PROTEASE INHIBITORS: Viracept Sales Set Biotech Record
Agouron Pharmaceuticals' new protease inhibitor produced $308 million in sales during its first full year on the market, "making it the most successful biotechnology drug launch ever, the Los Angeles Times reports. The La Jolla, CA-based biotech firm's Viracept has captured 30% of dosage sales in the "$1 billion protease inhibitor drug market" since its March 1997 introduction. The drug is currently "used regularly by about 85,000 HIV-positive patients, or about one-tenth of Americans believed to be infected with the virus." Protease inhibitors are the "only class [of drugs] so far proven to prolong the lives of AIDS patients," the Times notes. Viracept generated $111.9 million in sales during the past quarter, "a 10% increase from the previous three months."
A League Of Its Own
Viracept has gained "growing acceptance among HIV-positive patients because of its ease of dosage and relatively mild side effects," although it is more costly than its competitors. Dr. Howard Grossman, a New York internist, said, "Viracept has found favor among HIV patients because it balances efficacy with tolerable side effects." He added that the drug's "major side effect is diarrhea, which most patients can deal with, whereas some of the other drugs cause kidney stones, numbness around the mouth and nausea."
A Biotech Giant
Agouron, which was founded in 1984 by its chief executive, Peter Johnson, and several University of California-San Diego scientists, "received FDA approval for Viracept last year after more than a decade of research financed by $500 million from investors" (Kraul, 4/15).