Pfizer's heart med Vyndaqel off and running thanks to diagnosis push: execs

Early in its launch for rare heart disease meds Vyndaqel and Vyndamax, Pfizer is fielding an awareness and diagnosis push that's paying off big-time.

Thousands of patients have been diagnosed, sales have mounted to almost a half-billion dollars—and much more opportunity's yet to come, execs said Tuesday.

Vyndaqel and its sister formulation Vyndamax scored FDA approvals last May to treat wild-type and hereditary forms of a rare and fatal heart disease called ATTR cardiomyopathy. Global sales for the year reached $473 million, while U.S. sales climbed to $191 million, Pfizer reported with its fourth-quarter results. 

The company estimates there are about 100,000 ATTR-CM patients in the U.S. and 500,000 globally, biopharma chief Angela Hwang said on Tuesday's conference call. So far, the company's awareness campaign has helped deliver about 9,000 diagnoses. Of those, about 5,500 patients received prescriptions and about 3,000 started treatment, Pfizer execs said. 

“While this may feel like very significant progress from the time that we have launched, and it is, I think you can see that we have a long, long way to go to finding all 100,000 of these patients,” Hwang said. 

RELATED: Pfizer's Vyndaqel franchise, buoyed by diagnoses, is poised for 'a decisive beat': analyst 

Asked whether there might be pent-up demand driving the early results, Hwang said “one might expect to see a little bit of a bolus,” but that the company is confident its launch strategy can continue driving the performance.

She cited artificial intelligence among the company's potential "tools" that will “will continue to support our ability to drive the important and rapid diagnosis of patients as well as their treatment.” 

Aside from Vyndaqel, Pfizer has a group of biopharma meds that drove sales for the unit to 8% operational growth in 2019. Overall in 2019, sales for Pfizer’s breast cancer med Ibrance grew 23% to $4.96 billion, while revenues for blood thinner Eliquis grew 26% to $4.22 billion. Sales for prostate cancer med Xtandi grew 20% to $838 million and biosims chipped in $911 million in global sales, a 22% increase. 

RELATED: Pfizer's early Vyndaqel launch numbers are off the charts. Should Alnylam be worried? 

On the flip side, Upjohn dragged on revenues ahead of the company’s planned spin-off of the outfit with Mylan to form Viatris. In that group, Lyrica sales slipped 33% to $3.3 billion after last year’s patent expiration. 

Looking to 2020, the company predicts $48.5 billion to $50.5 billion in sales from the entire company, which assumes a year of revenue contributions from Upjohn. For "New Pfizer," which includes only the biopharma group, the company predicts $40.7 billion to $42.3 billion in global sales.