Price could be key for Sanofi's new Gaucher pill as it sets out against IV rivals

More than a couple of markets have been shaken up lately by new competition in oral form. Just take a look at Tecfidera in multiple sclerosis, Zytiga and Xtandi in prostate cancer, or Sovaldi, Gilead's ($GILD) hep C treatment that's put up record-breaking sales since it launched earlier this year. And now, Sanofi's ($SNY) Genzyme is wondering if it can't make a splash of its own with Cerdelga, its newly approved pill for Gaucher disease.

The orphan drug will go up against a trio of intravenous infusions: Pfizer's ($PFE) Elelyso, Shire's ($SHPG) Vpriv and the French drugmaker's own Cerezyme. Actelion ($ATLN) also makes a Gaucher pill, Zavesca, but it can only be taken by patients who can't use the enzyme replacement infusions, Bloomberg notes.

While it remains to be seen how many Gaucher patients make the jump over to the twice-daily pill, price could have a lot to do with that tally once Sanofi ($SNY) rolls out the med within the next month. As Genzyme CEO David Meeker told the news service before the treatment's approval, the company plans to set Cerdelga's price tag at about $300,000 a year--the average annual cost of Cerezyme infusions once every two weeks, it figures.

Genzyme CEO David Meeker

"Our goal is to price this in a way that does not bias the medical decision-making process," Meeker said.

That's a move that could help Cerdelga dodge the criticisms some have laid on next-gen therapies like Sovaldi, whose $84,000-per-treatment-course has been ripped by doctors, patients and payers alike. And pricing more convenient meds on par with older treatments can bode well for companies aimed at patient-switching.

Still, like many of its rare-disease-drug brethren, Cerdelga won't come cheap. All in all, analysts expect the drug to rack up $749 million in 2020 sales based on a patient pool of about 6,000 U.S. patients.

"The ability of Genzyme to spend 15 years developing the next generation and have the willingness, courage to go for a third generation that might treat a smaller brain population depends on a business model that works," Meeker said.

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