Look out, EpiPen. With Adamis deal, Novartis is gunning for your sales

Novartis' generics outfit Sandoz struck a deal with Adamis to market Symjepi, a competitor to Mylan's EpiPen. (Novartis)

Novartis has decided to jump onto EpiPen’s playing field. The Swiss drugmaker’s Sandoz unit snapped up U.S. rights to Symjepi, the Adamis Pharmaceuticals prefilled epinephrine syringe, putting its commercial heft behind the push to gain ground against Mylan’s blockbuster.

The financial details weren’t specifically disclosed, so it’s not a major outlay for Novartis, but the pharma giant’s expertise could make the Adamis product a bigger-than-expected player in the epinephrine field, long dominated by EpiPen.

And it’s a big deal for Adamis. With Monday’s word that it would get an upfront payment—plus a half share of net profits—for the Symjepi rights, the small company’s shares shot up 58% in premarket trading, MarketWatch noted.

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For Sandoz, the Symjepi deal is an example of its move away from simple-to-make, commoditized generic pills, which are less and less profitable these days. The company has been working to pivot away from the cheaper products and toward more complex offerings, including biosimilars, but also lower-tech products such as drug-device hybrids.

Symjepi won FDA approval last June as a 0.3mg-dose syringe, and at the time, Adamis said it planned to roll out the drug as a bargain competitor to EpiPen and its pricey rivals, including Kaléo’s Auvi-Q with its $4,500 sticker. “We want to position this product as a low-cost alternative to the other current offerings in the anaphylaxis market,” an Adamis spokesman told FiercePharma at the time.

RELATED: Adamis poised to challenge Mylan's pricey EpiPen with lower-cost Symjepi injection

It took longer than expected for Adamis to snag a marketing partner—a fact that spooked investors—but with Sandoz stepping in, the launch is now on tap. Pricing wasn’t disclosed in Monday’s announcement, so it’s not yet clear how aggressively Symjepi will be positioned.

Adamis’ bid for part of the epinephrine market gained the spotlight amid an uproar over Mylan’s huge price hikes on EpiPen back in 2016. The alternatives were few: Kaleo’s Auvi-Q, pulled off the market after a manufacturing snafu; Impax Laboratories’ Adrenaclick, selling only on a limited basis at the time; and the Adamis product, which had been turned away by the FDA in June 2016, just a couple months before the EpiPen scandal broke.

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Since then, EpiPen's rivals have stolen some of the brand's share. Kaléo relaunched Auvi-Q at that $4,500 list price, with copay assistance taking the consumer’s price down to little or nothing. Mylan rolled out an authorized generic that it’s selling directly for less than $350. And last January, CVS Health made a deal with Impax to sell Adrenaclick injectors for about $110 per two-pack.

The Sandoz deal also covers an in-development 0.15mg dose of Symjepi, and the generics giant also has the first option to negotiate for rights to the injections outside the U.S. For now, Adamis retains those ex-U.S. rights.

Adamis will continue developing other drugs that, like Symjepi, use its Symject injection platform. One of them is a naloxone candidate that would be an alternative to other forms of the opioid overdose drug.