J&J chief touts $1B-plus prospects for coming psoriasis med guselkumab

Johnson & Johnson CEO Alex Gorsky

Johnson & Johnson ($JNJ) knows that "competition in the immunology space is fierce," as CEO Alex Gorsky admitted on the company's second-quarter conference call. After all, companies developing next-gen psoriasis-fighters have recently been going head-to-head against the company's Stelara to prove their efficacy. But the New Jersey pharma giant isn't planning on being left behind.

On Tuesday, Gorsky highlighted a pair of "potential $1 billion-plus" sellers in its immunology pipeline--including guselkumab, a psoriasis drug now in Phase III testing.

His reassurances follow study data showing that moderate-to-high doses of the investigative drug cleared nearly all psoriasis plaques on a higher percentage of patients than standard doses of AbbVie's ($ABBV) market leader, Humira. The Phase IIb study was published in the New England Journal of Medicine last week.

Of course, guselkumab will have other new rivals to face down when it hits the market. Novartis' ($NVS) Cosentyx, approved earlier this year, is already racing to pick up market share before the arrival of other new-age meds. And Eli Lilly ($LLY), AstraZeneca ($AZN) and Merck ($MRK) are all in the development race, too, with their ixekizumab, brodalumab and MK-3222, respectively.

But the new J&J med should help pick up the slack if Stelara cedes share to the newcomers. Both Cosentyx and brodalumab have topped the fast-growing J&J blockbuster in head-to-head trials, though thanks to recent side-effect reports that led Amgen ($AMGN) to truncate its brodalumab collaboration with AZ, that candidate's prospects are up in the air.

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