Pharmaceutical companies are betting big on cancer.

That’s one reason drug company Pfizer announced this week that it plans to acquire the cancer drugmaker Array BioPharma, for $11 billion.

The cancer drug industry is expected to be worth $237 billion by 2024 compared to $138 billion in 2019, according to reports. And competition among top drug companies is heating up.

Currently, Pfizer has few new cancer drugs in its lineup, according to sources, and it has faced declining revenue as older, blockbuster drugs including pain drug Lyrica and cholesterol drug Lipitor have gone generic sources say. In contrast, novel cancer treatments are Array’s bread and butter.

Here are more details of the proposed deal:

  • Array has two new drugs that can potentially treat a range of cancers, including skin and colorectal cancers, and it has more in its research pipeline, according to reports.
  • Pfizer has 18 cancer-fighting drugs that are similar to other drugs currently on the market from other companies. Nevertheless, it expects to make about $8 billion in 2019, according to the Wall Street Journal.
  • Pfizer is perhaps best-known for Lipitor, a cholesterol-fighting drug, and Viagra, a male-impotence drug. But it has faced competition for these drugs as generic alternatives have come to the market, sources say.

Competing for cancer treatments

  • Competitor Gilead Sciences announced plans to merge with the cancer drug maker Kite Pharma for $12 billion in 2017. The same year, the Food and Drug Administration approved Kite’s drug Yescarta, a so-called living drug treatment that fights certain kinds of blood cancer by provoking an immune response.
  • In May 2019, Merck purchased Peloton Therapeutics for $1billion. Peloton makes a drug that fights kidney cancer.  Merck also has a strong line up of its own cancer drugs, including Keytruda, which fights head and neck cancer, according to reports.
  • In April 2019, shareholders of Bristol Meyers approved a $74 billion for Celgene, which manufactures a drug that reportedly prompts the immune system to attack cancer cells.

Expensive drugs

Treatment with Array’s drugs is expensive, however, and potentially out of range for many, reportedly costing about $22,000 per month. Yescarta similarly reportedly costs nearly $400,000 for a course of treatment.

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