Novartis snags new approvals for Cosentyx in Europe

Novartis ($NVS) has been jockeying for additional uses for its next-gen psoriasis med, Cosentyx, hoping that a trifecta of indications will help generate blockbuster sales and distinguish the drug from its competition in a hot market. Now the med is moving one step closer toward achieving its blockbuster aspirations with an EU nod to treat patients with psoriatic arthritis and ankylosing spondylitis. 

European regulators based their approval on recent studies, which showed that the drug significantly reduced symptoms of psoriatic arthritis and ankylosing spondylitis in patients as early as one week after they started treatment. And Cosentyx continued to deliver results over time.

About 84% of individuals with psoriatic arthritis showed no joint damage on an x-ray after taking the drug for two years. And about 80% of patients with ankylosing spondylitis showed no additional spinal damage on an x-ray after two years on the med.

Novartis' Vas Narasimhan

"The strong treatment benefits seen in our studies suggest that Cosentyx may give patients the chance to stop the disease from progressing, preventing living with pain and disability," Novartis pharma chief David Epstein said in a statement. And the drug "has the potential to become a new standard of care for these common but under-treated inflammatory conditions," he added, offering an advantage over older psoriatic arthritis drugs, anti-TNFs, which don't always get the job done.

New approvals for Cosentyx bode well for Novartis as it chases blockbuster sales for the drug. The Basel-based pharma figures that a trio of indications, including one for plaque psoriasis that it picked up earlier this year, could help it reap $4 billion to $5 billion in annual sales from the med and compete in a rapidly expanding market.

"The global market for biological drugs in these diseases is around $12 billion to $13 billion and growing at a double-digit rate," Vas Narasimhan, global head of development for Novartis Pharma, said over the summer. "So when you look at the profile Cosentyx has demonstrated, we believe we can generate the data for this drug to be used as first-line treatment across these indications and achieve that sales level."

The Street isn't too sure about those numbers, setting its forecast much lower at $1.8 billion in 2020. Still, additional uses could help Novartis set Cosentyx apart from the pack. The drug already competes with Johnson & Johnson's ($JNJ) Stelara, and more treatments are making their way down the pipeline.

Merck ($MRK), J&J and Eli Lilly ($LLY) are all working on new psoriasis contenders, and Valeant ($VRX) recently teamed up with AstraZeneca ($AZN) to develop its candidate, brodalumab. The move came after AstraZeneca's original partner, Amgen ($AMGN), bailed on the collaboration after study patients reported suicidal thoughts.

- here's Novartis' statement
- read the PMLiVE story

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