Stelara - Johnson & Johnson

Stelara (ustekinumab)
Johnson & Johnson
Launch Date: February 2009
First Full-Year Sales (2010): $393 million
First-Half 2013 Sales: $717 million
Analyst Estimate for 2018: $2.1 billion

J&J's ($JNJ) psoriasis drug Stelara often gets second billing to Zytiga among the new blockbusters on the pharma giant's block, but it's been a star performer nevertheless. Its winning strategy--identifying promising blockbuster candidates, hustling them on to an approval and following that up with an ambitious global marketing launch--has worked well with a variety of new drugs on the market, and Stelara is no exception. In fact, the anti-inflammatory drug's success has surprised analysts--and served as a welcome break from the incessant news about problems plaguing J&J's manufacturing operations.

When FiercePharma featured the new drugs approved in 2009, some analysts projected Stelara would earn a half-billion dollars in 2013. J&J obviously delivered better than that. By the end of the drug's first full year on the market, it had brought in $393 million, making it the year's most successful launch, according to IMS Health.

J&J had positioned the drug for a big coup with a promising head-to-head showdown with the Amgen/Pfizer blockbuster Enbrel in psoriasis patients. Whereas Enbrel is an anti-TNF-alpha drug, Stelara uses a different mechanism of action. It targets IL-12 and IL-23, which play a big role in disease pathogenesis. Stelara delivered improved efficacy data from that head-to-head trial in 2010, giving it a new edge on its rival.

One researcher who participated in that trial called Stelara "dramatically effective" and deemed it one of the most effective treatments ever for psoriasis. Plus, Stelara is dosed less frequently than Enbrel is, making it more of a favorite for patients. Though Stelara has yet to reach Enbrel's sales heights, it did hit $1.025 billion in sales in 2012, and it's on track to approach $1.5 billion for 2013.

The numbers should stay on the rise. Stelara is approved in 74 countries for plaque psoriasis and nabbed an FDA approval for psoriatic arthritis just days ago. The European Commission came through on the indication as well, offering new avenues for marketing growth. More than 6 million people in the U.S. and Europe suffer from the disease. With the new indication, some optimistic analysts figure Stelara could hit $2.74 billion by 2016.

For more:
J&J drug sales leap 12%, with Zytiga, Stelara leading growth
Zytiga, Stelara help boost J&J pharma sales
Abbott suit intensifies fight with J&J
Amgen defends Enbrel after J&J wins trial
Experimental psoriasis drug beats Enbrel in study

-- Tracy Staton (email | Twitter)

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Stelara - Johnson & Johnson