Bristol-Myers Squibb has distinguished itself from its competitors by using a "mass-marketing" approach to sell its cancer immunotherapy Opdivo, The Wall Street Journal reported.
The company said that physicians are prescribing Opdivo to more than 60 percent of new lung cancer patients in the US who are eligible for treatment with the drug.
The drugmaker indicated that unlike treatments such as Merck & Co.'s Keytruda, doctors can prescribe Opdivo without ordering diagnostic tests from companies such as Quest Diagnostics to identify patients who would benefit from the therapy.
Unlike Merck, which focused on identifying PD-L1-positive patients in clinical studies of Keytruda, Bristol-Myers Squibb was unsure on how well PD-L1 positivity would predict response to Opdivo and subsequently chose to include patients whose tumours expressed varying levels of the protein in clinical studies.
Sales of Opdivo have climbed faster than anticipated, while Leerink Partners analyst Seamus Fernandez suggests sales of the drug could exceed $23 billion by 2020, while Bristol-Myers Squibb recorded combined sales of $2.1 billion last year for Opdivo and the immunotherapy Yervoy.
Although both Opdivo and Yervoy are currently approved for use in patients who did not respond to prior therapies, both Bristol-Myers Squibb and Merck are aiming to win approval of their drugs as first-line treatments for lung cancer.