Onyx staffs up for Kyprolis' assault on myeloma market

Onyx Pharmaceuticals has staffed up to launch its newly approved Kyprolis drug for multiple myeloma. The company ($ONXX) hired a dedicated marketing team of about 100, Xconomy reports, comprising sales reps, oncology nurses, and reimbursement specialists.

They'll hit up oncologists for the brand-new drug, now approved to treat patients who've been treated with at least two other meds. At a price of $9,950 per 28-day cycle, treatment is expected to cost an average of $40,000 per patient, Xconomy figures. That's based on numbers from clinical trials, in which the median treatment length was 4.4 monthly cycles. But doctors are likely to keep up the treatment as long as it's working, so in practice, the per-patient cost could be higher.

Multiple myeloma is one of the cancers that has been beaten back by recently developed drugs. Breakthrough treatments such as Velcade, sold by Takeda and Johnson & Johnson ($JNJ), and Celgene's ($CELG) Revlimid have prolonged patients' lives. Adding Kyprolis to the mix could extend that further, but there's no guarantee; the data backing up its approval showed a 23% response rate, with benefits lasting about 7.8 months, The Wall Street Journal points out.

Analysts are looking for upwards of $1.5 billion in peak sales for Kyprolis in the U.S. and EU. J.P. Morgan's Cory Kasimov pegged U.S. sales at $900 million and EU sales at $600 million.

- read the FDA statement
- see the story from Xconomy
- get more from the WSJ

Special Report: Velcade - Top 10 Best-selling Cancer Drugs