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Eylea growth closes the gap with Lucentis

Bayer/Regeneron’s drug eye disease drug set for blockbuster status

Eylea packshot 

Bayer and Regeneron's eye disease therapy Eylea is on course to break into the blockbuster club this year, after gaining ground on its competitors in the first quarter.

Armed with new indications such as diabetic macular edema (DME), Eylea (aflibercept) can now compete with rival Lucentis (ranibizumab) sold by Roche and Novartis on a more equal footing and sales grew two thirds to top €250m in the first quarter of the year.

Lucentis still selling more than Eylea by value but is showing signs of weakness with Roche reporting US sales down 9% in the first quarter of the year to €394m and Novartis - which sells it outside the US -posting a 13% decline to $539m.

Both results missed analyst expectations and suggest Eylea is perhaps benefitting from a recent study showing superiority to Lucentis and Roche's Avastin (bevacizumab) - used off-label - in a comparative study.  

Eylea grew particularly well in Europe and Japan in the quarter, according to Bayer's interim report, which notes the drug can now be used in Europe for all patients with visual impairment due to macular oedema resulting from retinal vein occlusion (RVO).

The company secured FDA approval for Eylea in DME in March - having picked up an EU approval in that indication last year - and use in diabetics is considered pivotal to capturing majority market share. Bayer is also hoping to add the treatment of myopic choroidal neovascularisation (mCNV) to its label in the coming months after filing a dossier in the EU in March.

Healthcare revenues surge

Eylea's strong performance in the first quarter helped Bayer to a 25.6% increase in healthcare sales to €5.7bn, with a chunk of the increase coming from the company's acquisition of Merck & Co's consumer health business and prescription drugs up 7% to €3.2bn. Group sales jumped nearly 15% to €12.1bn, helped by the weak euro.

Combined sales of Bayer's five growth products - Eylea, pulmonary hypertension drug Adempas (riociguat), anticoagulant Xarelto (rivaroxaban) and cancer therapies Stivarga (regorafenib) and Xofigo (radium Ra 223 dichloride) - came in at just under €900 in the first three months of the year, a rise of 50%. The company has previously indicated it expects the peak sales potential of that group to be in the region of €7.5bn.

A decision to raise sales forecasts for the year to €48bn-€49bn was welcomed by analysts, although there was some concern about a hint of weakness in the pharma business that was masked by the euro effect.

Xarelto grew more than 40% to €482m in the quarter, for example, but is seeing increased competition from the likes of Eliquis (apixaban) from Pfizer and did not meet analyst expectations.

Article by
Phil Taylor

1st May 2015

From: Sales

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