Regeneron expects Eylea to grow this year at a rate well below Wall Street predictions. But don’t try asking CEO Len Schleifer to explain.
Analysts who did on Thursday didn’t get very far, as Schleifer flatly refused to offer details. “I'm not going to get into a granular basis of how we came up with our assumptions.”
So many factors play into the forecast, he noted, including market share, government policy changes, and the company’s ability to hold off off-label competitor Avastin from Roche.
“[W]hen you put all those puts and takes, if you will, it does become somewhat of a blizzard which obscures the landscape, and it’s very difficult to feel comfortable that we can give you the precision that you would like,” Schleifer told them, adding that “you know I’m not a big fan of being in the forecasting business.”
After this year, though, he won’t have to be. This will be the last time Regeneron provides product guidance for its star med, as a pair of new big-time products get ready to launch: The rheumatoid arthritis med Kevzara (sarilumab) and eczema therapy Dupixent (dupilumab).
In the meantime, though, the Eylea forecast—for single-digit percentage growth over last year’s haul—raised eyebrows in the investment community, which expected to see a growth forecast of between 11.3% and 12.9%, Evercore ISI analyst Mark Schoenebaum wrote in a note to clients. The med put up $858 million in fourth-quarter U.S. net product sales, a 15% increase year-over-year.
Schleifer didn’t ignore their concerns completely. He pointed out that the eye blockbuster still has room to expand through new indications—such as nonproliferative diabetic retinopathy, which he called Eylea’s “next potential growth driver.” The company will need strong phase 3 data to persuade retinopathy patients with so-far-unaffected vision to get a preventative injection. But if that data comes in, the results could “open up a much larger group of patients who could potentially benefit” from Eylea treatment, he said.
But the CEO didn’t hide the fact that the company—whose top-line tally of $1.23 billion missed consensus by $73 million and non-GAAP earnings of $3.04 per share beat by 1 cent—is ready to move forward beyond its current cash cow.
“We get it,” Schleifer said. “We know how important Eylea is, so we’re going to defend and try to extend that. We also get how important it is to make our late-stage pipeline a big commercial success,” he said.