Will new label help Bristol's Orencia?

Could a label change help Bristol-Myers Squibb give a big boost to arthritis remedy Orencia? The company hopes so. The drug's label had specified Orencia use for patients who didn't respond to treatment with other drugs such as methotrexate. Now, the label can carry info on using the drug in patients who have had the disease for two years or less, even if they haven't tried other meds.

Bristol will have to persuade doctors to use Orencia in combination with methotraxate, rather than adding it only if methotrexate isn't sufficient. As Motley Fool points out, that job could be tough, given that Orencia is an expensive infusion drug, whereas methotrexate is available as a cheap generic pill. Why bring out the expensive guns from the get-go?

Marketing can work wonders, however. Already Bristol has seen some success with an offer to take on Orencia copayments for six months while patients try out the drug; sales were up by 41 percent during the first half of this year, Motley Fool says. But the drug still has a ways to go; back when it was approved in 2005, analysts were hoping for blockbuster status by now, and 2008 sales amounted to less than half that, at $441 million. We'll have to wait and see what Bristol can do.

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