Novartis’ Afinitor gets new EU cancer use

Afinitor (everolimus) has been approved in the EU for advanced, progressive, non-functional neuroendocrine tumours (NETs) of gastrointestinal and lung origin and is the first oral therapy for this indication. It has already been approved in this use in the US.

These are rare cancers often diagnosed at advanced stages and with associated poor prognosis, Novartis noted.

It is now approved in the EU for several other indications, including advanced NETs of pancreatic origin, and in advanced renal cell carcinoma following progression on or after vascular endothelial growth factor-targeted therapy.

The drug achieved sales of $1.6 billion last year and is predicted to peak at around $2 billion in 2018.

But in kidney cancer, which accounts for around a quarter of sales, Afinitor could face competition.

On Monday, Bristol-Myers Squibb’s immunotherapy, Opdivo (nivolumab) and Exelixis’ Cometriq (cabozantinib) proved better than Afinitor in clinical trials, Reuters noted.

This could take sales from Afinitor as doctors try the newer option. Novartis’ CEO Joe Jimenez (pictured) told reporters in a results call on Tuesday that despite the competition, the company is “bullish” about Afinitor as it is a “multi-indication drug”.

Around 50% of sales come from breast cancer, where Afinitor also faces competition from Pfizer’s Ibrance (palbociclib).

For now, sales are growing, up 19% in constant currency terms to $423 million in the second quarter, Reuters reported.

Novartis has also opened an R&D hub in China – it also has other major R&D facilities in Basel, Switzerland and Cambridge, Massachusetts.

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