Bristol Myers Squibb can grow through Revlimid generics, execs insist, pointing to key launches

Bristol Myers Squibb CEO Giovanni Caforio debuts new brand
Bristol Myers Squibb CEO Giovanni Caforio, M.D., said the company can grow through 2025 despite key meds losing exclusivity. (Robert Bruschini/Bristol Myers Squibb)

When Bristol Myers Squibb picked up Celgene in its massive 2019 buyout, a key question lingering over the deal was the timing around Revlimid generics. They're now a little more than a year away thanks to a patent settlement, and Bristol execs are busy detailing how the company will continue to grow through the megablockbuster’s decline. 

In short, the answer is new drug launches. BMS is in the early stages of rollouts for anemia med Reblozyl, multiple sclerosis drug Zeposia and acute myeloid leukemia therapy Onureg. The drugs generated $138 million in the fourth quarter of 2020 and $303 million during the year. Still, that's far short of the megabillions generated by blood cancer med Revlimid.

The company has seen high demand for Reblozyl so far, chief commercial officer Chris Boerner said on a conference call Thursday, but he attributed some of that to pent up demand before the approval. Going into 2021, the company will be “tapping into true underlying demand.”

Zeposia’s launch in multiple sclerosis is “going well” despite the pandemic, he said, and BMS sees “considerable opportunity” for growth for the drug. BMS is also seeking an approval in ulcerative colitis via an FDA priority review voucher.

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As for Onureg in AML, patients with the disease still have high unmet need, Boerner said. The drug is approved for continued treatment of AML patients who achieved complete remission or complete remission with incomplete blood count recovery following induction chemotherapy, but who aren't able to complete curative therapy. There’s no “established treatment approach” for the patients, Boerner said, so BMS is working to “build the market” and convince physicians about the "new paradigm" in treatment.

Two other closely watched investigative meds, CAR-T drugs liso-cel and ide-cel, faced setbacks last year but could hit the market in 2021. The company expects the opportunity to launch liso-cel “imminently,” Boerner said, and is focusing on ensuring launch sites are coming online quickly and that patients can access therapy. As for ide-cel, he said the company has a “very strong position in multiple myeloma to leverage.” 

Those next-gen meds were components of a contingent value rights offer tied to the Celgene buyout that didn’t end up paying out thanks to regulatory missteps. 

RELATED: After win at patent office, Bristol Myers inks Revlimid deal with Dr. Reddy's

Meanwhile, Revlimid is still the company's biggest moneymaker. The drug generated $12.1 billion last year and is set to face "volume-limited" generics next March under a patent settlement with Dr. Reddy's Laboratories. In Janaury 2026, the volume limit lifts. 

Despite that loss of exclusivity and others for Pomalyst, Sprycel and Abraxane, Bristol CEO Giovanni Caforio, M.D., said on Thursday's call his company can grow through 2025. BMS expects low- to mid-single-digit revenue growth on average through the middle of the decade, and it's eying bolt-on M&A deals to bolster its position for the second half of the decade. Aside from its new drugs and pending launches, the company has a “rich” mid- to late-stage pipeline, Caforio said.