Bristol, Sanofi and Novartis lead pack in big year for blockbusters

Thomson Reuters is predicting a big year for blockbuster drugs. Its analysts forecast 11 drugs approved this year will go on to rack up blockbuster sales in 2019, with new treatments from Bristol-Myers Squibb ($BMY), Sanofi ($SNY) and Novartis ($NVS) leading the pack.

The top three drugs on the list are going after indications with big populations, namely cancer, high cholesterol and heart failure. Bristol's PD-1 inhibitor Opdivo is tipped to comfortably outsell the rest of the class of 2015. Thomson Reuters forecasts Opdivo sales will total $5.7 billion in 2019, almost 30% more than Sanofi and Regeneron's ($REGN) hotly tipped anti-PCSK9 cholesterol fighting drug, Praluent. The $4.4 billion analysts expect Praluent to generate was enough to give it second place ahead of Novartis' heart failure drug, LCZ696.

Behind the top three--which are the only drugs on the list tipped to top $3 billion in sales--comes a fairly long tail of more modest blockbusters. The rest of the list includes Amgen's ($AMGN) pitch for the anti-PCSK9 market, the latest iteration of Merck's ($MRK) Gardasil vaccine and Pfizer's ($PFE) recently approved breast cancer treatment, Ibrance. While inherent difficulties of making forecasts means the league table is more of a parlor game than something to bet the farm on, the target indications and sheer number of predicted blockbusters make an interesting contrast to last year.

Last year, just three drugs made the list of future blockbusters--Gilead's ($GILD) Sovaldi and Zydelig, plus GlaxoSmithKline ($GSK) and Theravance's ($THRX) Anoro Ellipta--which prompted talk of the decline of the $1 billion dollar drug and rise of orphan indications. This year, the list is stuffed with potential blockbusters, some of which are going after mass-market indications. How many of the drugs can fulfill their promise remains to be seen. Of last year's crop, Sovaldi is a clear success, but Anoro Ellipta has made a slow start and Zydelig has suffered setbacks in Europe.

- read the release
- here's Reuters' take

Special Report: Biopharma posts a chart-topping 41 new drug approvals in 2014 | An ominous trend resurfaces as new drug approvals plunge in 2013 - Sovaldi: Gilead hits pay dirt with a breakthrough hep C drug

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