By strict definition, Prexige has certainly come back from the dead. Novartis even changed its name to Joicela. The pain reliever was approved in Europe, but regulatory authorities there made Novartis take it off the market because of potential liver damage.
But rather than seeing this as a desperate move by the pharma giant, investors should be cheering the comeback. Sure, the regulatory agencies might sever its head and put the zombie out of its misery, but the upside looks worth the risk.
Side effects aren't anything to be shocked about for Joicela, which is a Cox-2 inhibitor -- the same family of drugs that Merck's
Novartis thinks it's found a way around the liver damage issue by using a generic test to determine if the patient is prone to liver damage. The added trouble will probably keep it from being a front-line treatment, but it might be used in patients for which Pfizer's Celebrex doesn't work. Even with sub-blockbuster sales, it sure looks better than the only other option: throwing the drug in the trash.
Drugs coming back from the dead aren't unheard of. Biogen Idec
Novartis can only hope that Prexige – er, Joicela -- has as much success coming back from the dead as Tysabri has.
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