(Reuters) – Bristol-Myers Squibb, Sanofi and Novartis have the three top new drugs set to reach the market in 2015, among 11 products each with $1 billion-plus sales potential, according to a Thomson Reuters analysis.
More potential blockbusters are expected to be launched this year than last, in an encouraging sign for the pharmaceutical industry, which relies on new products to replenish sales as older medicines go off patent.
Regulators have been approving more new drugs in recent years but there remains a debate as to how far this will translate into bigger overall sales and profits, since many modern medicines are for rare diseases.
The three biggest potential blockbusters launching this year, however, offer new ways of fighting cancer, high cholesterol and heart failure — all markets targeting relatively large numbers of patients.
In total, 11 of the many new drugs set for launch in 2015 are expected to generate $1 billion-plus annual sales within five years, up from three in 2014, Thomson Reuters Cortellis said in its latest “Drugs to Watch” report on Monday.
Bristol-Myers’ cancer medicine Opdivo tops the list, with projected 2019 sales of $5.7 billion, according to consensus forecasts compiled by Cortellis.
Opdivo belongs to a new class of medicines called PD-1 inhibitors that work by blocking a mechanism tumours use to hide from the immune system, allowing it to recognise and attack cancer cells.
The drug went on sale in Japan in September 2014 but was only approved for melanoma in the United States at the end of December, since when it has also received a green light for lung cancer, underlying the potential that healthcare authorities see in such so-called immunotherapies.
Sanofi’s cholesterol drug Praluent, which is being developed with Regeneron Pharmaceuticals, is expected to generate annual sales in 2019 of $4.4 billion — twice that seen for Amgen’s rival Repatha.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is due to decide this summer whether to approve the two drugs, which both tackle difficult-to-treat cases of high cholesterol by targeting a protein known as PCSK9.
Novartis’ new first-in-class heart failure drug LCZ-696, meanwhile, is forecast to sell $3.7 billion by 2019, following impressive clinical trial results. The drug could win U.S. approval in August.
By Ben Hirschler (Editing by Keith Weir)