The company: Sanofi
The drug: Multaq
The disease: Heart disease
Sales: €65 million for Q3 2012
Back in 2009, when Sanofi ($SNY) listed Multaq--designed to treat an irregular heartbeat--as one of its most important late-stage therapies, analysts at Morgan Stanley felt reasonably sure that even facing likely drawbacks on the marketing front, the therapy could earn €3 billion a year. That prospective figure was way out on the high side of the range of estimates, but even Citigroup pegged it as a likely blockbuster worth $1.3 billion to $1.9 billion a year.
Then the risks posed by the drug became increasingly apparent, with regulators fretting over evidence of liver, cardiovascular and lung disease. As doubts about its use as a front-line therapy began to develop, France deemed it "inadequate" and set a low reimbursement rate. New restrictions on its use were recommended. In the U.S., for example, the FDA advised against prescribing the drug for patients with permanent atrial fibrillation. And by the end of 2011, Thomson Reuters' roundup of peak sales estimates had slid all the way down to $570 million.
By the third quarter of 2012, Multaq sales were already on their way down, losing 9.1% over the same period the year before. Now the drug has a troubled rep that will be almost impossible to shed. And that leaves the pharma giant looking to new potential blockbusters--as well as its monumentally successful Lantus franchise--to fill in the blanks.
FDA knocks Sanofi's Multaq down a peg
France stiff-arms Sanofi's Multaq after study
In wake of Pallas study, Multaq hopes fade