Sanofi adds its sales heft to Relypsa's forthcoming patiromer launch

Sanofi ($SNY) has signed up to help Relypsa bring its lead drug patiromer to market. The treatment for hyperkalemia, pegged as a $1.4 billion blockbuster by analysts, is due for an FDA thumbs-up in October.

Taken in liquid form, patiromer would be the first new treatment for abnormally high potassium levels in 50 years, Relypsa says. Hyperkalemia is common in patients with chronic kidney disease, and often crops up in those with heart failure and diabetes.

Under the two-year deal, Sanofi will put its kidney-drug salesforce to work on the launch, adding its Big Pharma heft to Relypsa's commercial team.

Relypsa CEO John Orwin

"We believe this agreement will support a strong start for Patiromer FOS in the United States, if approved," Relypsa CEO John Orwin said in a statement. "Sanofi's experienced nephrology sales force can be mobilized immediately upon potential approval and, combined with our own representatives, will enable more frequent and comprehensive outreach to nephrologists and cardiologists."

Relypsa's 120 reps will focus on outreach to nephrologists, cardiologists and hospitals, while Sanofi will detail patiromer to doctors and practice groups. Until patiromer wins FDA approval, the two companies will lay the groundwork with "disease-state education," Relypsa said in an SEC filing. The two companies will train Sanofi's reps on the drug together.

Relypsa will put together the promotional materials, and will continue handling development work, regulatory functions and manufacturing. Relypsa will also book all sales, passing on a quarterly service fee and incentive payments to Sanofi.

Sanofi has established connections in the nephrology world, partly in thanks to its drugs for high phosphorus levels in kidney patients, Renagel and Renvela. Renagel and Renvela started facing generic rivals last year, but their sales have held up, with $457 million for the first half of 2015. The company also sells Hectorol, a treatment for thyroid problems in CKD patients on dialysis, and Lasix, a diuretic often used in patients with kidney problems.

- see the Relypsa SEC filing
- get more from the company's release

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