Can Lilly & Incyte elbow their way into a crowded market with promising RA drug?
- Baricitinib is an oral JAK inhibitor intended for the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis (RA) being co-developed by Eli Lilly and Incyte.
- In clinical studies, baricitinib proved non-inferior to methotrexate, which is the most commonly used drug for initial treatment of RA.
- Cown analyst Eric Schmidt has predicted $1.5 billion in peak sales potential for the medication.
Eli Lilly is focused on building its pipeline, shoring up its new offering, and highlighting the tremendous potential inherent in its current pipeline—even as it takes calculated risks with drugs, such as solanezumab, which is being developed for the treatment of Alzheimer's diseae (AD).
Lilly's parnership with Incyte on baricitinib looks as close to a sure bet as a company can get. Thus far, the results of phase 3 trials, including a 24-week trial in which the ACR20 response rate was used as an endpoint, have proven strong.
In fact, in one trial, baricitinib outperformed methotrexate. This is an important point because of the side effect profile associated with methotrexate, which makes it difficult to take for long periods of time. According to the Arthritis Foundation, 73% of RA patients who take methotrexate suffer from side effects.
Lilly also conducted successful head-to-head trials of baricitinib versus Enbrel and Humira last year. There is one reason for pause, however: The example of Pfizer's RA drug, Xeljanz (tofacitinib), which was once a favorite of analysts (who had predicted $1.3 billion in revenues for 2016). Xeljanz has only generated $224 million in revenues for the first half of the year.
Nonetheless, Lilly is moving forward with its broader R&D goals, and baricitinib is an important piece of the overall puzzle for the company.