King Keytru­da: Mer­ck­'s PD-1 star scores #1 po­si­tion and $22B+ pre­dic­tion in an­oth­er top 10 block­buster list for 2025

Pre­dict­ing which of the cur­rent block­busters will as­cend to new heights is any­one’s game, and one that high­lights the cur­rent dy­nam­ics of the in­dus­try. On Fri­day it’s Glob­al­Da­ta’s turn to pick out the ther­a­pies that it be­lieves will come out on top in some in­tense­ly com­pet­i­tive spaces.

Hu­mi­ra may still top the chart for best-sell­ing drugs in the world, but Keytru­da is set to over­take the shrink­ing fran­chise in around five years time — with four oth­er drugs set to get ahead of Ab­b­Vie’s biggest cash cow.

The $22.2 bil­lion es­ti­mate for Keytru­da is among the high­est num­ber put for­ward by an­a­lysts. Eval­u­ate pegged world­wide sales in 2024 at $17 bil­lion, while Mizuho’s Mara Gold­stein’s fore­cast was that it would sur­pass $20 bil­lion by then.

Mer­ck’s R&D en­gine — which has pumped out a se­ries of clin­i­cal wins en­abling new fil­ings — is cru­cial to its growth, ac­cord­ing to Glob­al­Da­ta phar­ma an­a­lyst Ke­shali­ni Sabarat­nam. Just days ago the phar­ma gi­ant cel­e­brat­ed an­oth­er mile­stone in the form of an OK in Chi­na for front­line non-small cell lung can­cer.

“It has re­ceived mar­ket ap­provals for over 20 on­col­o­gy in­di­ca­tions in the US, and is con­tin­u­ing to ex­pand in­to new in­di­ca­tions and mar­kets glob­al­ly,” she said in a state­ment.

What Bris­tol-My­ers Squibb lagged in Op­di­vo 2025 sales, though, it is like­ly mak­ing up in num­bers. The #2, #3 and #4 drugs on the list will be its by then, in­clud­ing the blood thin­ner Eliquis ($18.7 bil­lion), Cel­gene’s mul­ti­ple myelo­ma drug Revlim­id ($12.4 bil­lion), and the PD-1 check­point ($12 bil­lion).

J&J’s Im­bru­vi­ca comes next at $11.9 bil­lion, with an­a­lysts en­cour­aged by the BTK in­hibitor’s use in mul­ti­ple can­cers as well as chron­ic graft-ver­sus-host-dis­ease.

Bik­tarvy’s #6 po­si­tion just af­ter Hu­mi­ra con­tin­ues to un­der­score Gilead’s dom­i­nance in the HIV mar­ket, with $10 bil­lion pen­ciled in.

An­a­lysts al­so ap­pear un­fazed by the threats posed by ri­val CDK4/6 drugs from No­var­tis and Eli Lil­ly against Pfiz­er’s Ibrance, just trail­ing Bik­tarvy. While the drug on­ly gar­nered $2.8 bil­lion in 2018, the pre­dict­ed 2024 sales is as high as $9 bil­lion.

Round­ing out the list are J&J’s Ste­lara and Eli Lil­ly’s Trulic­i­ty, the on­ly rep­re­sen­ta­tives in the crowd­ed pso­ri­a­sis and di­a­betes field, which are filled with oth­er block­buster con­tenders.

Pi­o­neer­ing Click Chem­istry in Hu­mans

Reimagining cancer treatments

Cancer is a leading cause of death worldwide, accounting for nearly 10 million deaths in 2020, which is nearly one in six deaths. Recently, we have seen incredible advances in novel cancer therapies such as immune checkpoint inhibitors, cell therapies, and antibody-drug conjugates that have revamped cancer care and improved survival rates for patients.

Despite this significant progress in therapeutic targeting, why are we still seeing such a high mortality rate? The reason is that promising therapies are often limited by their therapeutic index, which is a measure of the effective dose of a drug, relative to its safety. If we could broaden the therapeutic indices of currently available medicines, it would revolutionize cancer treatments. We are still on the quest to find the ultimate cancer medicine – highly effective in several cancer types, safe, and precisely targeted to the tumor site.

Some­one old, some­one new: Mod­er­na pro­motes CTO, raids No­var­tis for re­place­ment amid pipeline push

Moderna CEO Stéphane Bancel made clear on the last quarterly call that “now is not the time to slow down.” On Thursday, he made a bit more room in the cockpit.

The company unveiled a new executive role on Thursday, promoting former chief technical operations and quality officer Juan Andres to president of strategic partnerships and enterprise expansion, and poaching a former Novartis exec to take his place.

Ivan Cheung, Eisai US chairman and CEO

Bio­gen, Ei­sai re­fresh amy­loid hy­poth­e­sis with PhI­II show­ing Alzheimer's med slows cog­ni­tive de­cline

In the first look at Phase III data for lecanemab, Eisai and Biogen’s follow-up Alzheimer’s drug to the embattled Aduhelm launch, results show the drug passed with flying colors on a test looking at memory, problem solving and other dementia metrics.

One of the most-watched Alzheimer’s therapies in the clinic, lecanemab met the study’s primary goal on the CDR-SB — Clinical Dementia Rating-Sum of Boxes — giving the biotech the confidence to ask for full approval in the US, EU and Japan by next March 31. The experimental drug reduced clinical decline on the scale by 27% compared to placebo at 18 months, the companies said Tuesday night Eastern time and Wednesday morning in Japan.

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Gilead names 'k­ing­pin­s' in coun­ter­feit HIV med law­suit

Gilead is mounting its counterfeit drug lawsuit, naming two “kingpins” and a complex network of conspirators who allegedly sold imitation bottles of its HIV meds, some of which ended up in US pharmacies.

The pharma giant on Wednesday provided an update on what it called a “large-scale, sophisticated counterfeiting conspiracy,” accusing two new defendants of “leading and orchestrating” a scheme to sell hundreds of millions of dollars in illegitimate drugs posing as meds such as Biktarvy and Descovy.

Pa­tient re­port finds con­sti­pa­tion con­di­tion not well man­aged, open­ing door for bet­ter ed­u­ca­tion from phar­ma

Advertising for constipation treatments often uses light-hearted humor in an effort to spur open discussions about the sometimes stigmatized topic. However, that may not be enough to get people to take the condition seriously, a new patient report from Phreesia finds.

Fewer than one-fifth (17%) of patients with constipation surveyed understand the longer-term health risks of constipation such as hemorrhoids and bowel incontinence. Many are trying to manage their condition with over-the-counter medicines, but often for much longer than recommended. An equal 68% say they use home remedies or OTC meds to manage constipation. But while 90% understand that OTCs are not intended for long-term use, 50% have used an OTC constipation medicine for more than a year.

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Nooman Haque, head of life sciences and healthcare at Silicon Valley Bank, and John Carroll

I’m head­ed to Lon­don soon for #EU­BIO22. Care to join me?

It was great getting back to a live ESMO conference/webinar in Paris followed by a live pop-up event for the Endpoints 11 in Boston. We’re staying on the road in October with our return for a live/streaming EUBIO22 in London.

Silicon Valley Bank’s Nooman Haque and I are once again jumping back into the thick of it with a slate of virtual and live events on October 12. I’ll get the ball rolling with a virtual fireside chat with Novo Nordisk R&D chief Marcus Schindler, covering their pipeline plans and BD work.

Tar­sus looks to raise aware­ness of eye­lid mite dis­ease in cam­paign aimed at eye­care spe­cial­ists

Eyelid mite disease may be “gross” but it’s also fairly common, affecting about 25 million people in the US.

Called demodex blepharitis, it’s a well-known condition among eyecare professionals, but they often don’t always realize how common it is. Tarsus Pharmaceuticals wants to change that with a new awareness campaign called “Look at the Lids.”

The campaign and website debut Thursday — just three weeks after Tarsus filed for FDA approval for a drug that treats the disease.

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Paul Hudson, Sanofi CEO (Photographer: Cyril Marcilhacy/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Sanofi, Re­gen­eron’s Dupix­ent scores an­oth­er in­di­ca­tion with first-ever ap­proval for nodu­lar skin dis­or­der

Sanofi chief executive Paul Hudson told investors earlier this year that the Big Pharma was going to emphasize its sales kingpin Dupixent moving forward.

He wasn’t joking — the megablockbuster drug and sales king, recording just shy of $2 billion in sales this past quarter, has now officially secured its fifth indication from the FDA.

Sanofi and Regeneron, who jointly work on Dupixent development and commercialization, announced the new development on Thursday, saying that the FDA gave the all-clear to Dupixent to treat patients with prurigo nodularis, a rare autoimmune disorder characterized by a persistent, severe itch — and also visualized by hard, extremely itchy bumps known as nodules that form on the skin. The FDA noted in its announcement that it is the agency’s first approval for the disease.

Sens. Rand Paul (R-KY) and Cory Booker (D-NJ) (Olivier Douliery/Sipa USA (Sipa via AP Images))

Sen­ate pass­es bill to re­work an­i­mal test­ing re­quire­ments for drug de­vel­op­ers

The US Senate passed via unanimous consent on Thursday afternoon a bipartisan bill that would eliminate a federal mandate for animal testing for new drugs.

Touted as a much-needed modernization of FDA’s rules, co-sponsor Sens. Rand Paul (R-KY) and Cory Booker (D-NJ) have said the bill will stop lots of needless suffering of animals.