Sanofi abandons MannKind’s failed inhalable insulin

pharmafile | January 6, 2016 | News story | Manufacturing and Production, Research and Development, Sales and Marketing Afrezza, Mannkind, Sanofi, insulin 

Sanofi is to exit a licensing and co-marketing deal with MannKind for the inhalable insulin Afrezza, after disappointing sales figures from the drug since its launch last year.

Sanofi paid MannKind $925 million for 65% of the potential profits of Afrezza, which went on sale in February 2015, including $150 million up front. But the drug earnt just $5.5 million during the first nine months of the year, and Olivier Brandicourt, chief executive of the French pharma giant, has decided to cut losses on a deal signed by his predecessor Chris Viehbacher.

The deal will now end no later than 4 July, MannKind said in a statement, adding that it is reviewing its strategic options for the drug following Sanofi’s decision. However the French firm says it will work with MannKind ‘to support a smooth transition’ and will continue to make Afrezza available about 6 months after the official termination date of 4 April.

Sanofi told Bloomberg in a statement that Afrezza had “never met even modest expectations,” adding that “we do not project Afrezza reaching even the lowest patient levels anticipated,” while it expected costs for the drug to remain high.

The decision will be a bitter blow to MannKind, which had high hopes for the product upon receiving FDA approval in June 2014. The company had marketed it on the fast delivery of insulin into the bloodstream compared to injectable alternatives, and as a formulation that would be more appealing to patients who wanted to avoid daily injections.

Despite Sanofi’s reputation in the diabetes field, US payers were apparently reluctant to reimburse the product, and doctors did not see the benefit of prescribing it over injectable insulin. Prescribers also pointed to concerns over the impact of inhaled insulin on the lungs.

MannKind chief executive Hakan Edstrom declared himself disappointed with Afrezza’s sales during a Q3 quarterly earnings conference call with investors last year, and stepped down from the role in November. Shares in the company fell as much as 30% on yesterday’s news.

Joel Levy

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