Teva's global cutback spree is done. Now it's aiming to grow with Ajovy, Austedo

Teva
Teva is expecting big things from CGRP med Ajovy and Huntington's therapy Austedo this year. (Teva)

Teva's multibillion-dollar restructuring plan is finally coming to an end with the drugmaker running lighter to the tune of around 13,000 employees and 23 manufacturing sites. Now, Teva is charting a new path to growth––and hoping to ride migraine med Ajovy and Huntington's therapy Austedo to get there. 

They're high hopes, too—and high stakes. Teva is forecasting 2020 sales of Austedo and Ajovy at $650 million and $250 million, respectively, far outpacing Street consensus for both drugs. With revenue down 8% in 2019, that kind of outperformance will be crucial to a turnabout.

On an earnings call Wednesday, CEO Kåre Schultz told analysts Teva expects to lean on both meds in the coming year. It's part of a two-pronged strategy focusing on boosting top-line growth for its branded drugs and stretching its operating margin into the 28% range.

For Ajovy, which Teva expects to blow away analysts' consensus of $171 million in 2020, the January approval of an autoinjector application for the drug could prove crucial for the drug's sales success, Brendan O'Grady, Teva's North American commercial head, told analysts on the call. 

"We think now that we have the autoinjector approved, we will have an offering that is really unmatched in the CGRP market," he said. "We’re quite optimistic about the continued growth of Ajovy and our competitive place in the market." 

In 2019, Ajovy hit just $96 million in sales, while Austedo raked in $412 million. Those gains did just enough to offset the revenue loss from generic competitors to Copaxone, which knocked the drug's sales down to $1.5 billion worldwide. 

On the whole, Teva brought in $16.9 billion in revenue on the year, a drop of about 8% from the previous year.

RELATED: Teva's Ajovy finally gets its autoinjector nod. Can it close the gap with Amgen, Lilly meds?

Wednesday's call nominally marked the end of Teva's multiyear restructuring effort, clearing about $3 billion in annual expenses off the books and paring down much of the company's extensive global manufacturing infrastructure. 

The final toll? Around 13,000 employees laid off, 13 manufacturing sites closed or divested and 10 more in the process, and 40 offices and laboratories closed, Schultz told analysts.

With its house mostly in order, Teva will now lean on branded drugs like Ajovy to help propel the company forward––but nothing is certain in an increasingly competitive CGRP market. 

Teva hopes that Ajovy's quarterly dosing and range of prefilled syringes and autoinjector options will help it boost market share in a field dominated by Amgen’s Aimovig and Eli Lilly’s Emgality. As of its January autoinjector approval, Ajovy held 13.4% of the total prescriptions in the CGRP migraine prevention market, compared with 49.3% for Aimovig and 37.3% for Emgality, RBC Capital Markets analyst Brian Abrahams wrote in a note to clients. 

Teva has already taken a big flyer out on Austedo, previously predicting "tenfold" growth for the drug on the back of booming patient numbers and upcoming phase 3 readouts in Tourette's syndrome and dyskinesia with cerebral palsy. 

RELATED: Teva taps new CFO, hikes legal set-aside to more than $1B as opioid deal falters

Of course, any optimism for Teva's branded products is offset somewhat by the multibillion-dollar legal overhang the drugmaker faces tied to thousands of opioid lawsuits. 

In October, Teva offered a more than $23 billion framework deal with four state attorneys general in an attempt to settle its many opioid accounts. As part of that agreement, Teva would provide donations worth up to $23 billion of buprenorphine naloxone, an opioid addiction treatment, over the next 10 years. The offer also included $250 million in cash.

Wednesday, Schultz said there had been little movement in getting that deal signed. However, with another bellwether opioid trial opening in March, he said Teva was "cautiously optimistic" the framework would be revisited. 

"It remains to be seen; there’s nothing firm on it," he said. 

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