J&J sees Invega franchise boost with FDA nod for longer-acting Trinza version

Johnson & Johnson's ($JNJ) once-a-month antipsychotic med Invega Sustenna is already raking in blockbuster numbers, but the company is eyeing even bigger sales for its franchise with FDA approval for a longer-acting formula.

The agency gave its thumbs-up to Invega Trinza, an injection given four times per year, and that makes it the longest-acting schizophrenia drug on the market, J&J's Janssen unit says. Regulators based their decision on a study that found almost all schizophrenia patients did not relapse while using Invega Trinza.

If all goes to plan, the drug should hit the market by mid-June. But patients will need to take the once-a-month dosing option for at least four months before starting on Invega Trinza, according to Reuters.

The regulatory blessing comes months after the FDA granted J&J priority review for the drug, whittling four months off its usual review time. J&J already enjoys blockbuster sales for Invega Sustenna, which is approved to treat schizophrenia and bipolar disorder; that formula racked up $411 million during the first quarter and snagged $1.5 billion in 2014--a 27.2% hop year-over-year. J&J's original, short-acting formula of the drug raked in $161 million in Q4 and $640 million last year, a 9.8% jump.

The new quarterly formula could help J&J keep the Invega brand magic alive, long after the original Invega patent expiration in 2014. Pharma market research firm Decision Resources predicts that the new med will be one of the main growth drivers in the schizophrenia market, which is expected to swell to $6.4 billion in 2017 from $5.9 billion in 2013.

But J&J is not the only company looking to cash in on the long-acting antipsychotic market. Lundbeck and Otsuka boast their own once-a-month antipsychotic, Abilify Maintena, and analysts set peak sales of that drug between $500 million and $1 billion. Eli Lilly ($LLY) sells a long-acting version of its blockbuster Zyprexa, dubbed Zyprexa Relprevv, which has helped keep that brand running after the original pill went generic--albeit at a slower pace. The once-megablockbuster franchise brought in $219 million during the first quarter and $1 billion last year.

And J&J could use a boost as it faces competition for other drugs, namely hep C powerhouse Olysio. The drug took a beating during the first quarter when pitted up against Gilead Sciences' ($GILD) Harvoni and AbbVie's ($ABBV) Viekira Pak, with sales dropping by two-thirds. And while newer meds such as psoriasis drug Stelara and clot fighter Xarelto posted solid numbers, J&J will still have some ground to cover to eke out growth this year.

- see the J&J release
- read the Reuters story

Special Reports: The top 10 pharma companies by 2013 revenue - Johnson & Johnson | Top 10 drug brands by payments to doctors - Abilify Maintena