Can Pfizer's abrocitinib really challenge Dupixent? Side effects could get in the way, analyst says

Pfizer's phase 3 challenger to Dupixent will struggle to steal share due to side effects, one analyst says. (Pixabay)

Regeneron and Sanofi’s Dupixent has been steamrolling since its 2017 approval in atopic dermatitis, but over the weekend, Pfizer touted the latest data from its phase 3 candidate abrocitinib that could give the entrenched med a challenge.

The drug posted efficacy that was “as good as, or slightly better, than Regeneron’s Dupixent in comparable settings in atopic dermatitis,” SVB Leerink Geoffrey Porges wrote in a note to clients. But its side effects may limit uptake down the line, as the analyst sees it.

Porges and his team believe Pfizer will “struggle to convert much of the market” because the drug posted nausea and headache side effect rates of 10% to 20% in clinical trial patients. The drug also had a higher risk of other complications compared with placebo, the analyst wrote.

Overall, Porges believes it’s “highly likely” Pfizer’s candidate will carry label language about serious adverse event risks.  

RELATED: Pfizer posts detailed phase 3 data on its Dupixent rival 

But on the flip side, Regeneron shouldn’t “ignore or discount” competitive threats from the Pfizer drug and others in the JAK inhibitor class. After all, they're oral drugs where Dupixent is a biweekly injection. So, Regeneron should focus on dosing alternatives that could help Dupixent stand up to that convenience advantage.

Aside from Pfizer’s candidate, Eli Lilly and AbbVie are testing their drugs Olumiant and Rinvoq in the indication. Porges expects them to show “impressive efficacy” and carry “significant safety liabilities" as well.

RELATED: AbbVie's Rinvoq label portends safety warnings for future JAKs—including Gilead's 

Dupixent is approved in moderate-to-severe atopic dermatitis plus moderate-to-severe asthma and sinusitis with nasal polpys. Eli Lilly’s Olumiant won approval in moderate-to-severe rheumatoid arthritis last year, and AbbVie’s Rinvoq just hit the scene in the same indication.