Kyprolis - Onyx Pharmaceuticals

Kyprolis (carfilzomib)
Onyx Pharmaceuticals
Launch Date: July 2012
First-Year Sales: $64 million (partial 2012)
First-Half 2013 Sales: $125 million
Analyst Estimate for 2018: $1.7 billion (Jefferies)

Drugs like Celgene's ($CELG) Revlimid and Johnson & Johnson's ($JNJ) Velcade dominate the multiple myeloma market, but that didn't stop Kyprolis from carving out a place for itself when it launched last July. The injectable drug from South San Francisco, CA-based Onyx Pharmaceuticals ($ONXX) nabbed approval as a third-line treatment for the blood cancer and took off from there.

Because Kyprolis would be the only drug Onyx markets on its own, the company beefed up its marketing team for the launch, hiring a staff of 100 sales reps, oncology nurses and reimbursement specialists. Together, they helped bring in $64 million in 2012--a total Onyx tied in the first quarter of 2013 alone. A hefty price tag of $9,950 per 28-day cycle (an average of $40,000 per patient) certainly didn't hurt. But the sales success also reflected Onyx's continued efforts to grow its user base, which expanded by 300 clinics and hospitals last quarter to reach 2,400-plus facilities.

Kyprolis' success didn't go unnoticed. The drug played an integral part in Amgen's ($AMGN) August 2013 agreement to buy Onyx for $10.4 billion. An ongoing trial testing Kyprolis in myeloma patients who've failed on just one prior treatment regimen drew interest from Amgen, too. During negotiations, Amgen asked to see data from that trial, because an approval as a second-line treatment would open the drug up to a much bigger market.

At this point, Kyprolis controls 40% of the market for third-line multiple myeloma therapy, but it's not without its contenders. In February, Celgene launched Pomalyst (pomalidomide), a therapy intended for the same market, pricing it just a tad above Kyprolis at $10,500 per cycle. And Celgene, the myeloma giant behind market leader Revlimid, knows how to compete. But Amgen's Onyx takeover could help Kyprolis expand its territory.

Amgen CEO Robert Bradway thinks so, at least. "Amgen has a unique opportunity to add value to Kyprolis, a product which is at an early and promising stage of its launch," Bradway said in a statement about the deal. Some of that value may come from Amgen's sizable sales and distribution network in the U.S. and Europe, a key frontier for Kyprolis. The company also boasts experience in running clinical trials and deep regulatory knowledge, which could both help Kyprolis expand.

At least one analyst sees no reason why Kyprolis and Pomalyst can't both flourish in the myeloma market. RBC Capital Markets' Michael Yee told Bloomberg in February that he expects doctors to move patients between the two drugs, in some cases prescribing a combination--which would boost sales of both. 

For more:
Amgen nabs Onyx for $10.4B. What's next for Kyprolis?
New Celgene drug packs punch for multiple myeloma market
Onyx staffs up for Kyprolis' assault on myeloma market
Onyx wins accelerated approval for myeloma drug Kyprolis

-- Carly Helfand (email | Twitter)

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Kyprolis - Onyx Pharmaceuticals