feel strongly that my kid will win the match. Blin, as I like to call her, is ahead of her time--a first in her class, if you will. Mommy and daddy love you and support you! Go Blin!" Ah, but those words grew bitter in the brine of defeat, as Blincyto fell, 418-406, to Keytruda, reminding us that some obstacles cannot be conquered by hope alone; that all things, good or bad, must come to an end; and that youth sport, for all its meritocratic promise, is so often just the opening number in a lifetime of disappointing one's parents. Farewell, Blincyto. Your fight was our fight. Elsewhere, No. 9 Imbruvica bought its ticket to the Elite Eight with a whiff of impropriety, trouncing No. 4 Ibrance, 1,025-580--winning despite its opponent sounding "too much like bromance to not vote for." Now Imbruvica, "a superhero in spandex," takes on Keytruda, "that ex you regretfully gave a key to and now you worry about them potentially inviting themselves over for a visit before you have a chance to change the locks," for a spot in semifinals. Vote!

No. 9 Imbruvica vs. No. 11 Keytruda

Imbruvica
Makers: Johnson & Johnson and Pharmacyclics ($PCYC)
Indication: Leukemia
Sounds like: A high-end camera manufacturer

Keytruda
Maker: Merck
Indication: Melanoma
Sounds like: An unwanted visitor impervious to locks

CNS and Specialty Region

"Vimizim!" exclaimed one CNS and Specialty Region voter, "Get back inside! You know you aren't allowed to play with children who are vaccinated!" And "Vimizim? But I hardly know him!" shouted another. "Isn't Vimizim the name of the people that live in the land of Mella Mallew from the popular Dr. Seuss book 'The Magnificent Tale of the Man and Morquio A?'" wondered a third. And, buoyed by 300 or so similarly inspired supporters, this region's hard-charging juggernaut rolled right into the round of 8. Movantik, the latest contender to get posterized, went into the weekend looking game but was eventually buried under a deluge of arguably suspicious 11th-hour votes for its rival. Meanwhile, No. 10 Hysingla, which "sounds like something a gladiator would use to crush his opponent," put a decisive end to No. 11 Cosentyx's spirited run from the play-in game to the bright lights of the Sweet 16. And now it faces Vimizim, a "visionary grand vizir," as one reader put it, that is looking unstoppable. Who will represent the proud CNS and Specialty Region in the semifinals? Decide below.

No. 1 Vimizim vs. No. 10 Hysingla

Vimizim
Maker: BioMarin ($BMRN)
Indication: Morquio A syndrome
Sounds like: A crossed-out idea from the brainstorming session that led to Wreckx-n-Effect's biggest hit

Hysingla
Maker: Purdue Pharma
Indication: Chronic pain
Sounds like: How first basemen greet runners

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