Biotech giant Amgen Inc. Monday won approval to sell the new anemia medication Aranesp in the European Union for patients suffering from chronic kidney failure.
The Thousand Oaks-based company plans to begin marketing the drug immediately in Germany, Britain, Denmark, Sweden, Portugal and the Netherlands, said spokesman Jeff Richardson. Amgen expects U.S. approval of Aranesp by the end of this month, Richardson said.
The company developed the drug as a successor to its top-selling Epogen, which had revenue of nearly $2 billion last year. Aranesp requires injections only once a week or every two weeks, instead of three times a week required for Epogen, the company said.
"It's the next big thing for Amgen," said Michael King, an analyst with Robertson Stephens.
Aranesp's approval for patients with kidney failure is a first step toward the drug's acceptance for other types of anemia, including those related to cancer and chemotherapy, King said.
Cancer and other chronic diseases represent one of the fastest-growing markets for anemia treatments, with sales potentially worth $10 billion, he said.
Aranesp's closest competitor in cancer-related anemia market is Johnson & Johnson's Procrit, which has about $3 billion in annual sales.
King projects Aranesp sales this year of about $100 million, jumping to $500 million in 2002.
Amgen shares fell 70 cents to close at $66.75 on Nasdaq.