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Why being the first drug to market matters

Novartis CFO Harry Kirsch
Novartis CFO Harry Kirsch. Photo: Ruben Sprich/AFP via Getty Images

The new FDA-approved drug from Amgen and Novartis that treats migraines, Aimovig, is the perfect example of why being the first in line for any new drug approval is so important.

Why it matters: Getting out of the gate first and pricing below independent cost-effectiveness estimates may give the pharmaceutical giants the upper hand even once the other migraine drugs hit the market.

How it happens:

  • Eli Lilly, Teva Pharmaceuticals and Alder Biopharmaceuticals are each coming out with their own versions of similar medications.
  • Amgen set the list price of Aimovig at $6,900 annually (an amount that doesn’t reflect discounts or rebates), which was about 30% less than what Wall Street expected, per Damian Garde at STAT.
  • “The first-mover advantage for (Amgen and Novartis) will allow for them to frame the payer discussions and gain initial traction in the marketplace,” Vamil Divan of Credit Suisse wrote to investors.
  • Amgen will “ultimately retain 35–40% market share long-term” because it was first, and could lead to $1.8 billion of peak annual sales, Geoffrey Porges of Leerink Partners said in an investor note.

Go deeper: Researchers continue seeking new clues on how heredity may play a role in migraines.