The space for oral rheumatoid arthritis treatments won't be getting crowded quite as quickly as some might have been expecting. Gilead Sciences(NASDAQ:GILD) told investors on Tuesday that the FDA has issued a complete response letter (CRL) denying approval for its drug candidate filgotinib -- for now -- and dealing a huge blow to the company's cash flow projections.

An FDA approval for filgotinib had been widely expected, and forecasts of its market potential suggested it would likely become a blockbuster. Sales had been expected to exceed $1 billion in 2022 and peak above $4 billion annually.

This setback for Gilead's drug will give recently launched oral rheumatoid arthritis (RA) treatments from AbbVie(NYSE:ABBV) and Eli Lily(NYSE:LLY) more time to establish their footholds in the highly lucrative market for immune system suppressants that safely prevent the disease from progressing. 

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