'Unprecedented' switching success gives Alexion hope in backstopping sales of blockbuster Soliris

Alexion scored a major win in its campaign to switch patients off blockbuster Soliris to follow-up drug Ultomiris with a second FDA approval earlier this week. That nod should help Ultomiris continue to gobble up patients—and it’s already ahead of plan, execs said Wednesday.

The majority of patients previously taking Soliris for paroxysmal nocturnal hemoglobinuria (PNH)—51% as of this week— have now switched over to Ultomiris, putting the successor drug well on its way to reaching a 70% U.S. conversion rate in that indication by mid-2020.

And in the meantime, Soliris itself is turning in big growth numbers, thanks to its own expansion into new indications.

In a third-quarter earnings call Wednesday, Alexion R&D chief John Orloff said the drugmaker had made “unprecedented progress” in switching patients to the newer med and highlighted conversion rates in Germany and Japan that have outstripped that in the U.S.

In Germany, 45% of PNH patients on Soliris had switched to Ultomiris as of Monday—around three months ahead of the time Ultomiris took to hit the same milestone in the U.S. In Japan, where Ultomiris was approved in PNH in June, more than 15% of patients have already switched over.

With Ultomiris’ FDA approval to treat atypical hemolytic uremic syndrome (aHUS) earlier this week, Alexion continues to position the drug well to pick up the expected slack when Soliris starts facing biosimilar competitors after 2023.

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