Look for Eli Lilly's Verzenio to hit $4.6B, thanks to early breast cancer win: analyst

In the kinase inhibitor class of breast cancer drugs, Pfizer’s Ibrance has held a strong lead in market share—and sales—over Eli Lilly’s Verzenio.

But on the heels of Verzenio's strong showing in HR+/HER2- early breast cancer—and Ibrance's miss—one influential analyst figures the Lilly drug will quickly pick up steam. The upshot? About $4.6 billion in sales at the peak, significantly more than most pharma watchers now expect from the med.

Since its launch in 2017, Verzenio’s share of the market in metastatic breast cancer has been “steadily growing,” from 12% early last year to 20% now, Bernstein analyst Ronny Gal wrote in a Monday note to clients. And with a potential launch in HR+/HER2- early breast cancer, the drug's sales are set to ramp up considerably, he said. 

Lilly is “showing success with arguing for differentiation from Ibrance, and the growth will continue when the drug gains approval” in early breast cancer, the analyst wrote. The prediction comes after Verzenio posted impressive data in HR+/HER2- early breast cancer—and after Ibrance failed two studies in early breast cancer.

RELATED: Lilly's Verzenio pressures Pfizer with practice-changing win in early breast cancer

Pfizer’s drug won an FDA approval in 2015 and generated $5.4 billion in sales last year. Verzenio, for its part, scored an FDA approval in 2017—giving Pfizer a considerable head start—and brought in $913 million last year. 

While Pfizer’s drug is already on a strong sales trajectory, Gal says Lilly can expect Verzenio to not only pass the $1 billion blockbuster threshold but gin up billions more than that each year.

Ibrance will “retain market leadership” in metastatic breast cancer, Gal wrote, but he sees Verzenio snagging 28% of that market by 2024. With those share gains plus a potential FDA nod in early breast cancer, Bernstein analysts project $4.6 billion in Verzenio sales in 2024, significantly higher than consensus Wall Street estimates of $3.2 billion. 

RELATED: Pfizer's Ibrance kisses early breast cancer hopes goodbye with 2nd study failure

Last summer, Lilly’s drug—added to standard endocrine therapy after surgery—showed it could significantly reduce the risk of cancer recurrence by 25.3% in patients with high-risk HR-positive, HER2-negative early breast cancer.

One expert said the findings would "change practice." The company filed the data with regulators in the fourth quarter of 2020, according to its recent annual SEC filing.

Meanwhile, Pfizer's Ibrance has failed two studies in early breast cancer. After the second failure, SVB Leerink analyst Geoffrey Porges wrote that there's “no saving adjuvant for Ibrance."