The moment Allergan's been dreading has arrived. Evolus has snagged an OK for its rival to Allergan’s lead moneymaker, Botox. And now, as Wells Fargo analyst David Maris put it in a note to clients, “the wait is on” to see what kind of damage it does to the blockbuster’s sales.
Evolus picked up a go-ahead late Friday for Jeuveau, which will compete with Botox on the aesthetics side as a treatment for frown lines.
Allergan’s $3.6 billion drug, which generated 23% of the company's revenue last year, also bears medical indications, including migraine. But analysts still predict the new product could make a dent when it comes to Botox’ top line.
RBC Capital Markets’ Randall Stanicky, for one, ran two surveys over the weekend, and their results “suggest potential for greater than expected acceptance of Jeuveau,” he wrote in his own note to clients. In the first survey, a group of dermatologists and plastic surgeons said they expected to switch 43% of patients over to the newcomer.
But that number “felt unrealistically high” to Stanicky and his colleagues, so they ran a second study. The results? 61% of physicians rated their willingness to switch away from Botox at a 6 or higher on a scale of 1-10. They indicated they’d be looking for a discount of about 28% to make the change, and half of them said “most” of their patients would be willing to go along with it.
Allergan has downplayed the threat to its key product, with commercial chief Bill Meury stressing Botox’s name recognition, history as a “practice builder,” loyalty program and large sales force on the company’s recent fourth-quarter conference call.
The brand has been “competing against very steep discounted products for years and Botox has done very well despite that,” CEO Brent Saunders added.
But there are some key differences between Jeuveau and existing Botox challengers, Stanicky noted. Physicians are looking for a lower-priced product “with similar efficacy to Botox with head-to-head data key,” he wrote, and Evolus will have that data out before launch. Jeuveau also bears an identical molecular weight to Botox, which will likely make the new product “easier to ‘substitute’ with Botox,” he said.
And then there’s the fact that a slew of former Allergan executives will be presiding over the rollout, Stanicky pointed out: Its chief medical officer, chief marketing officer and CEO/CFO all have experience in the market.
The way he sees it, the Evolus approval is “another reason” to approach Allergan’s 2019 earnings guidance “with a conservative stance contrary to recently provided management guidance,” he said.