Gilead's hep C star Harvoni, BMS' cancer med Opdivo lead ranks of 'exciting' launches

Which launches are the ones to watch? That can vary depending on who you're talking to. But as Bloomberg Intelligence recently found, industry members and healthcare investors have some similar ideas this year--and unsurprisingly, they've got their eyes on Gilead's Harvoni.

In a survey of healthcare investors and members of the Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO) trade group, Bloomberg Intelligence found that 47% of respondents pointed to hep C drugs when asked which 2014 approvals will be the most commercially exciting in 2015. Of those, 76% said they're looking at Harvoni, with fellow Gilead ($GILD) med Sovaldi and AbbVie's ($ABBV) competing Viekira Pak trailing far behind.

It's no surprise Harvoni is stirring up the most attention among last year's FDA green lights. The next-gen therapy--a combo of Sovaldi and a newer antiviral, ledipasvir--recently stole the launch crown from Sovaldi itself, which zoomed to blockbuster status last year. On Harvoni's resume: $2.27 billion in its first quarter on the U.S. market--and that's including two weeks of missed sales time on account of its Oct. 10 approval date.

Behind Harvoni, though, investors and industry diverged a bit. While industry respondents favored Sovaldi over Viekira, for investors, it was the other way around; 14% of them were most amped about AbbVie's med--which touched off a pricing war when the Illinois company struck an exclusive deal with PBM Express Scripts ($ESRX)--versus just 8% who found Sovaldi most intriguing in the hep C category.

Sentiments aligned once again, though, when looking at PD-1 drugs--the red-hot checkpoint inhibitors that recently broke into the cancer market. After the hep C newcomers, this group garnered the most attention, with 28% of participants electing them as most exciting. Again, that's not much of a surprise, considering the promise they've shown in trials. Big Pharma has certainly gotten the message, with Roche ($RHHBY), AstraZeneca ($AZN) and a Merck KGaA/Pfizer ($PFE) team racing to bring their own rivals to market.

The interesting part of the PD-1 findings? Despite Merck's first-to-market advantage for melanoma therapy Keytruda over Bristol-Myers Squibb's ($BMY) Opdivo--and the fact that both drugmakers have rolled out lung cancer data for the treatments--70% of industry and investor respondents agreed that Opdivo would steal the show this year.

- see the survey results (PDF)

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