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Bayer gambling $4B R&D budget on Xarelto, top blockbuster hopefuls

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Bayer chief Marijn Dekkers--Courtesy of Bayer

Bayer Healthcare is on a roll, and it has no intention of easing off the gas now. Emboldened by rising sales of Xarelto, pumped by the prospects of the macular degeneration drug Eylea and optimistic about the newly approved cancer drug Stivarga, Bayer's pharma division has outlined some ambitious plans for its $4 billion annual R&D budget. 

Job number one is growing its blockbuster market for Xarelto, which Bayer believes can earn about $2.5 billion a year. Add in radium-223 dichloride (the late-stage prostate cancer drug Alpharadin) and riociguat to treat pulmonary hypertension (which days ago reported out positive Phase III data), and you'll get a slate of new products capable of producing about $7 billion in peak sales, says Bayer chief Marijn Dekkers. Its 13,000 researchers around the globe have another 35 drug programs in the pipeline, one of the three legs of an R&D strategy aimed at people, plants and animals.

"Innovation is the only way to address the global challenges that exist at the beginning of the third millennium," said Dekkers. And innovation in drugs isn't cheap.

Yesterday Bayer outlined plans to recruit 20,000 patients with coronary and peripheral artery disease for its COMPASS study, a global effort to determine how Xarelto--partnered with J&J ($JNJ)--combined with aspirin will do in preventing major cardiovascular events like stroke, myocardial infarction and death. This is the first such study in a high-risk population for a novel anticoagulant, says Bayer.

"Today, aspirin is the gold standard and provides significant protection for patients with coronary or peripheral artery disease. However, a residual risk of cardiac events such as heart attack, stroke or even death remains in these high-risk patients," said Dr. Salim Yusuf, the principal investigator of the COMPASS study. "This is therefore an important study, designed to provide significant insights on additional, potentially complementary, cardioprotective benefits of rivaroxaban for these patients."

Xarelto is approved to prevent stroke in patients with atrial fibrillation as well as clot prevention in some patients. It was also recently approved to prevent clots in the legs and lungs.

- here's the press release on Bayer's pipeline
- and here's the release on Xarelto

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