Eliquis scores DVT/PE recommendation in Europe

Right now, Eliquis, the new-age clot-fighter from Pfizer ($PFE) and Bristol-Myers Squibb ($BMY), is in third place in a three-horse race. But as it tries to catch up to rivals Pradaxa and Xarelto--not to mention the $3-billion-per-year sales forecasts analysts slapped on it in its early days--a new recommendation for expanded use in Europe should give it a boost.

Friday, the European Medicines Agency's (EMA) Committee for Medicinal Products for Human Use (CHMP) recommended the regulator approve Eliquis--primarily a stroke preventer in atrial fibrillation patients--for treating deep vein thrombosis (DVT) and pulmonary embolism (PE) and for preventing recurrent cases.

Eliquis is not new to the DVT/PE arena. In March, it won FDA approval to reduce the risk of blood clots in the legs and lungs following hip or knee replacement surgery, an indication it also boasts in the EU and other countries throughout the world.

But neither are its rivals. Back in April, the FDA green-lighted Pradaxa, from Boehringer Ingelheim, to treat DVT and PE in patients who have already been treated with an injectable anticoagulant, and to reduce the recurrence of the conditions in previously treated patients. And Johnson & Johnson ($JNJ) and Bayer's Xarelto counts a couple DVT and PE related indications among its 6 U.S.-approved uses.

Eliquis has struggled to live up to the hype that surrounded its launch, with analysts' predictions for 2014 sales falling 60% between late 2012 and late 2013, an October report from EP Vantage said. Xarelto, on the other hand, has soared, while Pradaxa has fought to overcome some safety issues and regain the throne after surrendering its first-to-market advantage.

That doesn't mean Eliquis isn't out of the market share battle, however. In January, Bristol CFO Charles Bancroft told investors that the drug was making "significant progress among cardiologists" and was much better positioned, access-wise to start 2014 than it was last year.

BMS CEO Lamberto Andreotti

Both Bristol-Myers and Pfizer are also upping their resources behind the drug, CEO Lamberto Andreotti told investors at the time, despite the former's increased focus on its immuno-oncology portfolio.

"We…remain firmly committed to Eliquis," he said.

- read the release

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