Eisai, ever hopeful for an Alzheimer's drug win, hires former Lilly exec as new commercial lead

Eisai is focusing squarely on its own attempts to develop and sell a new Alzheimer’s disease drug by hiring a new commercial lead for its late-stage attempt.

The Japanese pharma is turning to a new hope after being burned by Biogen’s Aduhelm. Eisai had expected to receive royalties, but an amended financial package in March, followed by the collapse of the drug on the U.S. market, ended any revenue streams from the controversial therapy.

Eisai, undeterred from the horrors of Aduhelm’s fall, is hiring former Eli Lilly Alzheimer’s and marketing lead Thomas Fagan Jr. to the new role of vice president, U.S. Alzheimer's disease commercial.

Fagan's focus will be on getting the company’s late-stage anti-amyloid protofibril antibody, lecanemab, over the finish line and into the U.S. market.

The first part of that is already underway. Last September, Eisai kick-started a rolling submission to the FDA for lecanemab under its accelerated approval pathway for early Alzheimer’s patients who have amyloid buildup in their brains. Biogen is helping with trial work, but Eisai is leading development.

Should lecanemab gain FDA approval, and that’s a big if—though Aduhelm's green light may boost its odds—getting doctors to use the drug will remain a major commercial problem. Lecanemab is not Aduhelm, but the two drugs are very similar and go after a similar target—i.e., removing amyloid buildup—which has very serious questions over how well, if at all, this can help Alzheimer’s patients.

With Fagan's hiring, Eisai is clearly thinking ahead, hoping to hit the ground running on the commercial side should lecanemab nab approval. That may well include learning from Aduhelm’s market issues, which boiled down to being overly pricey and questions over both safety and efficacy.

Fagan will be responsible for leading both the development and implementation of the commercial launch strategy for the company's entire Alzheimer's business in the U.S. and will work to speed up the team's growth and expansion, Eisai said in its press release.

Specifically, Fagan will be tapped to “build and sustain trust with stakeholders across the AD community.” He will also be tasked with looking at new innovations to simplify the patient experience and ensure broad access for the appropriate patients.

Fagan, who describes himself as a “Whole-Food Plant-Based Lifestyle Advocate” on his LinkedIn page, spent nearly a decade at Eli Lilly, which is also nearing a potential new Alzheimer’s drug approval. His roles at Lilly included global brand commercial lead in Alzheimer’s and later U.S. leader, omnichannel customer engagement and digital marketing.

He left Lilly at the start of 2021 and comes to Eisai after a stint as chief operating officer of VMS BioMarketing.