Alexion gets off to the races with key Ultomiris, Soliris launches

Alexion may be able to exceed its Soliris-to-Ultomiris switching goal in paroxysmal nocturnal hemoglobinuria, analysts say. (Alexion)

Alexion wasn’t messing around when it set its goal for converting patients to brand-new Ultomiris, but so far, so good. The company appears to be on track to hit—perhaps even exceed—its lofty target.

That’s the picture execs painted, at least, when unveiling the biotech's first-quarter earnings last week. As of April 22, 22% of U.S. patients with paroxysmal nocturnal hemoglobinuria (PNH) had jumped from Alexion’s older drug Soliris to the newcomer, commercial chief Brian Goff said during Alexion's earnings call, a big jump from the 14% enrolled a month ago and the 3% Alexion execs quoted in early February.

“These numbers all suggest to us that in the U.S., in the PNH indication,” Alexion’s 70% conversion goal “should be achieved well before” its year-end 2020 deadline, SVB Leerink analyst Geoffrey Porges wrote in a note to clients.

RELATED: Alexion runs toward big Ultomiris goals with early Soliris switching success

So far, doctors and payers have responded well to the new treatment, Goff said, with the latter group putting up “minimal barriers for conversion.” Sixty percent of commercialized payers now have a defined policy for Ultomiris, he said, and Alexion will look to replicate its early success in Europe and Japan.

But while Ultomiris soars, Alexion isn’t leaving its elder drug in the dust. Soliris is in the middle of a big launch of its own in generalized myasthenia gravis (gMG), and execs say things are going well on that front, too.

Almost 1,000 gMG patients were taking Soliris at the end of the first quarter, a number that implies 38% quarter-over-quarter growth, Porges pointed out. According to his estimates, gMG accounted for about $133 million—or 14%—of Soliris’ first-quarter U.S. sales. Goff, meanwhile, called it “the best Alexion launch to date.”

RELATED: With pivot to less-rare diseases, Alexion needs a new sticker-price plan, CEO says

But the way the company sees it, that’s just the beginning. Alexion has said it expects gMG to become Soliris’ largest indication—part of the drugmaker’s plan to pivot from an ultra-rare disease company to a rare disease company.

“We're … beginning to make some inroads in terms of depth of prescribing, repeat prescribing that is, and that with again the background of strong payer support and a product profile with Soliris that plays out very nicely has just continued us on that journey of continued uptake,” Goff said.