Celgene's Otezla nabs psoriasis approval, launching next-gen showdown

Celgene's ($CELG) anti-inflammatory newcomer Otezla just took another step toward the powerhouse. The drug won FDA approval in a big market important to its sales: psoriasis, the most common autoimmune disease in the U.S. It's the first in a new generation of psoriasis meds to nab that indication.

And therein lies the challenge for the drug--and the others soon to hit the market. Already up against a raft of tried-and-true treatments, Otezla will soon contend with a crowd of newcomers. Eli Lilly ($LLY), Novartis ($NVS), Amgen ($AMGN), AstraZeneca ($AZN), Merck ($MRK), Johnson & Johnson ($JNJ)--all of them have psoriasis hopefuls, and most have plenty of experience in the anti-inflammatory market.

Other threats? Older psoriasis treatments Humira, Enbrel and Remicade are well entrenched; in fact, they're the three top-selling drugs in the world. Then there are Enbrel biosimilars, targeted by Novartis' generics unit Sandoz and India's Cipla, among others. Remicade biosimilars, too. Johnson & Johnson's ($JNJ) Stelara, one of the market's more recent brand-name entries, has legs already; it's expected to hit $1.4 billion in sales by 2015, according to DataMonitor.

Still, Otezla (apremilast) is expected to hit blockbuster territory by 2018, with $1.3 billion in sales by then. It's a pill, versus an injection, which will help. And Celgene is working on other indications for Otezla, including rheumatoid arthritis, potentially a big one.

- read the Celgene release

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