FDA Approves Psoriasis Drug Raptiva - TheStreet

FDA Approves Psoriasis Drug Raptiva

Raptiva, from Genentech and Xoma, will compete with drugs from Amgen and Biogen.
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The Food and Drug Administration approved Monday a new psoriasis drug from biotech firms

Genentech

(DNA)

and

Xoma

(XOMA) - Get Report

.

Known as Raptiva, the once-weekly injectable drug is approved as a treatment for people with moderate to severe psoriasis, a debilitating inflammatory disease marked by itchy, scaly skin lesions. About 1.5 million people in the U.S. suffer from moderate to severe psoriasis.

Raptiva marks the second biologic drug approved by the FDA this year to treat psoriasis. In March,

Biogen

(BGEN)

began selling Amevive, while

Amgen

(AMGN) - Get Report

is seeking to regulatory approval to market its arthritis drug Enbrel as a psoriasis treatment.

Raptiva's approval was widely expected, but its ultimate commercial success is still an open question. So far, most analysts see Enbrel grabbing dominant market share, given its superior efficacy (the drug is being prescribed off label). Raptiva's claim to fame is that it works fast, but the drug's effect wears off quickly once treatment is stopped. Therefore, the drug will likely be used as chronic therapy.

Biogen's Amevive launch has not gone well, hurt by comparatively low efficacy, the need for patients to be monitored for T-cell depletion and insurance reimbursement hangups. Biogen reported second-quarter Amevive sales of $7 million, below forecasts, which forced the company to scale back its 2003 sales forecast to a range of $50 million to $70 million, from $70 million. Biogen reports third-quarter earnings Tuesday morning.

Genentech shares closed Monday at $79.82; Xoma shares closed at $7.85.