AstraZeneca's Fasenra offers severe asthma patients 2 years of benefits: analysis

AstraZeneca’s Fasenra has been stealing share from GlaxoSmithKline’s Nucala in severe asthma, and competition is even fiercer with Sanofi’s Dupixent approval. Now, AZ has released an analysis of several trials showing Fasenra's positive effects for patients last up to two years.

In an analysis presented at the American Thoracic Society annual meeting, AZ said patients who used the med continuously for up to two years used fewer oral corticosteroids; saw fewer episodes where symptoms suddenly worsened; and had better lung function, asthma control and quality of life compared with patients on placebo. In an interview, AZ’s new senior vice president of its U.S. respiratory business, Mina Makar, said the data present a “powerful story.” 

“We think this is moving forward, one of the biggest and most important parts of our story,” he said. “We’ve always spoken about the power of Fasenra quickly and early, but now we’re able to say it’s sustained.” 

The company will communicate the results through its sales team, scientific exchanges, symposia and more, Makar said.

AZ’s Fasenra won FDA approval in November 2017 to challenge GlaxoSmithKline’s Nucala, Teva Pharmaceutical’s Cinqair and Novartis’ Xolair, though Xolair doesn't have a specific approval for severe eosinophilic asthma as its rivals do. AZ priced the first year of treatment competitively with the field, a spokesperson said at the time, but set its price for maintenance doses lower than the competition. And Fasenra has an advantage with dosing: It’s dosed every eight weeks while on-label rivals are dosed every four weeks. 

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More recently, Sanofi’s Dupixent entered the fray with an October severe asthma approval. Patients can administer that drug at home, offering Sanofi's med one advantage.  

After AZ's Fasenra launch, Makar said the British drugmaker's drug “took market leadership” in new prescriptions within four or five months. In the first quarter of 2019, the drug pulled in $129 million. AZ recorded 5,000 new patients during the period, he said. Glaxo reported that Nucala generated £152 million ($194 million) over that time frame.

Looking ahead, another duel could be nearing in hypereosinophilic syndrome, a rare disease that affects about 20,500 people in the U.S. and can lead to fatal organ damage. In April, Fasenra posted positive phase 2 data in the disease; Nucala is in phase 3 testing.