For 30 years statins have been used as the primary treatment for high cholesterol, creating billions of dollars in annual sales for drugs such as Pfizer's (PFE) Lipitor. But a new class of cholesterol-fighting medications is being introduced, and some of the trial data is beating statins by leaps and bounds. (STAY AHEAD OF THE CURVE: Follow Kapitall on Twitter)
Regeneron's (REGN) drug REGN 727 and Amgen's (AMGN) drug AMG145 are both part of this new class that focuses on blocking a protein called PCSK9 to slash "bad" LDL cholesterol more than statins can by themselves.
"Regeneron Pharmaceuticals Inc last year disclosed that its product slashed levels of LDL cholesterol up to 65 percent beyond reductions seen alone with statins," according to Reuters. They plan on beginning several large late-stage trials on REGN 727 by mid-2012.
Amgen's drug, which just finished promising early-stage trials, will be tested at the mid-stage level in 2012 on almost 2,000 patients.
"An estimated 9 million Americans are deemed at high or very high risk of heart-related problems, and could benefit most from PCSK9 drugs added to statins. And at least another 1 million could use them instead of statins." (via Reuters) If successful, the market for these drugs could be in the multi-billions.
These companies will be presenting their trial findings at the annual American College of Cardiology meeting in Chicago starting this past weekend.
Business Section: Investing Ideas
Do you think Lipitor and other statins will be pushed to the wayside by this new class of drugs? For a closer look at the cholesterol fighting landscape, we list below the companies involved in this market.
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1. Amgen Inc. (AMGN, Earnings, Analysts, Financials): Develops, manufactures, and markets human therapeutics based on advances in cellular and molecular biology for grievous illnesses primarily in the United States, Europe, and Canada. Amgen's anti-PCSK9 drug AMG145 is part of this new class of cholesterol medications.
2. Merck & Co. Inc. (MRK, Earnings, Analysts, Financials): Provides various health solutions through its prescription medicines, vaccines, biologic therapies, animal health, and consumer care products. Merck currently has an anti-PCSK9 drug in testing, according to Fierce Biotech.
3. Regeneron Pharmaceuticals, Inc. (REGN, Earnings, Analysts, Financials): Develops, and commercializes pharmaceutical products for the treatment of serious medical conditions in the United States. The company's drug REGN 727 reduced LDL up to 65% beyond statins in mid-stage clinical trials.
4. Pfizer Inc. (PFE, Earnings, Analysts, Financials): Offers prescription medicines for humans and animals worldwide. Their statin cholesterol drug Lipitor became the best-selling drug around the world for several consecutive years.
5. AstraZeneca PLC (AZN, Earnings, Analysts, Financials): Develops, and commercializes prescription medicines for cardiovascular, gastrointestinal, infection, neuroscience, oncology, and respiratory and inflammation diseases worldwide. Their drug Crestor is one of today's standard statin treatments for cholesterol.
(Written by Alexander Crawford.)
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