Astellas launches bladder drug, aiming for a $1.9B franchise

Astellas Pharma has rolled out its blockbuster hopeful Myrbetriq in the U.S. It's the Japanese drugmaker's latest step toward a projected $1.9 billion in sales for its overactive-bladder franchise, which also includes the older drug Vesicare.

Astellas is following a time-honored patent-cliff strategy: Launch a new-generation drug to supplement the heading-toward-expiry medication. Build up the new drug, partly by switching patients from the old drug. So, when the older product falls off patent, the pain isn't as intense. Vesicare faces generic competition as early as 2015, when its first patent expires.

Myrbetriq has other competitors in the leaky-bladder space, of course. Pfizer's ($PFE) Detrol and Warner Chilcott's ($WCRX) Enablex are among them. The market is growing, however, as baby boomers age. Some 33 million Americans suffer from the malady, FDA has said.

And Myrbetriq has its selling points: Besides reducing the number of "accidents," the drug helped improve patients' urine-storage capacity. It does have safety risks, however, including heart and liver problems.

- see the release from Astellas