The Franchise – Januvia / the 800 lb gorilla

Merck release 2011 results yesterday, and to no surprise, the Januvia machine, 800 lbs gorilla, or as I like to call it “The Franchise,” continues to perform.

The Franchise posted $3.324 billion in 2011 global sales, up from $2.38 billion in 2010.  Let’s contrast this to the later entrants in the DPP-IV class

Galvus: $677 million (all ex-US, not bad), Onglyza; $156 million, and Tradjenta (only launched mid-2011, BI/Lilly have not reported product level sales for Trajenta)

Januvia, approved in 2006, has been a tremendous success. I remember the pre-launch “expert” chatter about the DPP-IV class: “modest efficacy, no one will use it”, the “ubiquity of the DPP-IV enzyme, so who knows what else is suppressed-safety issues are sure to be uncovered.”  In short, the  market  has not cared one bit about these early concerns.  The modest efficacy matched with tolerability and a clean safety profile (so-far), was just what primary care needed at the time.  One must remember the emerging concerns around the TZD class at the time.  Januvia was also the beneficiary of Galvus’ FDA problems in 2007, and Novartis never re-submitted in the U.S.

So Januvia was born under a lucky star, but it also is a clean, reasonably effective agent.  It now serves as Merck’s platform for diabetes care and co-morbid conditions.  Could Januvia be a $5 billion dollar franchise within two years while the other DPP-IVs scuffle along?

 

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