Gilead's Sovaldi, GSK's Anoro stand out in 2014's blockbuster crop, report says

Want to take a guess about which three new drugs are marked for greatness in 2014? One of them is obvious. Another, not so much. And the third isn't approved yet.

Gilead's Sovaldi

Gilead Sciences' ($GILD) hepatitis C pill Sovaldi is at the top of Thomson Reuters' annual list of drugs to watch, with GlaxoSmithKline's ($GSK) inhaled respiratory treatment Anoro Ellipta in second place. After crunching the numbers, Thomson Reuters figures both these drugs will break the blockbuster barrier and then some, with 2019 sales of $7.5 billion and $3.1 billion respectively.

And third on that list is Gilead's blood cancer drug idelalisib, expected to nab FDA approval later this year. The Thomson Reuters researchers see that product hitting $1.1 billion in sales by 2019.

Obviously, Sovaldi is well on its way to blockbuster status already. In fact, it's expected to become the most successful drug launch ever, with some sales projections for 2014 topping the Thomson Reuters predictions five years hence. Analysts have predicted up to $10 billion in sales this year, its first on the market. Anoro Ellipta, one of the products GSK is counting on to rebuild its respiratory franchise as top seller Advair goes not-so-gently into the good night, won approval in January to less fanfare, but it's still an important product in that market.

"These treatments are expected to be the highest performing from our list of drugs to watch in 2014," said Charlotte Jago, a Thomson Reuters senior editor and author of the Market Insight report

Several other new therapies are worth watching, however, Jago said. Among the other products highlighted in this year's report is Eli Lilly's ($LLY) diabetes hopeful dulaglutide, a once-weekly GLP-1 treatment that could grab half of that market.

Thomson Reuters is first to admit that its projections aren't infallible. Some of last year's top picks haven't delivered as expected, namely Amarin's ($AMRN) fish-oil-based drug for high triglycerides. The researchers had pegged Vascepa at $2.96 billion-plus in 2017 sales, but that was before an FDA expert panel recommended against a big label extension for the drug. Now, consensus sales estimates stand at $575 million by 2019, Thomson Reuters says. Other blockbuster predictions made last year have borne out so far, however, with sales forecasts updated to 2019. Those include Celgene's ($CELG) new multiple myeloma treatment Pomalyst ($1.8 billion), GlaxoSmithKline's chronic obstructive pulmonary disease treatment Relovair ($2.75 billion) and Roche's breast cancer med Kadcyla ($4.1 billion).

Unfortunately for pharma, however, these top performers could be the exception that proves a new rule. Last year's report questioned whether the year's most promising products would end up demonstrating the enduring power of the blockbuster model--or stand among the few products still able to generate $1 billion-plus in annual sales. The latest consensus sales forecasts "tend to suggest that the latter scenario is playing out," the researchers warn. "[T]he vast majority" of these new meds "are predicted to make sales of less than $1 billion by 2019."

- see the Thomson Reuters release

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