Pfizer's early bird Ibrance making the most of its head start, execs say

If the early bird catches the worm, then Pfizer's ($PFE) breast cancer drug Ibrance--which won a quick approval more than two months ahead of the FDA's decision date--should be feasting. And according to company execs, it is.

Pfizer's Albert Bourla

More than 800 healthcare practitioners are prescribing the med so far, and they've written about 3,000 total scripts, Albert Bourla--Pfizer's president of its Vaccines, Oncology and Consumer division--recently told investors on the company's Q1 conference call. 2,000 patients have already started up treatment, resulting in first-line market share of 10%.

"That's way ahead of previous analogues," he said on the call.

And it was a fast-moving Ibrance team that made it all possible, CEO Ian Read said, doing a "remarkable job" of getting the treatment out to patients quickly after the surprisingly early approval. That mad dash paid off, with the drug posting $38 million in sales to the $35 million analysts expected--a performance that had Read "extremely pleased."

Pfizer CEO Ian Read

The cancer revenues are important for Pfizer, which has said it's looking to bulk up its operating units to prepare for a potential split-up later. And though it's early, Bourla and his Pfizer colleagues expect Ibrance sales to keep rolling in, with the therapy--a CDK inhibitor targeting tumors that are estrogen-receptor-positive but HER2-negative--gradually growing to "become a new standard of care," he said.

It won't stop there, either. "Over time momentum in breast cancer will build beyond first-line as other studies read out positive," he pledged. And so far, Ibrance looks poised to deliver on that promise: In April, impressive second-line data for Ibrance convinced Pfizer to call an early halt to its PALOMA-3 trial.

While later-line label expansions won't necessarily bolster sales all that much, they will bolster confidence in the med's mechanics of action, Bourla said. What will bolster sales is an EU nod, which Pfizer will seek in the second half of this year.

- read the call transcript

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