J&J's Simponi Aria approved for RA as it heads for blockbuster stratosphere

Johnson & Johnson ($JNJ) has done particularly well with line extensions for some of its newer drugs and has nabbed another approval for its new-generation rheumatoid arthritis drug Simponi Aria as that drug barrels toward blockbuster territory.

According to J&J's Janssen Biotech unit, the FDA has approved Simponi Aria for infusion in combination with methotrexate to treat moderately to severely active rheumatoid arthritis (RA). The company points out that an estimated 1.3 million Americans and more than 23.5 million people worldwide suffer from RA. 

Simponi last year earned J&J $607 million. The FDA in May approved the drug for ulcerative colitis. J&J developed Simponi as a follow-up to its top-selling autoimmune therapy Remicade, which is also approved for ulcerative colitis and RA. Remicade last year hauled in $6.1 billion. With the ulcerative colitis approval, analysts figure Simponi could hit $1.2 billion by 2016.

J&J has a full pipeline but also is pushing line extensions of existing products to bolster its bottom line. It has 25 significant line extensions it hopes to get by 2017. It expects some of its drugs like Simponi, Velcade and bloodthinner Xarelto to do particularly well in emerging markets. According to a note from Leerink Swann Research in May, J&J ranks No.1 in sales from drugs launched between 2009 and 2013, and it has 11 line extensions pending in the U.S. and Europe. J&J has four line extensions currently in registration in China, and Janssen has 6 brand line extensions planned there by 2017.

- here's the Janssen release