Eli Lilly & Co.'s blood thinner prasugrel, which won a strong endorsement from a panel of health experts Tuesday, could surpass $1 billion in annual sales within a few years, according to analysts.
A nine-member Food and Drug Administration cardiology panel voted unanimously in favor of the drug's approval.
The FDA still must decide whether to approve it and has set no timeframe for the decision. The agency has twice delayed making a decision on the drug and is not required to follow the advice of the panel, though it usually does.
Leerink Swann analyst Seamus Fernandez said in a research note that Tuesday's decision bodes well for the drug.
"Prasugrel now appears well on track to receive full FDA approval," he wrote Tuesday, noting that the committee meeting was "surprisingly benign."
Fernandez projects global revenue of $1.15 billion in 2013 and $1.6 billion in 2015 for prasugrel.
On Wednesday, Credit Suisse analyst Catherine Arnold predicted that global sales will reach $1 billion by 2012 and surpass $2.15 billion in 2015.
Lilly developed the drug with Japanese drugmaker Daiichi Sankyo Co., and the companies will split sales if it is approved.
A new income source would be helpful for Lilly. The Indianapolis-based drugmaker has not launched a new drug since the diabetes treatment Byetta in 2005, and patents protecting its four best-selling drugs all will expire by 2013.
That starts with top-seller Zyprexa, which registered $4.7 billion in sales last year. The anti-psychotic loses patent protection in 2011.
Lilly and Daiichi Sankyo will market prasugrel under the brand name Effient. It will compete with the blockbuster Plavix, which rang up $4.9 billion in U.S. sales last year and is marketed by Bristol-Myers Squibb Co. and Sanofi-Aventis.
Lilly shares fell 71 cents to $37.98 in Wednesday afternoon trading.