Eli Lilly has snared a big new indication for its cancer drug Alimta. The FDA has blessed the drug as a maintenance treatment for advanced lung cancer. Rather than stopping treatment after several rounds of chemo, patients would be able to continue using Alimta. Because prolonged treatment means prolonged sales, the new use could help Lilly grow Alimta sales significantly.
Why now? According to the Wall Street Journal, studies released earlier this year showed that drugs like Alimta can prolong life without the side effects of chemo.
"This drug represents a new approach in the treatment of advanced non-small cell lung cancer," said Dr. Richard Pazdur, the FDA's oncology drug director, in a statement. "Typically, patients whose tumors respond to chemotherapy do not receive further treatment after four-to-six chemotherapy cycles. This study demonstrates an advantage in overall survival in certain patients who received Alimta for maintenance therapy."
Other meds are awaiting possible FDA OK as cancer maintenance therapies, including Roche's Tarceva.