- Swiss pharma Novartis AG believes earlier treatment with its IL-17A inhibitor Cosentyx could alter the path of disease for patients with psoriatic arthritis and ankylosing spondylitis, two inflammatory conditions that are less typically treated with biologics than the more common rheumatoid arthritis and psoriasis.
- Reaching more of those patients could further boost the market for Cosentyx, which launched in 2015 and has already become a top-selling medicine.
- Novartis highlighted the commercial potential of Cosentyx, as well as several other currently experimental drugs, at an "R&D and investor day" held on November 13.
TNF-inhibitors like AbbVie Inc's Humira (adalimumab) have long dominated the immunology marketplace. Newer drugs like Cosentyx (secukinumab) and Eli Lilly's Taltz (ixekizumab) have begun to challenge those entrenched competitors, offering improved efficacy and safety on some measures
Since approval of Cosentyx in early 2015, more than 100,000 patients have been treated with the biologic. Sales climbed past the billion-dollar threshold in 2016 and have already surpassed that total through the first three months of this year.
Not content to rest on its success to date, Novartis detailed this week why it believes it can further build out the market for Cosentyx — highlighting spondyloarthritis in particular.
Taken as a whole, spondyloarthritis refers to a family of inflammatory diseases that involve both joints and the attachment points where ligaments and tendons join up to bone. The condition can affect the spine as well as peripheral joints.
According to Novartis estimates, the global market for spondylarthritis in 2016 totaled $9 billion or about 15% of the $56 billion immunology sector.
Within spondylarthritis, patients can be further segmented into psoriatic arthritis, ankylosing spondylitis and non-radiographic axial spondylarthritis (nrAxSpA)
In the first two subsets, Novartis is currently testing Cosentyx in head-to-head studies against Humira, dubbed SURPASS and EXCEED. In the perhaps unhelpfully abbreviated nrAxSpA, the pharma expects to read out data from a study of Cosentyx in anti-TNF naive patients treated earlier in the course of their disease.
Put together, success in these studies could help Cosetnyx perform well in markets where less than 20% of patients are treated with biologics. Within nrAxSpA, for example, only 28% of the estimated 1.1 million patients in the U.S. and five major EU countries are diagnosed — and only about 7,000 of those received biologic treatment in 2016, according to Novartis.
If Novartis can identify and reach more of those patients, hitting the nearly $3 billion in annual sales currently forecast for Cosentyx by 2018 should be a feasible objective.