EMA nod for key new drugs from GSK, Merck, BMS

Three drugs recently approved in the U.S. to great fanfare have now won recommendations for sale in Europe. The European Medicines Agency's (EMA) Committee for Medicinal Products for Human Use gave its stamp of approval to Benlysta, the lupus drug from GlaxoSmithKline and Human Genome Sciences; Victrelis, Merck's new hepatitis C drug; and Yervoy, the melanoma treatment from Bristol-Myers Squibb.

All three of these meds are expected to become blockbusters, helping to replace revenues that GSK, Merck and BMS will lose as some of their big drugs go off patent. Analysts predict Benlysta will hit $3.5 billion in sales by 2015. Merck's Victrelis is expected to bring in more than $1 billion in annual sales, perhaps more than that now that Merck has hooked up with Roche on the marketing side. And Yervoy is pegged with 2015 revenues of $1.2 billion.

They're all game-changers on the treatment side as well. Benlysta is the first new treatment for lupus in decades, while Yervoy is the first approved drug to help melanoma patients live longer. Victrelis is a first-in-class hep C drug that is expected to help revolutionize the standard treatment by shortening therapy and improving cure rates.

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