Eliquis - 15 top blockbuster contenders

The drug: Eliquis (apixaban)
The disease: Cardiovascular
The developers: Pfizer and Bristol-Myers Squibb
Peak projections: $4 billion-$4.5 billion

Pfizer entered 2011 as the symbol for Big Pharma's often dysfunctional R&D efforts. However, it is beginning to look as if Pfizer won't end the year in the dog house. Eliquis--better known in research circles as apixaban--is one of the big reasons for the turnaround.

In August, investigators reported that the blood thinner performed extremely well in Phase III for patients suffering from atrial fibrillation. Not only were the outcomes significantly better than the warfarin arm, but the drug also reduced the risk of stroke or systemic embolism 21%, major bleeding 31% and mortality 11%.

One of the reasons why Pfizer looks so good here is that analysts have been forecasting a $9 billion market for a new wave of blood thinners, and a drug that fit apixaban's efficacy and safety profile could snatch half of that.

With Pradaxa from Boehringer Ingelheim already on the market and Bayer and J&J's Xarelto lining up for a regulatory review, Pfizer was bringing up the rear. While it may arrive last, it finally has a megablockbuster contender on its hands. And with Lipitor losing patent protection in a few days, that's welcome news at Pfizer. For Bristol-Myers Squibb, it's a clear shot on goal after racking up some big wins on the regulatory side this year.

Leerink Swann's Seamus Fernandez estimated peak Eliquis sales at $4.2 billion in 2017.

Eliquis - 15 top blockbuster contenders

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