Eli Lilly''s drug Evista, used for the
treatment of osteoporosis, significantly reduces the incidence of breast cancer in
post-menopausal women, says new data published in the 16 June edition of the Journal of
the American Medical Association.
According to the authors of the study, the
data indicate that Evista reduced the risk of newly diagnosed invasive breast cancer by 76
per cent during a median of 40 months of treating post-menopausal women for osteoporosis.
The data was collected from a study involving 7,705 women. It was funded by Eli Lilly but
involved external researchers who for the first time confirmed Evista''s role in cancer
Expected to be a blockbuster drug, Evista
managed sales of only $144 million in 1998, its first year. The drug faced stiff
competition from Merck''s drug Fasomax, believed to be more potent, and struggled to make
an impact in a new and undeveloped osteoporosis drug market.
Osteoporosis is an ailment affecting
post-menopausal women. The onset of the disease is usually between the age of 45-55 years
and is characterised by rapid de-mineralisation of bones making them prone to fractures.
It is estimated that one out of every two women in the world is at a risk of developing
In spite of such a vast potential, the
market for osteoporosis remains small, because of the incidence of breast cancer
associated with the hormonal replacement therapy, or HRT, a popular remedy to delay the
onset of the disease.
Analyst believes that though the study
would not change perception of the
drug in cancer prevention immediately, it would eventually open a wide market for the
drug. Analysts feel that the Food and Drug Administration, a "very cautious"
body that regulates drugs in US, may not allow Eli Lilly to market the drug for prevention
of breast cancer until long term studies are available in several years.