Novartis's Tasigna Medicine Beats Existing Gleevec Drug in Leukemia Study

Novartis AG, whose best-selling cancer medicine Gleevec loses patent protection as early as 2015, said the drug’s successor Tasigna worked better to treat newly diagnosed leukemia after two years.

Tasigna cut the amount of a tell-tale protein in the blood in three times as many patients with leukemia, the Basel, Switzerland-based company said today in an e-mailed statement. The findings, an update of an ongoing clinical trial, will be presented at the American Society of Hematology meeting in Orlando, Florida, later today.

Tasigna treats chronic myeloid leukemia, a slow-progressing cancer that causes bone marrow to produce too many white blood cells because of a genetic flaw. Novartis, which funded the study, has said it hopes to replace Gleevec with Tasigna.

“We are encouraged by the ongoing clinical development of Tasigna as a new treatment,” Herve Hoppenot, who heads Novartis’ cancer unit, said in the release.

In the clinical trial, designed to follow about 900 patients for five years, almost three times more people taking 300 milligrams of Tasigna twice daily had only a trace amount of the Bcr-Abl protein in their blood after 24 months. The other patients took either 400 milligrams of Gleevec once a day or 400 milligrams of Tasigna twice a day.

Tasigna is approved in more than 85 countries for patients who haven’t responded to at least one other treatment. U.S. regulators expanded approval of the drug this year to include newly diagnosed cases of chronic myeloid leukemia. The drug is also approved as an initial treatment in Switzerland, and under regulatory review in the European Union for this indication.

Gleevec, also known as Glivec, generated sales of $1 billion in the third quarter.

To contact the reporter on this story: Eva von Schaper in Munich at evonschaper@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Phil Serafino at pserafino@bloomberg.net.

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