Novartis' Cosentyx may be the first next-gen psoriasis treatment to hit the U.S. market, but it certainly won't be the last--and the Swiss drugmaker knows it. So while competitors usher their own prospects down the regulatory pathway, the company is girding for the price war it envisions in its future.
|Novartis Pharma Chief David Epstein|
Novartis ($NVS) will price the new treatment "largely on par" with Johnson & Johnson's ($JNJ) Stelara--a blockbuster Cosentyx topped in a head-to-head trial last year, pharma chief David Epstein told investors on the company's Q4 conference call Tuesday. Stelara costs $7,661 per injection for patients weighing less than 220 pounds, J&J told Bloomberg, with a 6-dose treatment course for the initial year of therapy ringing in at $45,966.
The Cosentyx pricing move "is meant to accelerate that market access of that brand," Epstein said--something Novartis wants to do before competition heats up. Eli Lilly ($LLY) is planning to submit its rival IL-17 inhibitor for approval in the first half of this year, while partners Amgen ($AMGN) and AstraZeneca ($AZN) expect to file their contender this year, too. As the industry has seen over the past few months, payers can play new treatments off one another to score discounts--the way Express Scripts ($ESRX), CVS ($CVS) and others have done with new-age hep C-fighters from Gilead ($GILD) and AbbVie ($ABBV).
"When Amgen launches and Lilly launches, assuming they do, that will give payers more leverage to negotiate price discounts, and I think that's exactly what's going to happen," Epstein told Bloomberg. "Hopefully in the time between now and then we will have established a physician community and a patient community that likes our product. We will then fight with them for market share, even if there's pricing pressure."
With the clock ticking on its first-to-market advantage, Novartis is already drumming up anticipation for the drug, which should be available in the U.S. within the next 5 to 12 weeks, a company spokeswoman told FiercePharmaMarketing. As Epstein said on the call, it's putting "full spending" behind the launch "so that we get peak sales in future years for the company"--a haul analysts peg at $1.06 billion by 2019, Bloomberg notes.
But Novartis is looking further into the drug's future, too--specifically at its potential in psoriatic arthritis and ankylosing spondylitis. Novartis figures that if Cosentyx can be the first IL-17 drug to score the trifecta of indications, it'll have an open shot at a combined market that rings in at $10 billion and growing.
"Cosentyx has the opportunity to become a multiblockbuster therapy," Epstein said.
Special Report: Top 15 Drug Launch Superstars - Stelara - Johnson & Johnson