Companies: Johnson & Johnson ($JNJ), Takeda, Pharmstandard
2013 Global Sales: $2.6 billion
Indications: Multiple myeloma

Takeda Pharmaceutical snapped up Velcade, and Johnson & Johnson as a partner, in 2008 with its $8.8 billion buyout of Millennium Pharmaceuticals. Velcade has been picking up indications and raking in revenue for Takeda and J&J ever since.

Just a few months ago, the U.K.'s National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) approved it as a first-line treatment for the blood cancer multiple myeloma. Quite a turnaround from 2007 when J&J had to offer the agency a money-back guarantee on any patients who did not respond to the drug to get its initial approval as a treatment in progressive cases.

Earlier it was not a usual discount, but pure serendipity, that led to more sales. A French nurse successfully injected the intravenous drug under the skin of a patient whose veins were out of reach and it not only worked, but worked with fewer side effects. The companies put it through trials for that use, and the FDA approved the drug for subcutaneous injection in 2012. 

Velcade is among the top performers for two drug companies. Sales were up 10% last year for J&J, and sales in the U.S. were about $942 million. But the writing is on the wall for the drug, which will see its patent expire in in the U.S. 2017 and other parts of the world next year. Actavis has already filed with the FDA to make a generic. -- Eric Palmer (email | Twitter)

For more:
J&J's Velcade cleared by U.K. for first-line myeloma treatment in about-face
J&J's Velcade gets stiff-armed at NICE as first-line myeloma treatment