Colitis nod puts J&J’s Simponi one step closer to blockbuster

Johnson & Johnson’s new-generation rheumatoid arthritis drug now has a new approval in ulcerative colitis. Simponi, which J&J ($JNJ) developed as a follow-up to its top-selling autoimmune therapy Remicade, could leap to blockbuster status with the help of this new indication, analysts say.

Remicade is itself approved for ulcerative colitis, and it brought in $6.1 billion last year, making it J&J’s best seller. Simponi’s $607 million in sales are obviously just a fraction of that, but analysts now figure it could hit $1.2 billion by 2016, Bloomberg reports. It’s a subcutaneous treatment, while Remicade is an IV drug.

That’s partly because the market for ulcerative colitis treatments is expected to double to $3.7 billion in the U.S., Japan and top European markets. But Simponi will have to compete not only with its sister treatment Remicade but also with Humira, AbbVie’s ($ABBV) flagship product, which won approval in ulcerative colitis last fall. Analysts estimate that Humira could add $500 million to its sales through the new colitis use.

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