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Pfizer and Merck flesh out Xalkori alliance details

First stage of building a combined oncology sales organisation

Pfizer Xalkori lung cancer 

Pfizer and Merck KGaA's co-promotion agreement for Xalkori - a cornerstone of the two firm's recently announced immuno-oncology collaboration - will get underway in the next few weeks.

The agreement on Xalkori (crizotinib) is the first stage of the two companies' objective of building a combined oncology sales organisation ahead of the launch of checkpoint inhibitor avelumab (formerly known as MSB0010718C).

Last November, Pfizer and Merck agreed a $2.85bn deal that will see avelumab - which is currently in phase I and II trials - tested alongside Pfizer's portfolio of cancer drugs. 

The Xalkori deal gives the two companies an opportunity to get their commercial operations in sync ahead of the potential launch of avelumab into a market estimated to reach upwards of $10bn a year, with some analysts predicting it could be worth considerably more.

"Through our co-promotion of Xalkori, we will establish a best-in-class global sales organisation that will be exceptionally prepared for the potential launches of our future oncology medicines," said Liz Barrett, president and general manager of Pfizer Oncology.

The companies have committed to working on up to 20 immuno-oncology programmes as they try to close the gap with Merck & Co and Bristol-Myers Squibb (BMS), which already have checkpoint inhibitor drugs on the market.

BMS' Opdivo is used to treat melanoma and non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC), with Merck's Keytruda (pembrolizumab) currently approved for melanoma only. Both drugs have multiple new indications coming through the pipeline, while additional checkpoint inhibitors from Roche and AstraZeneca (AZ) are also in development.

The Xalkori co-promotion will start in the second and third quarters of this year in key markets around the world, starting in the US, Canada, Japan and five European countries (France, Germany, Italy, Spain and the UK).  A second wave that will include emerging markets such as China and Turkey will get underway next year, said the partners.

The alliance adds additional marketing muscle to Xalkori, which was the first ALK inhibitor approved for sale in the US, Europe and Japan and is Pfizer's fastest-growing cancer drug, with sales rising more than 50% to reach $438m last year.

Article by
Phil Taylor

10th April 2015

From: Sales

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