J&J's Zytiga's pain relief, ease of use beat Provenge

Johnson & Johnson's ($JNJ) cancer drug Zytiga is wooing prospective prostate cancer patients away from Dendreon's ($DNDN) Provenge, analysts say. As Reuters reports, Zytiga's survival stats are about the same as Provenge's, but the J&J drug works faster to relieve cancer-related pain. Plus, it's more convenient for patients to use--and for doctors to prescribe.

In fact, Zytiga's advance has some analysts lowering their peak sales estimates for Provenge. JMP Securities' Charles Duncan told the news service that he's now expecting Provenge to peak no higher than $500 million. "The bloom is off the rose for Provenge because patients are looking for something that can treat them more quickly," Duncan told Reuters.

Provenge treatment requires an upfront extraction of white blood cells used to make individualized doses, and then, those doses have to be administered by IV. Doctors have to pay for the $93,000 treatment and wait for reimbursement from payers. By contrast, Zytiga is a pill that patients can take on their own. Doctors don't have to serve as financial middlemen. And Zytiga treatment runs about half the cost of Provenge, Reuters says.

Memorial Sloan Kettering's Susan Slovin said she thought Provenge would be used, just not as enthusiastically as it was at first. She summed it up for Reuters this way: "[Zytiga] is taking the market by storm; there is a much faster effect with it," Slovin said. "Pain is markedly improved, along with the ability to eat, drink, go out and do what they normally would do. The patient says, 'Look, I really don't see the need to sit here and send my (blood) to wherever...I want to take a pill and go to Florida.' "

- read the Reuters news