Money Matters - Simplified

A Good Start for a Potential Blockbuster

I have to tip my hat to the marketing department at Novartis (NYSE: NVS); the drug company's newest offering, Afinitor, just sounds like a cancer-killing machine. Apparently the Food and Drug Administration thinks the same as well, as it approved the drug yesterday to treat kidney cancer.

In the near future, the marketing department won't have that difficult of a job, since Afinitor should just sell itself. It's the only drug approved for the treatment of kidney cancer after failed treatments by Pfizer 's (NYSE: PFE) Sutent, and Bayer and Onyx Pharmaceuticals ' (Nasdaq: ONXX) Nexavar.

Afinitor is in a new class of drugs that inhibit mTOR, a protein that controls tumor and blood vessel growth. Developing a new class of drugs can be risky, but also potentially lucrative if the drug is highly effective, as seems to be the case for Afinitor. But those lucrative sales will have to wait for a while.

Being a second-line treatment isn't going to get Novartis a huge amount of revenue, but the company has higher aspirations for the drug. Like so many successful cancer drugs -- Roche's Avastin, Celgene 's (Nasdaq: CELG) Revlimid, and Eli Lilly 's (NYSE: LLY) Gemzar -- Novartis plans to expand Afinitor into additional cancers. It's currently testing the drug against a range of other cancers including breast and lung cancer, which are much larger markets.

Those larger markets will come with substantially more competition and, while efficacy will be most important, a cool-sounding name like Afinitor certainly can't hurt sales.

© 2009 UCLICK, L.L.C.