Johnson & Johnson's multiple myeloma drug reduces risk of death in late-stage study

FILE PHOTO: A Johnson & Johnson building is shown in Irvine, California, U.S., January 24, 2017. REUTERS/Mike Blake

(Reuters) - Johnson & Johnson’s blockbuster blood cancer drug Darzalex significantly reduced the risk of disease progression or death in patients who have not been previously treated for multiple myeloma, late-stage study data showed on Tuesday.

The injection when used with standard of care drugs, Celgene Corp’s Revlimid and dexamethasone, reduced the risk of the disease spreading or death by 44 percent at about 28 months in patients who are not eligible for stem cell transplant.

At 30 months, the cancer did not spread in 71 percent of patients who were administered the Darzalex combination therapy, compared with 56 percent of patients on the standard of care treatment, the company said.

The company plans to make its regulatory submissions to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration next year for the treatment, which was first approved by the FDA in November 2015 as a monotherapy for multiple myeloma patients who had received at least three prior therapies.

“The median age for diagnosis is the 70s and this study involves patients who are over 65. So this study allows us to compare adding Darzalex to the standard of care in essentially the largest portion of patients with multiple myeloma, which are elderly patients,” Mark Wildgust, the vice president of global medical affairs at J&J unit Janssen Oncology, told Reuters.

Darzalex, chemically known as daratumumab, had third quarter sales of $498 million and is expected to bring in $2.01 billion this year, according to IBES data from Refinitiv.

Multiple myeloma is an incurable blood cancer that occurs when malignant plasma cells grow uncontrollably in the bone marrow. An estimated 30,700 people will be diagnosed, and 12,770 will die from the disease, in the United States this year, according to the company.

Reporting by Saumya Sibi Joseph in Bengaluru; Editing by Saumyadeb Chakrabarty