Sanofi's eczema rollout Dupixent hits blockbuster launch trajectory as earnings beat

Could Dupixent end up beating Novartis’ speedy Cosentyx launch? The numbers are looking that way so far, a Sanofi executive said Monday.

That would be a feat, given that Cosentyx, the first psoriasis therapy in its class, raced to blockbuster status after its 2015 rollout. But so far, the numbers on Sanofi's new eczema med look even better, according to Bill Sibold, EVP at Sanofi Genzyme.

“Prescriptions are trending ahead of other recent biologic launches in dermatology, including Cosentyx,” Sibold said during the company’s second-quarter earnings call.

Dupixent is Sanofi’s first immunology drug, and Sanofi touted that new franchise—which now also includes the rheumatoid arthritis drug Kevzara—during its second-quarter earnings call. Both drugs are shared with development partner Regeneron.

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Dupixent’s script numbers are hovering between 1,500 and 1,600 in recent weeks, according to Leerink’s latest prescriptions report. That’s up from around 1,000 six weeks ago and follows a quick downward spike over the July 4 holiday.

Saleswise, the drug delivered €26 million, or about $30.5 million, during the second quarter. That was somewhat shy of consensus estimates, Bernstein analysts said, but ahead of that firm’s €25 million prediction. Overall, Sanofi beat expectations for earnings but fell a bit short on revenue at €8.66 billion; earnings per share rang in at €1.35, compared with consensus of €1.31.

Since Dupixent’s launch in March, Sanofi has been targeting around 7,000 doctors, Sibold said during the call, and as of last week, more than 5,100 had prescribed Dupixent. Those scripts cover more than 13,000 patients, Sibold said, “a figure we think is very encouraging.”

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Early payer negotiations, which yielded upfront contracts with PBM giant Express Scripts and CVS Health, have been a big help, Sibold said. And that includes the payer contracts with prior-authorization hurdles, pointed out by analysts recently as a potential drag as the launch continues.

Only 8% of plans and 8% of lives can get to Dupixent without upfront permission from their health plans or pharmacy benefits managers, Bernstein analyst Ronny Gal recently noted. Authorization would include proof that patients have tried other treatments—via step therapy—in almost half of all plans, Gal’s research showed.

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But Sibold says those permissions are coming through. Prior-authorization approvals are running at 73% across all plans and 80% in plans where Dupixent coverage contracts are already in place. The company expects “broad contracting” across the market by year’s end. 

Meanwhile, Sanofi is gearing up for a fourth-quarter Dupixent filing in asthma, with late-stage data due for release soon, Sibold noted. The market for biologic asthma treatment appears to be growing now, Gal noted, as Roche’s Xolair and GlaxoSmithKline’s Nucala reported second-quarter growth. Their numbers imply “~$2.5B annual market sales by the time Dupixent launches with the indication,” he said.

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And a European launch looks imminent, thanks to an earlier-than-expected backing from a key European Medicines Agency committee. Sanofi expects to roll with Dupixent in Germany, its first EU market, by year’s end.

Of course, it’s early days yet, and €26 million is far from the goals Sanofi and Regeneron have set for the medicine—far from the $3 billion-plus that analysts estimate, too. If Sibold’s Cosentyx-beating numbers continue, and payer coverage continues to solidify, some analysts think the outlook could be even better.

And that, obviously, would be a big deal for Sanofi. “If dupi beats significantly over the long term, then could be interesting,” Bernstein analyst Tim Anderson wrote in an investor note earlier this month. “[S]till assessing.”