European Commission Clears Novartis AG (ADR) (NYSE:NVS) Blood Cancer Drug

The European Commission has approved Novartis AG (ADR) (NYSE:NVS) blood cancer treatment Rixathon.  The approval allows the pharmaceutical company to take on Roche Holding Ltd. (ADR) (OTCMKTS:RHHBY) blockbuster Rituxan that generated $7.5 billion in sales last year.

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Rixathon has been approved for all indications of the branded drug, which includes non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma (follicular lymphoma and diffuse large B-cell lymphoma) and chronic lymphocytic leukemia.

Novartis Biosimilars Push

Approval of Rixathon is a milestone achievement for Sandoz which is a Novartis division specializing in Biosimilars development. The drug should diversify the company’s stream of revenues, sales on branded names having come under pressure in the recent past.

The approval brings to four the number of Sandoz’s Biosimilars approved in Europe. The division plans to obtain approval for four more by 2020.

 “Sandoz is committed to increasing patient access to biologic medicines, and Rixathon will be one of the five major launches we plan in the next four years. We have worked with care and passion towards this approval, and now is the time when we are bringing this medicine to healthcare professional and patients in Europe.” said Sandoz head of biopharmaceuticals, Carol Lynch.

 Push For Sales 

Novartis faces an uphill task to ramp up sales for its drug in the region. Roche has been losing market share to Bristol-Myers Squibb Co (NYSE:BMY) Opdivo, which the company will have to face off against in the race for sales. The target market is however big given that, colorectal cancer affects about 1.4 million people in the world and is second most common among women.

Rixathon approval in Europe comes on the heels of Novartis gaining marketing approval for its biosimilar version of Humira and Remicade.  The FDA also approved the company’s New Drug Application for a generic version of GlaxoSmithKline plc. (ADR)(NYSE:GSK) asthma drug Advair Diskus.

Separately, Alphabet Inc. (NASDAQ:GOOGL) is the latest partner to Join Novartis in a new venture that seeks to back Medicxi biotech fund. The fund will provide European companies in life sciences the much-needed funds to finance development of drugs for unmet medical conditions.

Novartis stock was up by 0.75% in Monday’s trading session to end the day at $81.44 a share.

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