- Global Pharma News & Resources

Keytruda Overtakes Opdivo in the Battle of PD-1 Inhibitors with Q3 sales to reach $3.1m, says GlobalData

Keytruda Overtakes Opdivo in the Battle of PD-1 Inhibitors with Q3 sales to reach $3.1m, says GlobalData

Both Merck & Co (Merck) and Bristol-Myers Squibb (BMS) have reported growth in the global revenues of their PD-1 inhibitors, Keytruda (pembrolizumab) and Opdivo (nivolumab). Merck’s Keytruda is leading in total sales for the global immune checkpoint inhibitor market in Q3 2019, indicating that it is rapidly gaining popularity over BMS’ Opdivo. While Keytruda’s revenues grew an impressive 62%, compared to Q3 2018, to reach $3.1m, Opdivo sales increased by only 1%, compared to Q3 2018, to $1.8m, says GlobalData, a leading data and analytics company.

Elena Tzima, MSc, Oncology and Hematology Analyst at GlobalData, commented: “Merck attributes Keytruda’s growth in Q3 2019 to the strong uptake of the drug in combination with Pfizer’s tyrosine kinase inhibitor (TKI) Inlyta (axitinib) in the first-line treatment of metastatic renal cell carcinoma (mRCC), its uptake in the adjuvant setting in melanoma, and its continuous use in the first-line and second-line treatment of advanced non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC).

“Although BMS did not report which indications contributed the most to Opdivo’s growth, sales increase could potentially be attributed to its use in both adjuvant and advanced melanoma, as well as its use in both the first-line and second-line treatment of mRCC. Opdivo is used in more than one therapy setting in these two indications.”

In the absence of head-to-head comparison trials, key opinion leaders (KOLs) interviewed by GlobalData stated that they have not observed any clinical difference between Keytruda and Opdivo when using them in practice for the treatment of renal cell carcinoma (RCC).

Tzima adds: “Yet, Keytruda is gaining ground on Opdivo in the fist-line treatment of mRCC, despite Opdivo being the first PD-1 inhibitor to be approved for the indication, in 2015 as monotherapy in second line, and in 2018 in combination with BMS’ other immune checkpoint inhibitor Yervoy (ipilimumab) in first line. Keytruda’s use in combination with Inlyta for the first-line treatment of mRCC has contributed to its success over Opdivo’s combination with Yervoy.

“While the combination of Opdivo + Yervoy represents the current standard-of-care for intermediate- and poor-risk mRCC patients in the first-line setting, Keytruda + Inlyta has shown efficacy across all risk groups. Opdivo + Yervoy is arguably more toxic than Keytruda + Inlyta, due to immune-related adverse events associated with inflammation of healthy tissues that arise mainly from CTLA-4 inhibition with Yervoy, which can be avoided with the use of a TKI such as Inlyta.”

Merck has been very methodical and, so far, successful with the development program of Keytruda, testing it in multiple cancer indications such as triple-negative breast cancer, colorectal cancer, ovarian cancer, melanoma and various combinations of targeted therapies, chemotherapies and gene therapies.

In H2 2019, Keytruda gained three approvals: as a monotherapy for the first-line treatment of non-small-cell lung carcinoma (NSCLC) in China, in combination with Inlyta for the first-line treatment of RCC in Europe, and as a monotherapy for the second and later lines of treatment of recurrent locally advanced or metastatic esophageal cancer in the US. In contrast, Opdivo received approval for change in dosing schedule in Europe in the treatment of adjuvant and metastatic settings of melanoma.

Tzima continues: “BMS is trying to keep up with the competition, and is at late-stage development of Opdivo in combination with Exelixis’ TKI Cabometyx (cabozantinib s-malate) (BMS, NCT03141177), and in combination with Nektar Therapeutics’ selective IL-2 receptor inhibitor, NKTR-214 (bempegaldesleukin) (Nektar Therapeutics, NCT03729245) for the first-line treatment of advanced RCC (aRCC) or mRCC patients.”

Although Cabometyx is a popular TKI choice among KOLs interviewed by GlobalData, they reported it to have a worse toxicity profile than Inlyta in patients who have progressed on one or more lines of treatment. Therefore, Opdivo + Cabometyx is unlikely to outperform Keytruda + Inlyta in first-line treatment of aRCC.

The combination of Opdivo + NKTR-214, however, offers a novel mechanism of action that utilizes the synergistic effect of PD-1 inhibition and IL-2 signaling to improve response to immune checkpoint blockade, and is highly anticipated in the RCC market. Therefore if approved, Opdivo + NKTR-214 could help BMS close in on Merck.

Tzima concludes: “However, GlobalData expects that this will not be sufficient for Opdivo sales to surpass Keytruda’s, as Keytruda is set to become the new standard-of-care in combination with Inlyta for front-line RCC treatment.”


For more information

To gain access to our latest press releases: GlobalData Media Centre

Analysts available for comment. Please contact the GlobalData Press Office:

EMEA & Americas: +44 (0)207 832 4399
Asia-Pacific: +91 40 6616 6809


For expert analysis on developments in your industry, please connect with us on:

GlobalData | LinkedIn | Twitter

Notes to Editors

  • Comments provided by Elena Tzima, MSc, Oncology and Hematology Analyst at GlobalData

About GlobalData

4,000 of the world’s largest companies, including over 70% of FTSE 100 and 60% of Fortune 100 companies, make more timely and better business decisions thanks to GlobalData’s unique data, expert analysis and innovative solutions, all in one platform. GlobalData’s mission is to help our clients decode the future to be more successful and innovative across a range of industries, including the healthcare, consumer, retail, technology, energy, financial and professional services sectors. PR7272

Editor Details

Last Updated: 19-Nov-2019