Can Sanofi's new long-term Lemtrada data amp up sales in a crowded MS field?

Tiergarden Berlin
Sanofi trotted out eight-year Lemtrada data at the ECTRIMS annual meeting in Berlin. (bluejayphoto/Getty Images)

Sanofi has struggled to rev up its multiple sclerosis therapy Lemtrada, but some new long-term data presented Thursday might help it win over doctors and patients. 

Wednesday at the European Committee for Treatment and Research in Multiple Sclerosis (ECTRIMS) annual congress in Berlin, the French drugmaker touted positive phase 3 results that showed Lemtrada was still working in about half of relapsing remitting MS patients eight years after their initial two treatment courses.

56% of patients in one extension study and 44% of those in another hadn’t had additional treatment—either with Lemtrada or other disease-modifying MS therapies—through year eight, Sanofi said. And 71% and 64% of Lemtrada-treated patients in those studies, respectively, hadn’t seen their disabilities worsen. Meanwhile, 41% and 47%, respectively, saw improvements.

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Lemtrada recipients in both studies experienced a slowing of brain volume loss, too, according to Sanofi.

RELATED: Sanofi falls short in Q3 as diabetes and MS sales disappoint

Sanofi is hoping the new results can bolster Lemtrada’s position in an ultracompetitive market. In relapsing-remitting MS, the drug is up against a trio of more convenient oral options—including Sanofi’s own, Aubagio—and in the injectable category, Roche newcomer Ocrevus has shaken things up with stellar efficacy numbers.

Then there are the older standbys, such as Teva’s Copaxone, which has managed to hang on to significant share despite generic rivals.

And Lemtrada, which snagged its FDA approval in late 2014 after a rejection the year prior, has felt the pressure. In the second quarter, executives said (PDF) the drug’s sales had fallen 13% on U.S. competition. Sales for Sanofi’s MS franchise reached just €506 million for the period, and the company would like to see that total rise higher to offset sales hits to its flailing diabetes business.

RELATED: Roche bolsters MS blockbuster Ocrevus with new long-term disability data

But Lemtrada isn’t the only MS drug rolling out long-term data at ECTRIMS. Earlier in the week, Roche released data showing that RRMS patients treated with Ocrevus for five years had better outcomes in brain atrophy and disability progression compared with people who switched to the drug after two years of interferon treatment.