Biogen's hot MS meds could push Pfizer off its CNS throne

Pfizer ($PFE) is still king of the CNS hill, bringing in sales that top its Big Pharma rivals. But the company could soon face some competition at the top, as Biogen ($BIIB) moves in with promising sales for its multiple sclerosis drugs, according to a report from GlobalData prepared for PMLiVE.

Pfizer raked in $8.1 billion in CNS drug sales in 2014, riding high on numbers for blockbuster pain drug Lyrica and nabbing the number one spot on GlobalData's list. But the company's sales were flat compared with 2013, while Biogen's sales jumped 46% to $8 billion during the same period, earning it the No. 2 spot on the list.

Biogen can thank strong sales of its multiple sclerosis franchise for its rise to the top of the heap, with Tysabri and newcomers Tecfidera and Plegridy bringing home promising numbers for the drugmaker. The company's total MS sales were $2.1 billion in the first quarter of 2015, up from $1.7 billion last year, setting the stage for future success and giving Pfizer a run for its money, PMLiVE notes. But Biogen recently reported slowing sales of launch superstar Tecfidera after lower-than-expected first quarter sales, sending up a few red flags among investors.

And Novartis ($NVS) is nipping at its competitors' heels, grabbing the third spot on GlobalData's list with its CNS revenue increasing 7% to $5.7 billion. Part of the company's success can be attributed to MS pill Gilenya, which competes with Biogen's Tecfidera. The drug brought in $2.5 billion in sales in 2014, a 28% jump from the previous year. But Gilenya was also saddled with safety concerns and potentially serious side effects after its rollout, putting a damper on numbers despite its first-to-market advantage over Tecfidera.

Meanwhile, Eli Lilly ($LLY) and Otsuka fell to the bottom of the CNS barrel with the largest declines in CNS drug sales. Otsuka's sales fell 50% to $5.3 billion in 2014 and Lilly's dropped 28% to $3.5 billion as the drugmakers contended with generic competition for top-selling meds. Otsuka's antipsychotic powerhouse Abilify is feeling the sting of patent losses, bringing in $4.4 billion in sales last year and standing to lose $6.2 billion by 2019. Lilly is dealing with similar woes for schizophrenia med Zyprexa, whose sales have fallen to $1 billion after losing patent protection in 2011.

- read the PMLiVE story
- here's the GlobalData list

Special Reports: The top 10 best-selling multiple sclerosis drugs of 2013 - Tecfidera - Gilenya | The top 15 pharma companies by 2014 revenue