Expect drug-ad surge as warfarin rivals hit market

Look out for the advertising onslaught. With a whole slew of new blood-thinners potentially hitting the market, Forbes predicts that DTC ads will hit television and print in a big way. That might not be good news for TV viewers tired of listening to a recitation of potential side effects, but it would definitely be a bright spot for Big Pharma.

Boehringer Ingelheim recently won FDA approval for its warfarin rival Pradaxa, a treatment for the heart rhythm malady atrial fibrillation. Even before the agency blessed the new drug, TV ads were advising viewers to ask their doctors about atrial fibrillation, Forbes points out.

Now, Bayer and Johnson & Johnson ($JNJ) are trumpeting study results showing their clot-preventer Xarelto worked better than warfarin in atrial fibrillation patients. Approved by the European Union for prevention of venous clots, Xarelto will be up for FDA and E.U. approval as an atrial fibrillation treatment by year's end, the companies say. Xarelto is positioned to take a third of the atrial fibrillation market, one analyst told Bloomberg; Bayer itself says $2.73 billion in peak sales is just a "conservative" estimate.

Several more potential rivals for warfarin are in clinical trials. And even if all of them finally get onto the market, there could be space for them to fight over market share. That's because warfarin is a tricky drug to administer; even though it's available in generic form, doctors may turn to this new generation of meds instead; one analyst put the potential market at $14 billion. "[E]xpect all of the polite reticence that has been developing around direct-to-consumer advertising to fade" as the newcomers try to outdo one another, Matthew Herper writes.

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