Close this search box.

J&J sees mixed performance from new multiple myeloma drugs

Dive Brief:

  • Sales of Johnson & Johnson’s multiple myeloma medicine Tecvayli more than doubled in the first quarter versus the same period last year, boosting the pharmaceutical company’s oncology business while its cell therapy for the blood cancer, Carvykti, underperformed.
  • The first quarter figures released Tuesday by J&J were the first time it has broken out sales of Tecvayli, which was approved in the U.S. in late 2022. The dual-targeting antibody drug brought in $133 million between January and March, above analysts’ estimates.
  • Tecvayli’s growth contrasted with Carvykti, sales of which were flat in the first quarter compared to the final three months of last year. J&J, which has been working to improve how it produces the complex cell treatment, cited the timing of orders as the main reason for Carvykti’s slower-than-expected sales.

Dive Insight:

J&J has put multiple myeloma drug development at the center of its pharma business strategy, setting a target of $25 billion in sales by 2030 and at least 50% share of patient treatment.

For much of the past decade, its oncology business has been led by Darzalex, an antibody that’s become a backbone therapy for multiple myeloma. Sales have continued to grow, rising 19% year over year in the first quarter to about $2.7 billion.

Tecvayli and Carvykti, along with a newer medicine called Talvey, are meant to build on Darzalex by offering new ways to target the blood cancer, as well as opportunities for treatment combinations. Tecvayli and Talvey are both bispecific antibodies that bind to different myeloma cell proteins, while Carvykti is a personalized cell therapy.

Manufacturing the latter is a complicated undertaking and for months, J&J has been working to improve how reliably it can make Carvykti. The company claimed it’s doubled capacity since last year, adding new production facilities and bringing on contract suppliers.

The increased supply will be needed if demand grows as J&J expects following the Food and Drug Administration’s recent decision to approve earlier Carvykti treatment. The therapy can now be used after only one prior drug regimen for people with relapsed or refractory multiple myeloma, compared to the previous indication for use after four lines of therapy.

While Carvykti sales were flat in the first quarter, Jennifer Taubert, J&J’s head of innovative medicine, cited the “timing of orders and when they were actually delivered and billed.”

“Nothing […] to really see there,” she added, on a Tuesday call with analysts. “We do anticipate continued growth for this asset, particularly in the second half versus the first half.”

J&J faces competition from Bristol Myers Squibb, which has a rival cell therapy called Abecma, as well as from other companies like Pfizer that have developed bispecific antibodies.

Taubert noted Tecvayli has seen strong adoption in the U.S., as well as in countries like Germany and France, and said it was performing well versus the competition.

Overall, J&J’s cancer drug sales totaled $4.8 billion in the first quarter, up 17% year over year and accounting for some 35% of the company’s pharma business.

Company-wide, sales increased 2.3% to $21.4 billion on a reported basis, matching Wall Street forecasts. J&J’s medical device unit grew at a faster rate than its pharma division, which was held back by flat sales growth from immune disease drug Stelara.

J&J’s stock price fell by 2% in Tuesday morning trading, while shares in Legend Biotech, which co-developed Carvykti, slumped by 5%.