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Lilly receives FDA breast cancer pill approval, doubts remain

Published on 29/09/17 at 09:03am

Eli Lilly has received an important approval for its breast cancer treatment, Verzenio. The drug will be the third to market in the CDK 4/6 inhibitor space but, with little differentiating treatments in efficacy, analysts remain unconvinced that Lilly can make a big impact in the space.

It’s competitors in the market are Pfizer’s Ibrance, approved back in 2015, and Novartis’ Kisqali, approved in March; Novartis’ attempted to carve its own space in the market with a severe undercut to the price of Ibrance – shaving around 20% of the price compared with its rival. For its own treatment, Lilly will price it at just a shade under Kisqali.

So, what does differentiate Lilly’s treatment? Unfortunately for the company, what distinguishes it are features that are not particularly positive, with patients showing a high incidence of diarrhoea.

The company has said this can be resolved easily with Imodium but it will likely be enough to give physicians pause for thought, and that could be enough to see it suffer compared to its competitors in the market.

This is all good news for Ibrance, with Pfizer’s dominance in the area unlikely to be disturbed by the new entrant. Last year, it reaped sales of $2.1 billion and is expected to be able to reach peak sales of more than double this figure over the next few years.

“Verzenio provides a new targeted treatment option for certain patients with breast cancer who are not responding to treatment, and unlike other drugs in the class, it can be given as a stand-alone treatment to patients who were previously treated with endocrine therapy and chemotherapy,” said Richard Pazdur, Director of the FDA’s Oncology Center of Excellence.

Lilly has announced that it expects to be able to deliver the medication to patients by the end of October.

Ben Hargreaves

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