Blockbuster expectations for new J&J prostate drug

Fresh off its agreement to buy the Swiss device maker Synthes, Johnson & Johnson ($JNJ) has gotten another boost. Its new prostate cancer drug, Zytiga, won the FDA's nod for patients who've previously received chemotherapy. Analysts predict the drug will generate $800 million to more than $1 billion in annual sales.

The approval comes two months earlier than expected even under FDA's priority review. It is designed to decrease production of testosterone, which can stimulate growth in prostate cancer cells, and was approved for use in combination with prednisone in patients with late-stage, castration-resistant disease. In a trial, the drug extended patients' lives by an average of four months, Reuters reports.

J&J CEO William Weldon (photo) recently cited Zytiga as one of the drugs he expects to help strengthen the company's prescription drugs business over the next several years. Reuters cites analysts predicting more than $1 billion in sales, while Wells Fargo analyst Larry Biegelsen predicts $800 million in sales by 2015, Bloomberg notes.

Biegelsen expects a wholesale price of $5,000 per month, with typical treatments lasting eight months. That price will help persuade insurers and other payers to reimburse for the new drug, he said. "[Reimbursements] will be fairly broad given the limited available treatment options and the reasonable pricing," he said.

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