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Company: Millennium Pharmaceuticals, a unit of Takeda Pharmaceutical Industries, in partnership with Johnson & Johnson
2011 sales: $692.7 million
Developer: Millennium Pharmaceuticals
FDA approvals: Multiple myeloma, 2003; mantle cell lymphoma, 2006; first-line multiple myeloma, 2008
If not for Velcade, Millennium Pharmaceuticals probably wouldn't be part of Japan's Takeda Pharmaceutical Industries right now. The Japanese company paid $8.8 billion for Millennium in 2008 as part of its bid to replace sales of Actos and Prevacid, blockbuster treatments that now face generic rivals. And Velcade was pegged as a potential blockbuster at the time--a milestone it achieved later that year.
In the U.S., sales continue to grow at double-digit rates. 2010 sales of $580 million beat 2009 by a 21% margin, and 2011 marked another 19% growth. And that could accelerate significantly this year, now that the drug has an entirely new FDA approval.
The agency gave its blessing to subcutaneous administration of Velcade in January; the drug previously was administered intravenously. Not only was the under-the-skin injection easier, it also proved to reduce side effects in a Phase III trial. Patients who couldn't tolerate Velcade before may be able to now. As Millennium CEO Deborah Dunsire said at the time, "That could be a reason for sales to expand." We'll check back in next year.