Regeneron's Eylea hits double-digit growth for 2018, and it's 'far from done,' CEO says

SAN FRANCISCO—Investors had been worried that growth for Regeneron’s Eylea was slowing down, but the New York drugmaker kicked off the J.P. Morgan Healthcare Conference with an attempt to allay those fears.

Monday, it laid out growth numbers for its star eye drug, showing that it posted sales expansion of 10% over the previous year, checking in with sales of $4.07 billion. And there’s more to come, CEO Len Schleifer promised during a presentation, assuring investors that the “Eylea franchise is certainly far from done.”

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With both the drug’s wet age-related macular degeneration and diabetic macular edema indications, “demographics are in our favor,” he said; after all, the population is aging and the prevalence of diabetes is growing.

And Regeneron is waiting on another indication at the FDA: a nod for diabetic retinopathy, which the FDA should have a decision on by May 13. And considering the data Eylea has already put up—which Schleifer called “really quite stunning”—the company feels good about its chances.

“Eylea can prevent vision-threating complications in people who have diabetic retinopathy,” Schleifer added, noting that they affect one-third of patients. Eylea has shown it can prevent 75% of the complications, and “we think that has a great appeal,” he said.

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Investors have been wary of slowing growth for the Regeneron blockbuster, particularly as competition advances through pipelines at Novartis and Roche. In August, executives at the Tarrytown-based biotech revealed that sales expansion had dipped into the single digits in Q2, but the company’s leaders pledged to put more money behind DTC advertising and expand Regeneron’s discount program for doctors.

While those efforts seem to have paid off, Eylea’s hot streak can’t last forever, and Regeneron is getting prepared. It’s working on a more convenient high-dose formulation of its star, which it expects to enter clinical trials this year.