New Generic will Cut into BMS's Top-Earning Cancer Drug

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Bristol Myers Squibb's moneymaker cancer drug Revlimid finally has a competitor. Israel-based generic medicines leader Teva Pharmaceuticals announced a generic version of Revlimid called lenalidomide, which could significantly cut into BMS’s earnings.

Celgene initially developed Revlimid, and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved it in 2006. When BMS bought out Celgene in 2019 in a massive $74 billion deal, it took over the entire oncology portfolio, and Revlimid quickly became a cash cow.

Revlimid ranked No.2 on the biggest cancer drugs by sale globally in 2021, with a whopping $12.8 billion. It is BMS’s top-earning product. In the company’s 2021 end-of-year/Q4 report, BMS listed Revlimid as both a quarterly and yearly winner, up 1% from Q3 2021 and 6% from Q4 2020. That same report projected Revlimid’s 2022 revenue to top $10 billion.

The drug is used to treat cancers, such as multiple myeloma, follicular lymphoma, myelodysplastic syndromes, and mantle cell lymphoma. Lymphomas affect about 825,651 people in the United States, and another 90,000 will be diagnosed each year. About 35,000 people in the United States are diagnosed with multiple myeloma each year. Multiple myeloma is a dismal diagnosis, as the five-year survival rate is only about 54%. Between these two types of blood cancers, Revlimid has been in high demand - until now at least. 

Teva’s introduction of a generic version to the market could be a literal lifesaver. About 56% of all American adults will experience financial hardship from medical costs alone. More than 25% of Americans say that they or a family member have delayed medical treatment for a severe illness because they are worried about the cost. In cases of cancers like lymphomas and multiple myeloma, waiting to see a doctor could be a deadly delay.

But now, patients can access the same medication for a much lower price. The generic drug, called lenalidomide, is now available from Teva in 5 mg, 10 mg, 25 mg and 25 mg.

“The launch of our first generic version of Revlimid in the U.S. provides patients with another important treatment option for these extremely challenging conditions, demonstrating Teva’s commitment to making complex generic drugs available to the patients who need them,” Christine Baeder, senior vice president and chief operating officer of U.S. Generics at Teva USA, said.

Teva is a global leader in generic medicines. It has the largest portfolio of FDA-approved generic drugs on the market. Chances are that you’ve had a Teva product - the company makes 1 in 12 generic medicines in the U.S. Teva also holds first place when it comes to first-to-file opportunities, and it has more than 100 more currently pending in the U.S.

While this is excellent news for people with blood cancers, it may not be welcome news for BMS. The company knew that a generic version of Revlimid was in the pipeline. In its Q4 2021 report, it estimated a drastic $10.5 billion loss in 2022 due to “loss of exclusivity” for Revlimid and another popular drug, Abraxane.

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