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Glivec the hot cancer drug from Novartis

Novartis is the world's sixth-largest drugmaker (by sales).
Novartis was formed after merger of two Swiss companies, Sandoz Ltd. and Ciba-Geigy."Novartis is emerging as one of the premier powerhouses in the global pharmaceuticals industry," says Richard R. Stover, senior analyst with brokerage Natexis Bleichroeder Inc. in New York. The new cancer drug, Glivec's success led to Novartis reported a 24% jump in first-quarter operating earnings, to $1.4 billion, on sales of $5.7 billion. The stock has climbed 15% since mid-March and continues to outperform the industry.

Glivec was first approved for treatment of chronic myeloid leukemia. It is the first treatment ever proven drug to cause certain types of tumors to disappear. While other cancer drugs killsoff healthy cells along with sick ones, Glivec interfere with the proteins that cause tumors to grow. Glivec also is used to treat other rare types of cancer such as gastrointestinal stromal tumors (GIST) and is now being tested in combination with other drugs in fighting prostate cancer.

Glivec was introduced in the U.S. in 2001 under the brand name Gleevec. Sales rose more than 300% in 2002, and could hit the $1 billion mark by the end of this year. Although an annual course of Glivec can cost as much as $25,000, demand for the drug took off so quickly that Novartis was forced to run its production line around the clock.

Since the year 2000 Novartis has launched 10 drugs and this is three times more than its nearest rival. Another 15 are expected to debut by 2006. Among the current crop are Zelmac, a drug for irritable-bowel syndrome;eczema treatment Elidel; and Zometa, a treatment for bone metastases.

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