© Reuters. The Novartis logo can be seen at the Swiss drugmaker’s new cell and gene therapy facility in Stein, Switzerland. /Photo taken on November 28, 2019/REUTERS/Arnd Wiegmann
FRANKFURT (Reuters) – The Swiss pharmaceutical group Novartis (SIX:) said on Friday that its breast cancer treatment Kisqali reduced the risk of recurrence by just over 25% in women diagnosed at an early stage of the disease.
The company added that the results were broadly consistent, regardless of the patients’ menopausal status or the state of cancer progression. The results were presented at the annual meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology, held in Chicago.
The medicine has been tested alongside standard hormone therapy, used to treat hormone-like cancers, and has been studied in comparison with hormone therapy alone.
The drug is already approved for the treatment of hormone-like breast cancer that has spread to other parts of the body, an area where it has taken market share from the American’s Ibrance. Pfizer (NYSE:), but early-stage disease treatment is seen as a much bigger market. This market represents 90% of patients.
On the competitive side, Eli Lilly’s (NYSE:) drug Verzenio has been approved for early treatment for women at high risk of recurrence after surgery.
The American manufacturer declared that Verzenio reduced the risk of recurrence after surgery by 35%.
Novartis appears to be aiming for a broader market, with Kisqali having been tested in high-risk and intermediate-risk patients. A population twice as large as its competitor.
Still, analysts said investors could be disappointed if Kisqali proves less effective than rival Verzenio.
Novartis has highlighted very low rates of symptomatic side effects during its trial, an important data for patients faced with treatment for several years, sometimes suffering from severe diarrhea. They only affect 0.6% of test patients.
“We know that diarrhea can be a very bothersome and distressing adverse event for patients taking cancer medications,” said Jeff Legos, development manager for oncology and hematology at Novartis.
By comparison, 8% to 20% of women in trials with Eli Lilly’s Verzenio were affected by severe diarrhea.
Novartis will seek approval for broader use in the United States and Europe before the end of the year, the company said.
Early data was released in March, bolstering market confidence in the company’s long-term goals, analysts said. Chief executive Vas Narasimhan said he expects annual sales growth of 4% through 2027 and a core operating margin of 40% from 2027.
(Reportage by Ludwig Burger, French version by Gaëlle Sheehan, edited by Kate Entringer)
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