Novartis star Cosentyx, facing new rivals, may gain edge as a disease-modifying med

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New Cosentyx data suggest the Novartis drug could modify the course of psoriasis, giving it a potential edge over new rivals from Eli Lilly and Valeant, and potential competitor guselkumab from J&J.

Novartis’ next-gen psoriasis med, Cosentyx, has picked up a couple of competitors since hitting the scene, and more are on the way. But the Swiss drugmaker has some new data in hand that could set its med apart—big-time.

The pharma giant has new study results suggesting that Cosentyx may modify the course of the skin disease, leading to long-term, treatment-free skin clearance, the company said on Tuesday. Among patients assigned to discontinue treatment after one year of Cosentyx therapy, 21% stayed symptom-free for up to a year, while 10% kept their clear skin past the two-year mark.

Those who had suffered from the disease longer before beginning therapy were more likely to relapse. Starting patients on Cosentyx early could help keep relapses at bay, Novartis said.

The data are a first for Cosentyx, and for its class of new-age psoriasis meds, which target the IL-17 immune pathway. The potential for disease modification may boost the Novartis drug over new competitors, which already include Eli Lilly’s Taltz and Valeant’s recently approved Siliq. Other candidates, including Johnson & Johnson’s guselkumab, are making their way through Big Pharma pipelines.

That’s not to say Cosentyx hadn’t already set itself apart. The drug reached blockbuster status last year, racking up $1.1 billion after posting a $261 million performance in 2015. FDA nods in psoriatic arthritis and ankylosing spondylitis—which Novartis nabbed early last January—helped pad the top-line tally.

But while Novartis’ competitors don’t currently boast those indications, the market for those diseases is growing crowded. Pfizer is developing its rheumatoid arthritis pill, Xeljanz, for psoriatic arthritis, and Celgene's psoriasis pill Otezla has a psoriatic arthritis nod, too. On the ankylosing spondylitis front, J&J’s Stelara could eventually give Cosentyx a run for its money, research and consulting firm GlobalData has predicted.