Can Biohaven challenge the Allergan/AbbVie goliath in migraine? CEO Coric thinks so

Falcon 9 launch
Biohaven's FDA decision date for rimegepant is in the first quarter of 2020. (Wikimedia Commons / SpaceX)

Next year, the pharma market will likely see a new oral CGRP migraine treatment showdown between Allergan and the much smaller Biohaven Pharmaceuticals. But while many expect Allergan’s ubrogepant to win FDA approval first, Biohaven’s CEO Vlad Coric says his company is ready to compete. 

Biohaven is “right-sized” to succeed and doesn’t plan to compete on a “dollar to dollar” or “rep to rep” basis, he said via email. Instead, it’ll compete “differently, leaner and faster.” 

“We will strive to outpace them with a more efficient and innovative commercial launch, using modern-day strategies,” Coric wrote. 

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Allergan’s ubrogepant is set for an FDA decision in December, followed by rimegepant’s deadline in the first quarter of 2020. Both drugs are expected to launch next year if approved. Biohaven spent $105 million on GW Pharma's priority review voucher to speed up its review. 

To prep for its rollout, Biohaven has already brought onboard or extended offers to two-thirds of its sales force and hired its commercial leadership team, Coric said. If approved, rimegepant would be the company’s first marketed med among numerous neurological disease drug candidates. The drugmaker, which went public in 2017, has less than 100 staffers. 

Biohaven submitted its new drug application to the FDA earlier this year and notified investors that the application was accepted in the third quarter. 

RELATED: Migraine hopefuls from Lilly, Allergan and Biohaven don't beat older drugs: ICER 

Aside from the first rimegepant launch, Biohaven is also testing its med in migraine prevention and has other candidates in anxiety, obsessive-compulsive disorder and Alzheimer’s disease. 

Other drugmakers are already competing with injectable CGRP migraine prevention drugs. Amgen’s Aimovig won the field’s first nod, followed by Teva’s Ajovy and Eli Lilly’s Emgality. Emgality also won a second nod to treat cluster headaches.

But the forthcoming oral options will bring new challenges and considerations for the existing players in the CGRP migraine prevention field. In a July note, Piper Jaffray analyst Christopher Raymond wrote that oral CGRPs are set to be “major class disruptors” and could achieve $4 billion in sales in migraine prevention alone. The analyst believes Biohaven’s med could capture blockbuster sales in the space.

Evaluate analysts, meanwhile, have predicted Allergan’s ubrogepant will generate $425 million by 2024. Allergan is merging with AbbVie under a deal the companies inked this year, so Biohaven will be going up against one of biopharma's biggest companies with its rollout. AbbVie and Allergan expect to close their deal in early 2020.

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