Teva's Austedo, struggling from a pandemic slowdown, needs huge gains to meet 2021 projections

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Teva's Austedo generated $201 million in the third quarter, coming up short of the $210 million Wells Fargo analysts had expected. The drug will need a big fourth quarter to meet Teva's 2021 projections. (AshDesign/Shutterstock)

As Teva battles generic pricing pressures and copycats to its multiple sclerosis drug Copaxone, the company has a lot riding on its ability to juice up sales of Austedo for tardive dyskinesia (TD) and migraine med Ajovy. Austedo is struggling amid the pandemic slowdown, but execs see reasons for optimism in the final quarter of the year.

Austedo turned in $201 million in third-quarter sales, a 19% increase from the $168 million it generated during the same period last year. The third-quarter haul brings Austedo's sales so far this year to $520 million, a notable increase from the $451 million the drug generated in the first 9 months of 2020.

Still, that result was disappointing, as Wells Fargo analysts had expected $210 million from the medicine.

During Wednesday's earnings call with analysts, Teva CFO Eli Kalif said some of the company's medicines are struggling to rebound after pandemic shutdowns. "Nowhere has that been more transparent” than in the U.S. market for Austedo, he said. Throughout the crisis, a drop in doctor visits has resulted in fewer doctors diagnosing the condition and prescribing Austedo, Kalif said, noting that TD is a “very underpenetrated” disease. 

RELATED: Teva launches first DTC for Austedo into competitive tardive dyskinesia 2-drug market

Evercore ISI analyst Umer Raffat pointed out during the call that Austedo will have to post major gains in the fourth quarter to meet Teva's $850 million projection for the year.  Right now, the drug is about $330 million shy of that target, so it will need a 64% quarter-over-quarter jump to reach Teva's 2021 estimate.

How will Austedo get there? Teva's Sven Dethlefs, executive vice president of North American commercial, had some thoughts on that during the conference call. For one, Teva assumes that psychiatrists will increasingly return to their offices to diagnose patients and prescribe the drug. In addition, the company has been seeing the effects of a new ad campaign it started this summer. Since then, there has been a “significant separation” in patient starts from baseline trends, Dethlefs said, offering hope for a rise in sales in the fourth quarter.

As for Teva's migraine prevention medicine Ajovy, it's “growing steadily” and saw “continued nice development" in total U.S. prescriptions during the quarter, CEO Kåre Schultz said during the call. The company has boosted its goal to capture one-third of the injectable CGRP market share, and Schultz said Teva is on track.

In all, Teva generated $5.8 billion in the third quarter, a 6% decline from the same period last year, as Copaxone generics continue to take a toll. Teva's generics sales also fell by 7%.

RELATED: Teva's Ajovy, chasing Amgen and Lilly drugs, gains steam after autoinjector rollout

Along with its earnings results, Teva kicked off a $3.5 billion bond offering to help restructure its debt, and it unveiled $4 billion in senior notes to go toward sustainability goals.

Meanwhile, Teva continues to work through a complex web of opioid litigation. Schultz said he's "optimistic" the company can reach a settlement with plaintiffs in the next year.