Novartis stacks up more data for lucrative Cosentyx expansion

Novartis ($NVS) is chasing a pair of new uses for brand-new psoriasis med Cosentyx, and when it comes to psoriatic arthritis, it's piling up the positive data.

On Wednesday, the Swiss drugmaker announced that the med had met its primary endpoint in a Phase III study, recording "rapid and significant" clinical improvements compared with placebo. At week 24, half of patients treated with Cosentyx had hit the mark on the American College of Rheumatology's response criteria, a tool used to measure improvement in psoriatic arthritis symptoms; only 17.3% of patients on placebo reached that threshold.

Results from the study--dubbed FUTURE 1--aren't the first Phase III data to demonstrate Cosentyx' success in psoriatic arthritis. In June, Phase III findings from FUTURE 2, published in The Lancet, showed that Cosentyx got to work quickly on the condition and topped placebo in treating it. At the one-year mark, the once-a-month med was still working effectively in 64% of patients--something the old guard of psoriatic arthritic drugs, anti-TNFs, can't always do.

Novartis is hoping the two studies will help make its case with regulators, who are also reviewing Cosentyx as a treatment for ankylosing spondylitis. If the company can pin down those new indications, Cosentyx should be able to rake in $4 billion to $5 billion in annual sales, Novartis figures.

Novartis' Vas Narasimhan

"The global market for biological drugs in these diseases is around $12 billion to $13 billion and growing at a double-digit rate," Vas Narasimhan, global head of development for Novartis Pharma, told Reuters this summer. "So when you look at the profile Cosentyx has demonstrated, we believe we can generate the data for this drug to be used as first-line treatment across these indications and achieve that sales level."

Wall Street's forecasts, at the moment, are still lower, with consensus coming in at $1.8 billion in 2020. But either way, new uses will help Cosentyx get a leg up on the spate of next-gen psoriasis treatments following it through Big Pharma pipelines. Merck & Co. ($MRK) and Johnson & Johnson ($JNJ), to name a couple, are working on their own psoriasis entrants, while Valeant Pharmaceuticals ($VRX) recently struck a deal with AstraZeneca ($AZN) to develop its candidate, brodalumab.

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