Sanofi and Regeneron's Dupixent launch is about to get a cash infusion

Dupixent package
Dupixent is on a growth trajectory, Regeneron said Monday morning at the J.P. Morgan Healthcare Conference, with more than 8,000 providers writing prescriptions for the atopic dermatitis med.

Sanofi and Regeneron have high expectations for Dupixent, their severe eczema drug launched last year—including new uses in asthma and beyond. And to make sure their Great Hope pays off, they're plowing $1 billion-plus into two new meds, Dupixent included.

On Monday at the J.P. Morgan Healthcare Conference in San Francisco, Regeneron said the rollout is already going well, with a "strong prescription trajectory." And according to SunTrust analyst Yatin Suneja, that's a fact, according to a comparative look at script numbers.

"Per IMS data, we note that the Dupixent U.S. launch is trending ahead of other recently launched dermatology biologics," Suneja wrote in a Monday note. And those recently launched dermatology biologics include Cosentyx, the psoriasis launch that Novartis has called one of its best-performing ever.

The partners may have learned a thing or two from their slower-than-hoped Praluent launch, hampered by budget-hawk payers and patent litigation with Amgen, which makes a rival PCSK9 cholesterol drug. And with a vaunted AbbVie rival on the horizon, Dupixent can use as big a lead in the market as it can get.

How do the partners intend to keep that trajectory going? Furthering their pipeline-in-a-drug strategy for the IL-13 inhibitor, for one. The two companies have touted Dupixent not just as a big launch in a market niche with little to no head-to-head competition, atopic dermatitis of the worst kind. They're also eyeing severe asthma, where they've racked up some solid data, as well as nasal polyps, allergic diseases and COPD. 

For two, an ambitious global rollout, first in atopic dermatitis and then asthma, with the other indications to follow, according to Sanofi's investor presentation last fall.

Those things cost money. The pair haven't said just how much they're upping the spend on Dupixent (dupilumab). Cemiplimab, the partners' cancer-fighting antibody, is going to get the lion's share of the new infusion, with $1 billion in extra development cash, in a half-and-half split between the two companies as is their usual practice on R&D expenses. Sanofi wouldn't provide any details about spending directly on Dupixent, or whether the increased investment will extend beyond R&D to salesforce support or marketing and advertising.

What we do know is that, in December, Sanofi updated investors on its Dupixent plans. In a presentation, Bill Sibold, EVP of Sanofi Genzyme, said Dupixent "is expected to be a key growth driver with significant commercial potential in multiple diseases." And he outlined some markets where Dupixent could carve out share and grow overall sales.

Severe asthma, for instance. The way Sanofi and Regeneron see it, 1 million patients fit the profile for biologics treatment, but only 9% of that number are getting biologic drugs now. That's a big target market for Dupixent to reach.

And meanwhile, according to Regeneron's Monday update, the companies have upped their base of prescribers in atopic dermatitis. More than 8,000 providers have prescribed the meds and are writing up an average of 750 prescriptions per week, two-thirds of which have been dispensed—which means they were paid for. Plus, there's repeat business. "The company indicates satisfaction for Dupixent among patients and physicians is high, with >90% of patients having renewed their prescription," Suneja noted.

From here, it's all about getting the job done, said Leerink analyst Seamus Fernandez in a December note. "Dupixent accounts for ~50% of our 2022 pipeline revenue estimates of €14.2B and execution on Dupixent's label expansion is critical," Fernandez wrote.