Eli Lilly (LLY) announced positive results from its phase 4 study treating patients with severe plaque psoriasis. This was a head to head study and it might make a better case on why patients would want to be treated with Taltz over other treatments that are currently available on the market. There are several competitors that Eli Lilly will have to deal with, but this head to head study is a step in the right direction. Sales of Taltz are continuing to grow by a large percentage year over year. I think that the company will do really good in the long run if it keeps releasing positive results for Taltz, like what was achieved for this head to head study.
Head To Head Study In Psoriasis Makes A Good Case For Taltz
The phase 4 study is known as IXORA-R. This study was a head to head study between Taltz and Tremfya. There were a total of 1,027 patients with moderate to severe plaque psoriasis. The primary endpoint is the proportion of patients achieving skin clearance as measured by PASI 100 at week 12. One thing to note is that this study was a unique one. That's because it was the first of a kind study to pit an IL-17A inhibitor (Taltz) against a Johnson & Johnson (JNJ) with its IL-23/p19 inhibitor (Tremfya) using the PASI 100 score as a primary endpoint. PASI 100 indicates percentage of patients who achieve a 100% skin clearance from baseline to week 12. It was noted that Taltz had met the primary endpoint of this study. This was where Taltz had achieved superiority against Tremfya in that patients with plaque psoriasis achieved complete skin clearance (PASI 100) at week 12. Specifically, there were 41.3% of patients with PASI 100 at week 12 treated with Taltz compared to only 24.9% of those given Tremfya. This was a statistically significant improvement in favor of Taltz with a p-value of p<0.001. What makes this study so successful is not just the fact that the primary endpoint was met. Of course, that is always a positive for any study of this caliber. However, it is the fact that Taltz worked so well in a short period of time. Not only did more patients achieve skin clearance when treated with Taltz, but there were many who had a 50% improvement in skin clearance after only 1 week of treatment. That's great, but why is this good for this patient population? This is especially important in patients with plaque psoriasis. That's because these patients experience peeling and itching of the skin. As you can imagine, the quicker a treatment works, the faster the patient experiences relief from their disease. This, in turn, has a big impact on quality of life. The thing is that data from this study is not coming to an end. There will be additional results revealed yet again at the 24-week mark in 2020.
This was definitely a good head to head study in favor of Eli Lilly with Taltz. Sales of Taltz have been doing quite well actually this year. In both Q1 and Q2 of 2019 combined, sales of Taltz reached $607 million. To put it another way, sales of the drug in Q2 of 2019 alone ended up being $353.8 million, which was an increase of 61% year over year. Taltz is putting up good numbers, however, another drug from Novartis (NVS) known as Cosentyx has achieved an even massive number in terms of sales in plaque psoriasis and several other autoimmune disorders. Cosentyx was said to have generated $1.6 billion in the first half of 2019. I think it is important to point out that Cosentyx had first-mover advantage compared to some other drugs. Tremfya has also been doing pretty good as well growing year over year but is lagging slightly behind Cosentyx. However, that makes sense considering Taltz has only received a few regulatory approvals thus far. Tremfya posted Q2 2019 worldwide sales of $235 million. The point here is that the space is getting crowded, so there is a risk for Taltz. Still, the latest head to head study might possibly give the drug an edge over its competitors. Lastly, you also have AbbVie (ABBV) with its latest entrant into the plaque psoriasis space with Skyrizi. Skyrizi has done quite well as a start just for plaque psoriasis alone. AbbVie has been able to generate $48 million in sales with this drug in just two months of it being on the market. AbbVie believes that sales could reach as much as $250 million in global sales for 2019.
Eli Lilly doing so well with Taltz in a head to head study versus Tremfya in plaque psoriasis is very good news. It sets up Taltz to do well in terms of sales against this drug for this particular indication. The bigger issue at hand is Novartis with Cosentyx, which has seen its drug generate $1.6 billion in the first half of 2019 alone. This a major competitor where Eli Lilly might have trouble to go against. The good thing at least is that Taltz continues to grow revenues by at least 61% year over year. As long as it can maintain that type of growth year over year, I believe it will do well in the long term. Plus, as I highlighted above, Cosentyx has first-mover advantage compared to these other drugs. Eli Lilly definitely has a shot to compete well with about 4 indications already approved for Taltz. That's why I believe Eli Lilly will do well in the long run.
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