- New clinical data may help Eli Lilly bolster its position in the psoriasis drug market, just as a recently approved AbbVie treatment amasses greater share.
- A post-marketing study found the red, scaly skin associated with moderate to severe psoriasis had completely cleared in a significantly higher proportion of patients treated with Lilly's Taltz compared to Johnson & Johnson's Tremfya.
- Louise Chen, an analyst at Cantor Fitzgerald, wrote in an Aug. 13 note to clients that the readout is especially good for Lilly because Tremfya and AbbVie's new psoriasis treatment, Skyrizi, work in the same way. Skyrizi is off to a strong launch in the U.S., threatening sales of other biologic treatments for psoriasis like Taltz.
Psoriasis is one the most competitive pharmaceutical markets due to the dozen treatments approved over the past 15 years. While anti-TNF drugs like AbbVie's Humira (adalimumab) and Amgen's Enbrel (etanercept) maintained the lion's share for most of that period, they've started losing ground to a broad class of therapies called interleukin inhibitors.
Taltz (ixekizumab) is one such therapy. It prevents interleukin 17-A, or IL-17A, from binding to its receptor, thereby stifling an immune response. Tremfya (guselkumab) and Skyrizi (risankizumab) are also members of the IL-inhibitor family, though they go after a different receptor known as IL-23.
Skyrizi came to market in May and racked up $48 million by the end of June, a performance that Cowen & Co. analyst Steve Scala described at the time as "one of the biggest launch numbers in my memory." AbbVie now expects Skyrizi to fetch global sales of $250 million in 2019.
Psoriasis drug market has grown crowded over the last 15 years
|Drug||Developer||Mechanism of action||Psoriasis approval date|
|Stelara||J&J||IL-23/IL-12 inhibitor||Sept. 2009|
|Otezla||Celgene||PDE4 inhibitor||Sept. 2014|
|Cosentyx||Novartis||IL-17A inhibitor||Jan. 2015|
|Taltz||Lilly||IL-17A inhibitor||March 2016|
|Siliq||Bausch Health||IL-17RA inhibitor||Feb. 2017|
|Tremfya||J&J||IL-23 inhibitor||July 2017|
|Ilumya||Sun Pharmaceuticals||IL-23 inhibitor||March 2018|
|Skyrizi||AbbVie||IL-23 inhibitor||April 2019|
On an earnings call in July, AbbVie CEO Rick Gonzalez explained the better-than-expected launch was due to patients switching from other biologic drugs on to Skyrizi. He estimated that 77% of the volume was from biologics, with a "significant portion" being patients who were taking IL-17 inhibitors.
"Between Skyrizi now and Humira, we really should capture almost 50% of all in-play patients," Gonzalez said. "I think that gives you some idea of the kind of impact that it's having and the competitiveness of Skyrizi versus those alternatives that are available, whether they're 17s or other 23s or TNFs."
Taltz still achieved double-digit growth despite its new challenger. Lilly recorded $354 million in revenue from the drug during the second quarter, up 61% year-over-year. Analyst consensus pegs 2019 Taltz revenue at $1.4 billion, according to FactSet data cited by Cantor Fitzgerald.
Topline data from the post-marketing study pitting Taltz against Tremfya could also help mitigate Skyrizi's effect on Lilly, even though industry is typically hesitant to draw conclusions across drugs or trials.
Lilly shares were up around 1.6% in late-morning trading Tuesday.