New blockbuster drugs on the horizon

Diabetes cases have been surging in the United States and around the world. Pfizer will begin marketing an inhalable form of insulin called Exubera in July 2006. The short acting treatment will not entirely replace insulin injections. Analysts have predicated a $1 billion market for this drug and insurers are expected to place it in the highest copayment tier according to the Wall Street Journal’s report (subscription wall).

Merck and Novartis meanwhile are reported close to FDA approval of a new class of drugs called a DPP-4 inhibitor to treat diabetes 2. (Diabetes 2 used to be called adult onset diabetes; except in severe cases it does not require insulin therapy. The name Diabetes 2 is now used because many younger people are contracting the disease due in part to to obesity problems. Diabetes 1 previously was called juvenile onset diabetes and always requires insulin therapy.) The DPP-4 inhibitors work to decrease blood sugar levels, rather than increase insulin production, the objective of current diabetes drugs.

Merck’s drug is called Januvia and FDA approval is anticipated in the fall. Novartis’s drug is called Galvus and FDA approval is expected next year. Both drugs could achieve annual sales over $1 billion according to the Wall Street Journal report.

What’s more, Japanese researchers have announced a possible breakthrough in Alzheimer’s Disease treatment — a gene based vaccine that has worked on mice without causing the brain swelling problem that a previous experimental vaccine caused. Next step – monkey tests and then humans.