Novartis puts Cosentyx on track for $4B-plus with new psoriatic arthritis data

With competitors hot on its trail in the next-gen psoriasis drug market, Novartis ($NVS) is looking to build out the list of indications for its up-and-comer, Cosentyx. And with an eye on that goal, it just scored a boost in psoriatic arthritis, one of two label expansions it's filed for with the FDA.

According to trial results published in The Lancet Monday, Cosentyx got to work quickly on the condition and beat out placebo in treating it. And at the one-year therapy mark, the once-a-month med sustained its efficacy in 64% of patients--something the old guard of psoriatic arthritic drugs, anti-TNFs, can't always do, Reuters notes.

The outcome bodes well for the Swiss drugmaker, which is also waiting for a nod in ankylosing spondylitis--another condition in which Cosentyx this month posted favorable study results at the one-year mark. And if the Basel-based pharma can bag both of those, the competition coming down the pipeline at its Big Pharma rivals--most notably Eli Lilly ($LLY), which is prepping ixekizumab for regulatory submission--won't matter quite so much, it figures.

Novartis' Vas Narasimhan

The way Novartis sees it, annual sales of Cosentyx could top out at as high as $4 billion to $5 billion with a trio of anti-inflammatory approvals under its belt. "These are sizeable indications," Vas Narasimhan, global head of development for Novartis Pharma, told Reuters.

"The global market for biological drugs in these diseases is around $12 billion to $13 billion and growing at a double-digit rate. So when you look at the profile Cosentyx has demonstrated, we believe we can generate the data for this drug to be used as first-line treatment across these indications and achieve that sales level," he said.

Analysts aren't so sure, with consensus estimates coming in at $1.8 billion in 2020. But, as always, the more indications the better--and the less competition, the better, too. Novartis recently got a lift on that second front, too; the fate of AstraZeneca's ($AZN) contender, brodalumab, is up in the air after study patients reported suicidal thoughts, prompting partner Amgen ($AMGN) to bail on the collaboration.

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