Despite the ambush of negative press against Biogen’s Aduhelm and the uncertainty around its benefit to patients, there’s still reason to believe the controversial Alzheimer’s treatment will hit blockbuster status next year, analysts predict.
Yes, physicians still have their doubts about Aduhelm’s murky clinical performance, Piper Sandler analysts said in a note to clients. But despite that, evidence indicates they’ll likely prescribe the monthly infusion enough to boost Biogen’s bottom line.
The analysts based the belief on the latest survey results from Spherix Global Insights, which suggest a very gradual uptake so far. In the first month since its approval, the survey found two neurologists—or 2% of respondents—prescribed the treatment for three patients.
Typically that percentage would be much higher, especially for a first-in-class disease-modifying therapy, Virginia Schobel, Spherix’s neurology franchise head, previously said. Still, Piper suggests the results are favorable for Biogen and were to be expected.
The number of new prescribers is expected to grow to five, and new patients could reach nearly 50 by next month, analysts wrote. The survey also suggests that Aduhelm could nab about 8% of Alzheimer's patients over the next six months.
While a small share of the total pool, that could lead to $3.8 billion in annual revenue, according to Piper’s note. To be sure, there will be hurdles.
It will likely take until January for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to issue a national coverage decision that will ultimately provide further clarity over which patients on government-run insurance coverage will be covered, Piper analysts wrote.
Even then, “Aduhelm is setting up to reach blockbuster status next year.” Piper predicts roughly $120 million in U.S. sales by the end of 2021, which will eventually balloon to $6.3 billion in 2025. Next year, the drug could draw as much as $1.1 billion in revenue, Piper said.
That growth will come despite the maelstrom of unfavorable media coverage Biogen has had to navigate; but that doesn’t necessarily carry over to the doctor’s office, Piper argues. One particularly negative headline, the analysts point out, was ICER’s unsurprising, unanimous rejection of the $56,000-per-year treatment and its benefits.
In Piper’s view, however, a ding from the cost watchdog has “turned into a bit of a badge of honor” given the “long list of drugs the Institute has deemed to be not cost effective, and then gone on to do quite well."
In the end, Piper analysts said “docs are likely to prescribe this drug in size, despite their misgivings." The analysts also believe "access is likely to be clean enough to meet or beat consensus" sales estimates.