Regeneron's Eylea still sitting pretty even after new data from would-be rivals Roche, Novartis: analyst

Eye
Leerink Partners' Geoffrey Porges said he sees “no reason to change our recent forecasts" for Regeneron eye blockbuster Eylea. (Laitr Keiows/CC BY-SA 3.0)

Regeneron executives don’t see a reason to worry about Eylea’s growth prospects, despite some dire predictions over the past several months. And after this weekend’s data presentations from potential competitors, some analysts agree.

Leerink Partners analyst Geoffrey Porges, for one, wasn’t impressed by Novartis’ brolucizumab or Roche’s RG7716 at Saturday’s Bascom Palmer Angiogenesis Meeting in Miami, and as a result sees “no reason to change our recent forecasts for the product.”

“The confusing and somewhat lackluster data presented over the weekend for Eylea’s theoretical competitors should lift some of the overhang” on Regeneron’s stock, he wrote to clients Monday. He added that “we walked away from the meeting with questions about the reliability, reproducibility, and readiness of the data for brolucizumab and RG7716, and believe the value erosion in Regeneron’s stock due to competitive Eylea threats is vastly overstated.”

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The way he sees it, neither wannabe drug has “clear advantages” over the Regeneron blockbuster—and they don’t have “uncomplicated regulatory paths,” either. On top of that, “new details about brolucizumab’s trial design generated confusion and outright scorn at the meeting,” he said.

Bernstein’s Ronny Gal, for his part, was a little more upbeat about the prospects for Roche’s candidate, calling the results from the phase 2 Boulevard trial—those focused on best corrected visual acuity (BCVA)—“quite good.” But while the product looks as if it could be better than Roche’s current contender, Lucentis, industry-watchers disagree on whether the Roche product can actually top Eylea, he wrote. That’s not to mention that the candidate, of course, still has to come through in phase 3 to offer a real threat.

Meanwhile, on last week’s earnings call, Regeneron touted 11% year-over-year U.S. growth for Eylea in 2017, as well as 19% expansion outside its home country. CEO Len Schleifer attributed much of the U.S. boost to an aging population and an increase in the prevalence of diabetes, a disease that causes eye problems Eylea can treat.

“These demographic trends are expected to continue in the coming years, providing an opportunity for continued growth,” he told investors.

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And as for Eylea’s potential competitors? Schleifer sees cause for some safety concerns. Both Novartis and Roche are studying higher molecular concentrations of their drugs, compared with the currently approved doses of Eylea and Lucentis, and "it will be important to see the assessment by regulatory authorities regarding the balance of safety and efficacy that these new agents might provide, particularly in the elderly and in diabetics,” he noted.

Either way, he’s not worried about Eylea’s standing, especially because “a variety of retinal diseases are treated by the same specialists, who can choose which buy-and-bill products they want to use in their practices.”

“We believe the extensive data, combined with real-world experience, broad label and treatment flexibility offered by Eylea will make it an attractive treatment option for years to come,” he told investors, adding that “it will be quite a while before any emerging competitor can come close to matching the breadth of approved indications and the depth of long-term experience offered by Eylea.”