'The kidney medicine': Bayer touts Kerendia's blockbuster potential as its pharma group swings back to growth

Among the potential blockbusters that could save the day for Bayer when top-selling meds Eylea and Xarelto fall off the patent cliff, the German company is touting one simply as “the kidney medicine.”

That’s the title Bayer pharma chief Stefan Oelrich endowed on newly approved Kerendia, which the company has projected could reach over €1 billion in peak sales.

“We really think that we have the kidney medicine,” Oelrich said of Kerendia during an investors’ call Thursday. “The kidney medicine means we have the product that is designed to treat kidney with five different indications.”

Approved last month, Kerendia carries a broad label to reduce the risk of kidney function decline, end-stage kidney disease, cardiovascular death, nonfatal heart attack and hospitalization for heart failure in patients with chronic kidney disease associated with Type 2 diabetes.

The drug, an antagonist to mineralocorticoid receptors, shares a mechanism of action with similar heart drugs such as Viatris’ Inspra. The mechanism is well known among kidney specialists, Oelrich said.

Still, SGLT2 inhibitors such as AstraZeneca’s Farxiga are also approved to reduce kidney and/or heart-related problems in different disease settings. And as one analyst noted, SGLT2s are cheaper than Kerendia, which costs about $19 per day at list price.

Oelrich argued that the pricing comparison shouldn’t be made with Farxiga, which was originally approved and still widely used as a diabetes drug.

“This is not a diabetes drug,” he said of Kerendia.

To get its launch going, Bayer is working with commercial payers to gain reimbursement, Oelrich said. Additionally, the company is targeting nephrologists, endocrinologists and a select group of primary care doctors, aiming to have a “commercial presence” in doctors’ offices by the end of August, he said.

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Kerendia's launch comes as Bayer’s pharma franchise recovers from a COVID-related slowdown. In the second quarter, sales from Bayer’s pharma unit grew 16.2% at constant currencies to €4.49 billion ($5.32 billion).

Its contraception device portfolio, which severely struggled last year during COVID, posted a sales increase of 68% at constant currencies to €293 million. Bayer's haul from eye drug Eylea also rebounded by 27% to €711 million.

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Thanks to the strong performance, Bayer now expects 6% growth in pharma this year, up from a prior estimate of 4%.

For the entire company, sales jumped by 12.9% in the second quarter to €10.85 billion. Bayer now projects its full-year revenues could reach about €44 billion, up from the previous €42 billion to €43 billion.