Biohaven's Nurtec ODT outmuscles AbbVie's Ubrelvy in gaining new migraine patients following key FDA nod

Biohaven on NYSE screens
Nurtec ODT has snatched 56% of new-to-brand prescription market share compared to Ubrelvy’s 44.1%, according to Biohaven. (Biohaven) (Biohaven Pharma)

Biohaven Pharmaceuticals is showing its migraine med Nurtec ODT can hold its own against Goliath competition from AbbVie's Ubrelvy.

Biohaven reported on Monday that its oral CGRP med now tops AbbVie’s competing drug when it comes to new-to-brand prescriptions or new patients who’ve never been on a branded medicine for their severe headaches. Nurtec ODT snatched 56% of the market share compared to Ubrelvy’s 44.1%, according to Biohaven's data as of mid-July. That comes despite the fact that AbbVie had a big head start.

Meanwhile, Nurtec's new-to-brand market share lead has only grown since Biohaven’s drug won a key FDA nod in May to prevent episodic migraines or fewer than 15 days of headaches per month. Both drugmakers are neck-and-neck when it comes to total prescriptions, according to Biohaven, while AbbVie is still leading the sales race.

Biohaven CEO Vlad Coric has planned for years how the company would outmaneuver pharma heavyweight AbbVie, charting a “more efficient and innovative commercial launch." Since then, Nurtec ODT has become the first oral anti-CGRP drug approved for preventive migraine treatment and the only dual therapy for both acute and preventive use. For now, Ubrelvy is limited to immediate treatment. 

RELATED: Can Biohaven challenge the Allergan/AbbVie goliath in migraine? CEO Coric thinks so

AbbVie is racing to catch up with an FDA decision for another oral CGRP drug to prevent migraines, known as atogepant, expected in September. To be sure, Ubrelvy still outpaces Nurtec ODT when it comes to total sales. AbbVie reported its migraine med raked in $126 million during the company’s second quarter, hovering over Nurtec ODT’s $93 million. 

In Biohaven’s eyes, however, its second-quarter results are proving that it’s witnessing “the early stages of a true paradigm shift in migraine treatment” toward more simple medicines, Biohaven Chief Operating Officer BJ Jones said on the company’s earnings call Monday. 

RELATED: Biohaven set to be 'a major migraine player' as Nurtec ODT sales dwarf estimates: analysts

Some analysts seem to agree. For Biohaven’s part, its Nurtec ODT has reeled in nearly $137 million in sales this year already, outpacing what Piper Sandler analysts had expected out the gate, according to a note to clients in July.

So far, the New Haven, Connecticut-based drugmaker’s growth has been driven primarily from patients seeking an immediate treatment rather than a preventative drug. Biohaven expects “a lot more in the next quarter” as it generates demand for patients looking for preventative migraine treatments as well, Coric said.

Regardless of their competition with one another, both Biohaven and AbbVie are confident their oral CGRPs will attract more patients with their over competing triptans and injectable monoclonal antibodies, like Amgen’s Aimovig, Eli Lilly’s Emgality and Teva Pharmaceuticals’ Ajovy. 

According to AbbVie’s estimations, roughly 18% of new prescriptions for the immediate treatment of migraines are for oral CGRPs. That figure “continues to grow very, very quickly,” AbbVie’s Chief Operating Officer Jeff Stewart told analysts in late July.