Biogen Idec ($BIIB) has engineered the sort of drug launch that pharma companies dream of. For its first quarter on the market, the new multiple sclerosis pill Tecfidera racked up $192 million in sales. That's more than twice the $70-some million analysts expected.
|Biogen Idec CEO George Scangos|
Tecfidera made its debut just as the second quarter was beginning. Anticipated for months before its FDA approval, the drug was expected to rack up sales quickly. It did--so quickly, in fact, that the company had a few problems getting Tecfidera to pharmacies overwhelmed by demand.
Now we know what that demand adds up to. In announcing impressive revenue growth for the second quarter--21%, thanks to its buyout of Tysabri rights as well as Tecfidera's launch--Biogen attributed $110 million of Tecfidera's sales to patient demand and the remaining $82 million to inventory-building by wholesalers.
That $192 million total even beat out Regeneron's ($REGN) Eylea and its megasuccessful launch; the vision-loss treatment brought in $124 million for its first full quarter on the market. Flush with the good news, Biogen hiked its full-year growth forecast, now expecting increases in the 22% to 23% range.
It remains to be seen whether Tecfidera will follow the same pattern as Eylea and beat expectations quarter after quarter. Biogen has already backed away from launching in Europe until it can make sure its intellectual property protections are watertight. And earlier this week, the company said it was investigating the death of a Tecfidera patient; Biogen said a link to the drug was "unlikely," but even unsubstantiated safety concerns can take a temporary toll on drug sales.
Meanwhile, Tecfidera's predecessors may be unhappy about their new rival's success. Gilenya garnered $468 million for Novartis ($NVS) for the second quarter, an impressive year-over-year increase of 65%. But that was a bit of a slowdown for Gilenya, which shot up by 70% in the first quarter and 72% during the last quarter of 2012. Sanofi's ($SNY) Aubagio is getting off to a slower start; approved by the FDA last September, it brought in €20 million ($26.5 million) for the first quarter.
- see the Biogen announcement
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