Novartis closes in on lucrative new Cosentyx use with ankylosing spondylitis results

Novartis ($NVS) has the first next-gen psoriasis med on the market in Cosentyx, and it's been spending money to take that first-to-market advantage as far as it can. But the Swiss drugmaker wants the treatment to be first in other indications, too. On that front, it got a boost on Wednesday with some new results in ankylosing spondylitis.

Novartis Pharma Chief David Epstein

At the one-year mark, about 74% of patients in a Phase III trial recorded a clinically significant improvement in their symptoms, the company said. Those data build on prior findings that the drug outperformed placebo at the 16-week mark, and show that Cosentyx's efficacy in the inflammatory disease "is sustained through one year," Vasant Narasimhan, Novartis Pharmaceuticals' global head of development, said in a statement.

It's good news for the pharma giant and Cosentyx, which is angling to be the first IL-17 inhibitor to score a trifecta of indications. That'll involve label expansions into ankylosing spondylitis and psoriatic arthritis, adding to the plaque psoriasis nod it picked up earlier this year from the FDA.

If it can do that, it'll have an open shot at a combined market that checks in at $10 billion--and one that's growing at about 22% a year, Novartis pharma chief David Epstein told Bloomberg in January.

Novartis Pharma's U.S. country head, Christi Shaw

But competitors are on the way, and they're coming in droves. Eli Lilly's ($LLY) ixekizumab, Merck's ($MRK) MK-3222 and Johnson & Johnson's ($JNJ) guselkumab--to name a few--are all coming up through the pipeline, and when they hit the scene, Epstein expects pricing pressure to play into the market-share battle.

"That will give payers more leverage to negotiate price discounts, and I think that's exactly what's going to happen," he told Bloomberg.

In the meantime, it's up to Cosentyx's new frontiers to help it differentiate itself from a payer perspective, Christi Shaw, Novartis Pharma's U.S. country head, told FiercePharma earlier this week.

They'll "give us a competitive advantage, and help a lot more patients as well," she said.

- read Novartis' release

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