Affirming rumors, Johnson & Johnson
Johnson & Johnson will acquire Scios to boost its drug pipeline. Much has been made of the smaller company's two-year-old congestive heart failure treatment, Natrecor. Scios expects the drug to generate sales of $160 million to $170 million in 2003, and it may eventually ring up $500 million in annual sales.
The more interesting story, though, is a drug awaiting approval. Scios' experimental rheumatoid arthritis treatment, SCIO-469, is in phase II trials and could be years away from approval. However, should the drug's promise hold up, sales could one day eclipse those expected for Natrecor.
Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease in which the body's own defenses turn against it and attack the sufferer's joints. It's a crippling and incredibly painful illness with no cure.
SCIO-469 is creating a good deal of buzz because of the way it works. The drug blocks the p38 kinase enzyme responsible for stimulating inflammation-causing proteins, such as TNF and COX-2. Other companies are also attempting to create a p38-inhibiting drug, but this one is in the most advanced testing stages.
Another great thing about SCIO-469, compared to existing rheumatoid arthritis treatments, is its dosage. Amgen's
One thing must be underlined, though. SCIO-469 hasn't been approved, and similar drugs in the past have been shot down because of safety concerns. Still, J&J will get ahold of an existing successful drug and a potentially promising one -- a healthy dose of optimism for the drug maker.