Finding the Next Big Blockbuster Drug: Atheronova: AHRO
The pharmaceutical industry is largely centered on blockbuster drugs, with the top 20 drugs in the U.S. accounting for nearly $320 billion in sales in 2011. With five of those 20 drugs losing patent protection since then, there has been a high premium placed on finding the next big blockbuster drug on the part of companies and investors in the pharmaceutical industry. 
Not surprisingly, the most lucrative classes of drugs were those targeting heart disease, which was the leading cause of death in 2011, according to data from the CDC. Some of these blockbusters included Pfizer Inc.’s (NYSE: PFE) Lipitor® that generated $7.7 billion and Bristol-Myers Squibb (NYSE: BMS) and Sanofi SA’s (NYSE: SNY) Plavix® that generated $6.8 billion. 
So, how can investors find the next blockbuster drug?
Looking at Pfizer’s Lipitor® for Clues
Pfizer’s Lipitor® is a statin that works by blocking the enzyme HMG-CoA reductase in the liver in order to lower LDL cholesterol levels. The idea for a statin didn’t come from Pfizer – far from it. Dr. Akira Endo discovered statins working for a small Tokyo drug company called Sankyo in 1971 after spending years searching through more than 6,000 microbes for an HMG-CoA inhibitor. 
After Dr. Endo discovered mevastatin, word of the breakthrough quickly spread throughout the medical community. Merck & Co. (NYSE: MRK) began immediately searching in the same class and found lovastatin, another statin that proved to be very effective in lower LDL cholesterol levels, and eventually developed Mevacor® that became the first U.S. statin. 
Warner-Lambert soon discovered its own statin – atorvastatin – that proved more effective than Mevacor® in lowering LDL cholesterol. But with Mevacor® already in its final rounds of clinical trials at the time, the company needed to move quickly and partnered with Pfizer. The two used existing statins as comparisons, while keeping its own secret, giving it a key advantage.