Natalee delivers Novartis a much-needed win

A series of pipeline setbacks has left Novartis in need of wins, so news of a hit in Kisqali’s adjuvant breast cancer trial, Natalee, was well received, lifting the group’s Swiss stock 6% this morning. No actual data were released but it is encouraging that the trial was stopped at a second interim analysis, the primary endpoint of invasive disease-free survival having been met after 85% of events had occurred. Lilly’s rival CDK4/6 agent, Verzenio, is the one to beat here. This boasts a 35% reduction in the risk of death on its label, although differences in the adjuvant populations in which these drugs were tested will make direct comparisons contentious. For instance, Novartis’s trial allowed lower-risk patients than Lilly’s; if the Natalee win was driven by a higher-risk cohort, it could have a bearing on the commercial opportunity. Adjuvant success prompted Verzenio forecasts to balloon, largely at the expense of Pfizer’s CDK4/6 rival, Ibrance, which failed in its attempts to crack this valuable setting. The extent to which Novartis can break Lilly's hold on this space will depend on the full Natalee data, which should come at a conference later this year. 

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