Drug Launches to Watch in 2019
Even though cancer is most likely the most sought-after indication in the biopharma world, medications for it are not included anywhere in EvaluatePharma’s list of 2019 top drug launches. Instead, what we see topping this year’s list so far are treatments in rare genetic diseases and treatments in immunology.
FiercePharma created a list of the top 10 drug launches by 2024 by considering two EvaluatePharma projections from the beginning of 2019. Leading the list is Ultomiris, which earned an FDA nod in late 2018, and the Soliris follow-up by Alexion.
Alexion is moving away from focusing on ultra rare diseases in order to reach more patients, as was announced previously by CEO Ludwig Hantson. As such, the biotech decided to move the price for Ultomiris down to 10% less than Soliris in an attempt to convert up to 70% of Soliris patients to the improved therapy. Ultomiris is currently approved for use in fighting paroxysmal nocturnal hemoglobinuria (PNH), which is a rare immune disease.
There are two gene therapies included in the 2019 top 10 list: Zolgensma, which is a spinal muscular atrophy treatment by Novartis, and Zynteglo, made by Bluebird Bio, which is used to treat beta-thalassemia.
The List of Top 10 Drug Launches of 2019 is as follows:
Ultomiris by Alexion
Upadacitinib by AbbVie
Skyrizi by AbbVie
Zynteglo by Bluebird
Roxadustat by AstraZeneca
AR101 by Aimmune
Zolgensma by Novartis
Brolucizumab by Novartis
Mayzent by Novartis
Spravato by Johnson & Johnson
As you can see, Novartis has three drugs on the list, which is more than any other company, putting the company’s innovative medicine-focused strategy to the test. The Swiss company has brolucizumab, a macular degeneration therapy that will run against Lucentis and Eylea.
Mayzent, also by Novartis, is the first-ever oral medication for secondary progressive multiple sclerosis (SPMS) that was just FDA-approved in March 2019. Even though up to 80% of patients with relapsing remitting MS develop this condition, those patients are not easily identified. Novartis is increasing efforts to help raise awareness of this stage of MS and its symptoms.
Skyrizi and upadacitinib are two blockbusters on the Top 10 list, both by AbbVie, which is trying to diversify its portfolio as its popularity of Humira continues to decline. It’s a smart move by AbbVie because credit analysts predict that every submarket in the anti-inflammation category has room for billions of dollars in growth. The submarkets include everything from inflammatory bowel disease and asthma to arthritis and multiple sclerosis.
AR101 is hoped to be the first pharmaceutical that is able to reduce children’s allergic reactions to peanuts. Unfortunately, its application for FDA approval hit a bit of a bump with the government shutdown in December of 2018, but it’s now under review and approval may be sped up after the delay.
Johnson & Johnson and Bluebird
J&J’s Spravato, a ketamine-like nasal spray for depression, is promising as far as results go; however, the enormous price tag and heavy list of safety risks and side effects is concerning. Zynteglo by Bluebird is a highly anticipated drug to watch, although it’s currently delayed in its launch. However, the biotech is still planning on enrolling patients this year, treating the first commercial patients in early 2020.
Looking at the top 10 drug launches of 2019, we see the sudden rise in expensive orphan drugs based on novel technologies, in addition to a lot of enthusiasm about the growing immunology market. That enthusiasm is justified by the success of the world’s best-selling drug, Humira. It will be interesting to see how these drugs play a role with respect to the various markets, so be sure to regularly attend pharma marketing conferences to stay updated on key topics in the industry as they develop.