U.K. cost watchdogs boost J&J's Stelara ahead of hefty competition

U.K. cost watchdogs, which late last year recommended Johnson & Johnson's ($JNJ) Stelara in psoriatic arthritis for some patients, have confirmed the decision to cover the drug. It is providing J&J a boost when it needs it most.

The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) will cover Stelara, used solo or in combination with methotrexate, for treating the condition in adults who haven't responded to certain other therapies--such as AbbVie's ($ABBV) Humira and Pfizer's ($PFE) Enbrel, Pharma Times reports.

The drug first won NICE's favor back in December after J&J did some bargaining with the cost-effectiveness gatekeeper. After turning down Stelara nearly 9 months prior, it agreed to cover the therapy in some patients under a so-called "patient-access scheme," adding to Stelara's green light in plaque psoriasis.

The go-ahead will give the quick-launcher a lift against some hefty forthcoming psoriasis competition, with a next-gen crop of meds coming up quickly through Big Pharma's pipelines. As of this year, Novartis' ($NVS) Cosentyx--which bested Stelara in head-to-head trials--is already on the market, and rivals including Eli Lilly ($LLY) and Merck ($MRK) are hard at work on their own prospects, too.

Stelara should still be able to hold its own, though, analysts expect. They've forecast $1.4 billion in global sales by this year. And J&J is working on its own new-age psoriasis med, too: Its IL-23 inhibitor guselkumab is currently in Phase III trials.

- read the PT story

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