Regeneron's Eylea bests Lucentis, Avastin in diabetic eye disease, NIH study finds

Regeneron and Bayer's Eylea hasn't had any trouble hanging with rivals from Novartis ($NVS) and Roche ($RHHBY), racking up sales that have consistently topped analyst expectations since its U.S. rollout in late 2011. Now, new data may help it potentially top them in a market the Swiss drugmakers got to first.

On Friday, Regeneron ($REGN) announced that in an NIH-sponsored study, Eylea bested both Lucentis and Avastin--a cancer drug that docs often use off-label, thanks to its significantly lower price tag--at treating diabetic macular edema (DME).

Not only did Eylea win out efficacy-wise after 52 weeks, but it also posted a better safety record and required fewer injections on average--advantages that could provide an even bigger boost if they're confirmed by final study results due next year, according to RBC Capital Markets analyst Adnan Butt.

If anything, the data "help Eylea's launch in DME, with the potential to be even more impactful if differences persist at two years," he said, as quoted by StreetInsider.

That's good news for Bayer and Regeneron, who will be playing catch-up in DME. Roche ($RHHBY) and Novartis ($NVS) picked up nods for the malady in Europe and the U.S. in 2011 and 2012, respectively.

But it's not like playing catch-up has been a problem for Eylea's marketers so far. After racking up $838 million in U.S. sales in its first full year on the market, the drug has gone on to trounce one analyst estimate after the next. Most recently, it netted $415 million in second-quarter sales for Tarrytown, NY-based Regeneron, a 26% leap over the year-ago period.

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