The inhalable insulin product Afrezza launched in the US in February, and while initial sales have been subdued, Matt Pfeffer, CFO of the developer and manufacturer of the product, MannKind Corporation, said he has no doubt the drug will hit sales targets.
Pfeffer has previously told this publication the slow uptake is down to marketing delays, but speaking at the Jefferies 2015 Global Healthcare Conference yesterday he explained Afrezza’s commercialisation partner Sanofi led a “focused and targeted launch initially with the idea that it would be extended outward over time.”
Initially, Sanofi focused on convincing endocrinologists to back Afrezza on the basis that their adoption of the product would influence general practitioners. Now the strategy is to create a buzz by reaching out to diabetics, as Pfeffer explained.
“It’s a very active community, people are very vocal and it's not very hard to go and find out what people think of this product,” he said. “These people are out there tweeting about their experiences and literally posting pictures of their blood glucose monitors and other things which is very, very encouraging. I’ve yet to find anybody say anything other than they loved the product, so [while] the initial launch is a little slow it gives me hope, I think it’s going to get there.
"If they love it as much as everybody says they are - and I’ve yet to find an exception - I have no doubt it’s going to be the blockbuster product we all thought it would be."
And a quick look on line confirms this, with Twitter awash with such tweets from users and potential users of the product:
In preparation for the predicted sales growth, MannKind is increasing manufacturing capacity at its production facilities in Danbury, Connecticut, and Denver, Colorado.
“We started out with just one line in operation and we now have three lines in operation,” he said, adding the firm had begun production of a 12-unit cartridge strength of Afrezza following FDA approval back in April ready for Sanofi to launch in the next quarter.
The sites have been expanded since Afrezza was in Phase III studies and the company has previously said further capacity can be added in a “relatively rapid modular way” to cope with an expected volume of two billion cartridges a year.
Despite these expansions, MannKind is looking to reduce its operational costs by centralising production to these sites and Pfeffer announced it is looking to sell “a huge monstrous facility [in California] that’s largely empty these days,” as MannKind no longer needs certain production functions now Sanofi is on board.
The sale is the second abandonment of manufacturing space: “We formerly had a facility in New Jersey that we've now closed,” Pfeffer said, and while some of the staff was transferred to Connecticut, other roles are now obsolete due to the Sanofi deal.