Analysts pick the top blockbuster drug prospects in the class of '13

Any discussion on the near-term future of Big Pharma starts with a review of the top drugs in Phase III. And this year's crop includes a collection of some high-flying blockbuster prospects that has analysts encouraged enough to allow that the productivity gains seen over the last two years could translate into some big new approvals in 2013.

But no one is breaking out the champagne bottles just yet.

"The industry has done a lot to try and improve productivity and has corrected a lot of past mistakes," Deutsche Bank analyst Richard Parkes tells Reuters. "It's too early to say whether this is going to be a sustained break-out from the trend but the efforts that have been put in place should at least improve the efficiency of what is being spent."

Reuters' two top biopharma scribes, Ben Hirschler and Bill Berkrot, have scanned the horizons and identified a slate of the top potential blockbusters now in Phase III. Their picks for leaders of the late-stage pack: 

  • Biogen Idec's ($BIIB) BG-12, a new MS drug expected to win regulatory approval and go on to sweep up much of the market with best-in-class potential.

  • Johnson & Johnson ($JNJ) makes it into the top tier with the SGLT2 diabetes drug canagliflozin, given a thumbs up at a recent advisory panel meeting with a good shot at penetrating a $7 billion market. The diabetes market may also be roiled by Novo Nordisk's ($NVO) long-acting insulin Tresiba while Novo attempts a separate blockbuster effort to get liraglutide OK'd for obesity.

  • Gilead ($GILD) and AbbVie ($ABBV) are engaged in a hot race for a new hepatitis C drug that can quickly emerge as the new standard of treatment.

  • Roche ($RHHBY), of course, has T-DM1 coming from Genentech. And Reuters gives high marks to the pharma giant's schizophrenia drug bitopertin, which has a shot at $3 billion in peak sales.

  • Then there are the big Phase III efforts at GlaxoSmithKline ($GSK) and Eli Lilly ($LLY). Lilly has 13 drugs in Phase III. And while Reuters doesn't single out any as standouts, Lilly will be banking heavily on the success of its own diabetes drugs partnered with Boehringer Ingelheim. And GSK now has 6 drugs up for regulatory approval, with high-stakes efforts underway for the heart drug darapladib and the cancer vaccine MAGE-A3, though analysts aren't quite sure that either program are on their way to a regulatory green light.

Most of Reuters' picks aren't all that surprising once you break them out. Perhaps the biggest reality check, though, is that collectively the industry can boast of a number of possible chart toppers. And given the paltry collection of new blockbusters seen over the past decade, that's the biggest cause for optimism.

- here's the article from Reuters

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