MannKind: Afrezza's slow start comparable to launch of Toyota Prius

By Dan Stanton

- Last updated on GMT

Afrezza's slow, targeted launch was compared to the Toyota Prius launch by MannKind yesterday
Afrezza's slow, targeted launch was compared to the Toyota Prius launch by MannKind yesterday

Related tags Inhaled insulin product Inhalable insulin Mannkind corporation Sanofi

MannKind says it is confident sales of its inhaled insulin product Afrezza - commercialised by Sanofi - will pick up after disappointing growth since launch.

For the third quarter 2015, sales of Afrezza remained flat on Q2 at €2m ($2.1m), pushing nine month sales to €5m, Sanofi reported two weeks ago.

Discussing his own firm's results yesterday, Hakan Edstrom - CEO of developer and manufacturer of the inhalable long-acting insulin MannKind Corporation - said he was “disappointed with the growth” ​since it launched in the US in February​.

He added some insight as to the slow uptake, explaining “insurance companies are taking a strict stand regarding reimbursement and prior authorisation,”​ and the initial rollout was deliberately targeted, focusing on building awareness behind the product.

“You could compare it to the initial launch of the Prius by Toyota or Tesla's electric cars,”​ he told investors. “Both companies started out very tentatively with their initial models. It takes time to introduce a new concept, and get it embraced.”

The fact that the Sanofi commercialisation deal​ came only four months before launch was also a factor, he said, meaning there was both “very little time to address reimbursement issues” ​and “no time for traditional activities that normally occur before a product is introduced.”

“Operating under the assumptions that we'll continue to pursue the partnership

Under terms of the partnership, Sanofi can pull-out of the deal as of January 2016.

“At this time we have certainly no indication that Sanofi is planning [to end] the partnership,”​ Edstrom said.

“Actually, our teams are working very closely together on plans for 2016, and putting budgets together. So we are certainly operating under the assumptions that we'll continue to pursue the partnership.”

Last week​, Sanofi CEO Olivier Brandicourt spoke about the firm’s commitment to its marketed products Toujeo and Lantus as part of a plan to reinject growth into its diabetes franchise, but failed to mention Afrezza.

The firm has also allegedly announced a hiring freeze on sales reps​ for Afrezza.

Afrezza is the only inhaled insulin product on the market and contains the excipient fumaryl diketopiperazine (FDKP) to aid delivery to the lungs through a whistle-sized inhaler.

Pfizer launched the first inhaled insulin, Exubera, in 2006, but after it failed to win acceptance from patients and physicians pulled the product a year later, taking a $2.8bn hit​.

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