Eisai's Lenvima posts big growth numbers as Merck collaboration rolls into action

Eisai's Lenvima currently bears FDA indications in kidney and thyroid cancers. (Eisai)

Merck & Co. likely expected big numbers from Eisai’s Lenvima when it agreed in March to fork over $5.8 billion to share rights to the drug. And those numbers are rolling in.

The cancer fighter had itself a monster quarter, Eisai said, raking in ¥11,859 million ($106 million) for the three months ended June 30. More than half of that haul came from the U.S., where the therapy’s sales swelled by 42.8%, thanks to indications in kidney cancer, which it treats in tandem with Novartis’ Afinitor, and thyroid cancer.

And soon, the product’s label could be twice as long. After an FDA delay, Eisai is expecting a decision from U.S. regulators on Lenvima in liver cancer later this month, and in January, the drug picked up the FDA’s breakthrough therapy designation in combo with Merck’s Keytruda for patients with advanced or metastatic kidney cancer.

But it wasn’t just the U.S. market that helped Lenvima’s sales soar. The Japanese drugmaker attributed much of the growth to a liver cancer indication it snagged this March in its home country, where sales shot up by 148.5% year over year.

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New partner Merck, for its part, is hoping to take that sales expansion to the next level. The two companies are testing the Lenvima-Keytruda combo in 11 potential indications across seven cancer types, including endometrial cancer, non-small cell lung cancer, head and neck cancer, bladder cancer, melanoma and more.

And on the commercial side, last month, 100 sales and marketing staffers from the New Jersey pharma giant arrived at Eisai for Lenvima product training to back up Eisai’s field force of 150 reps.

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Merck “really is working with us to fit into” a “very customized approach to our customers and our physicians,” then-oncology SVP Michael Amoroso said in an interview at the American Society for Clinical Oncology (ASCO) annual meeting in June.

Amoroso won’t be around to see it through, though. Earlier this month, Gilead said it had recruited the Eisai executive to head up its CAR-T launch efforts at Kite.