Every time I hear the name of Johnson & Johnson's
Unlike the object of Stanley's desire, Stelara knows how to throw a punch, knocking out psoriasis. It beat Amgen's
Stelara also has the advantage of being injected less frequently than the TNF-alpha blockers -- Enbrel, Humira, and Remicade. Enbrel for instance is injected once a week, compared to Stelara's once-every-12-weeks schedule in the maintenance phase.
After several delays, Johnson & Johnson finally got a Food and Drug Administration approval to market Stelara on Friday. The drug is already approved for sale in Europe and Canada.
Not everything is perfect for Stelara, though. The drug blocks a pair of proteins called interleukin-12 (IL-12) and IL-23. Mice with those proteins blocked or removed get cancer at a higher rate, so there's concern that it could happen in humans, too. There's a cancer warning on the label of the TNF-alpha blockers as well, so it may not be much of a drawback.
Even if the cancer warning isn't much of a disadvantage on paper, Stelara may get off to a slow start. Doctors may try and get a handle on the actual long-term cancer risk by using the drug on only the most severe patients.
As long as the long-term safety data doesn't prove troublesome, I expect Stelara will eventually knock out the competition. It just might take a while to do so.