FirstWord Lists: Pharma's fastest selling drugs

Recently-published second-quarter results provide an opportunity to assess which pharmaceutical products have grown the most during the first half of 2016 versus the same period last year.

Sales of Bristol-Myers Squibb's PD-1 inhibitor Opdivo lead the way, with global revenues of $1.5 billion generated during the first six months of 2016 versus sales of just $162 million in the comparative period of 2015.

Opdivo is approved across a number of oncology indications, with performance in the second-line non-small-cell lung cancer (NSCLC) market integral to its impressive launch. Revenue growth over the next six to 12 months will be watched with great interest, however, following Opdivo's recent failure to demonstrate a survival benefit in first-line patients; an indication where Merck & Co.'s rival drug Keytruda is now expected to assume first-to-market status.

See Physician Views Poll Results: Bristol-Myers Squibb's Opdivo setback could have profound implications for Merck & Co.'s Keytruda and KOL Views: Keytruda may be a bigger beneficiary from Opdivo’s stumble than people realise, according to leading oncologist.

Another recent launch in oncology – Pfizer's CDK4/6 inhibitor Ibrance, for breast cancer – also sits high on the list; suggesting that a battle for second-to-market position within this drug class between Eli Lilly and Novartis may prove academic.

Physician Views Poll Results: Continuous dosing could differentiate Eli Lilly's abemaciclib but will Pfizer's Ibrance be out of sight?

In addition to Opdivo, AbbVie's TNF inhibitor Humira, which is the world's best-selling drug by some margin, is the only other product to generate more than $1 billion in incremental sales during the first half of 2016 versus the first half of 2015. AbbVie's challenge remains how to reinvest a proportion of its Humira profits in order to secure sustainable revenue growth from newer products once biosimilar competition emerges (ViewPoints: How the FDA learned to stop worrying and love biosimilars).

While investor focus at Bristol-Myers Squibb has sharpened even more on Opdivo given recent events, the performance of Eliquis provides some diversification from a dominant immuno-oncology focus (ViewPoints: Will Bristol-Myers Squibb emerge as Big Pharma's biggest winner over the next decade?). Following a slower than expected launch, Eliquis now appears to be growing at a faster rate than Bayer and Johnson & Johnson's Xarelto, although a similarly impressive performance for that franchise illustrates continued strong growth for the novel anticoagulants as patients are steadily transitioned away from treatment with warfarin.

At Celgene, Revlimid remains well placed to become one of the best-selling cancer drugs of all time, with performance likely undimmed by a recent late-stage setback in diffuse large B-cell lymphoma. The psoriasis treatment Otezla also continues to impress.

Physician Views Poll Results: 68 oncologists assess the impact of REMARC results on Revlimid’s prospects in lymphoma

The new CEO at GlaxoSmithKline – due to succeed Andrew Witty next March – may face some challenging decisions in the respiratory market (where the company is a dominant player, albeit one facing deteriorating market conditions), but will embrace the performance of Triumeq, which continues to deliver impressive growth in the HIV market, as does Gilead Sciences' newly launch combination therapy Genvoya (ViewPoints: Gilead offers added incentive to switch to its new TAF-based HIV franchise).

Consensus expectations for Triumeq have grown to around $6 billion by the end of the decade, while initial performance of Genvoya has largely been overlooked; the focus at Gilead is on declining sales in hepatitis C and the type of pipeline-enhancing deals management will target to compensate for this in the long term.

Regeneron Pharmaceuticals and Bayer's macular degeneration treatment Eylea continues to deliver robust growth at the expense of both Lucentis and off-label Avastin, as it nears its five-year launch anniversary in the US market, while Novartis recently described the psoriasis treatment Cosentyx as one its most successful new drug launches of all time.

Physician Views Poll Results: Cosentyx growth unlikely to be significantly interrupted by launch of Eli Lilly's Taltz

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