Opdivo’s Approval for Head and Neck Cancer: Another Feather in Bristol’s Cap?



Bristol’s oncology portfolio

During the third quarter of 2016, Bristol-Myers Squibb (BMY) fetched revenues of $4.9 billion—a 21% rise. Bristol’s oncology portfolio consists of Empliciti, Opdivo, Sprycel, and Yervoy. These oncology drugs’ overall revenues totaled $1.7 billion in 3Q16. Of this total amount, Opdivo (nivolumab) generated $920 million, accounting for ~19% of Bristol’s total revenue during the period.

Notably, Sprycel was the second-largest contributor, fetching $472 million in 3Q16, as compared to Yervoy’s $285 million.

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Opdivo approved to treat head and neck cancer patients

On November 11, based on its CheckMate-141 study, Opdivo won FDA (US Food and Drug Administration) approval for treating recurrent or metastatic SCCHN (squamous cell carcinoma of the head and neck) patients in the US. The drug can be used when the disease progresses on or after platinum-based therapy. Opdivo offered significant extended OS (overall survival) for patients, as compared to the median OS of 7.5 months.

Notably, Merck’s (MRK) Keytruda had had a lead over Opdivo in head and neck cancer. For details on this competition, please read “Keytruda Leads over Opdivo in Head and Neck Cancer Treatment.”

In the immuno-oncology space, along with Keytruda, Opdivo competes with Roche’s (RHHBY) Tecentriq. AstraZeneca’s (AZN) Durvalumab could also enter the space soon.

Rising Opdivo sales should meanwhile help Bristol’s shares. If you want exposure to the opportunity, you can invest in ETFs like the iShares Dow Jones US Healthcare ETF (IYH), which holds 3.31% of its total assets in BMY.

In the next article, we’ll discuss the factors that have given Opdivo an edge over Keytruda.


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