Kevzara and Dupixent rollouts progressing well, Sanofi execs say, but 2017 was just the beginning

SAN FRANCISCO—Sanofi and Regeneron may have had a hot start in 2017 with Dupixent, approved in March to treat atopic dermatitis, but there's much more to come—like with Kevzara for treating rheumatoid arthritis—according to executives.

CEO Olivier Brandicourt at the J.P. Morgan Healthcare Conference said Sanofi is working to build the category and launch its first immunology drug with Dupixent. He reported that 8,542 practitioners have prescribed Dupixent as of December and in the first nine months of 2017, the drug brought in €101 million ($120 million). 

But another launch from the drugmaker's Genzyme outfit that has also demonstrated "encouraging results," Brandicourt said, is Kevzara for moderate to severe rheumatoid arthritis, which he explained is gaining share in the U.S.

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Speaking with FiercePharma at JPM, Sanofi Genzyme head Bill Sibold said the launches for Kevzara and Dupixent were vastly different, because Sanofi has had to build a new market with Dupixent, and enter an extremely competitive field with Kevzara.

"In Dupixent, we are really building a foundation for the future," he said. "We have to educate physicians, payers, patients and all of the stakeholders about the disease and how to think about using a biologic." 

"Kevzara, on the other hand, [is about] how do you come into this incredibility competitive market and try to differentiate yourself. On both fronts, I am very satisfied with how we have launched."

In order to compete in rheumatoid arthritis, Sanofi priced Kevzara at $39,000 per year before discounts, 30% lower than the two most widely used TNF-alpha drugs, which will be among its leading competitors. Both rollouts are in the early stages and will go on for several years, Sibold said.

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Dupixent's launch is exceeding expectations, Brandicourt said at the drugmaker's JPM presentation, adding that atopic dermatitis is only the "starting point of what we think will be a long and highly commercially successful journey for this unique drug." Dupixent was No. 2 on life science commercial intelligence firm Evaluate's biggest approvals for 2017; analysts expect it will bring in $4.1 billion in 2022.

Since Dupixent's initial approval, the company filed for FDA approval in persistent uncontrolled asthma in the fourth quarter of 2017, an indication Brandicourt said would be a "major commercial opportunity." Along with partner Regeneron, the company also generated proof-of-concept data in nasal polyposis and eosinophilic esophagitis, and is planning a phase 3 trial in chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, he said.

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On the other side of the coin, rollouts for Praluent, Soliqua and Dengvaxia have come up short of expectations, Brandicourt acknowledged.

The launches come as Sanofi's key diabetes business struggles due to payer cost-cutting efforts, and as dengue vaccine Dengvaxia faces a safety controversy in the Philippines. Globally, Dengvaxia sales have come up way short of initial expectations after its 2015 launch.