Sanofi announced they will discontinue marketing MannKind’s inhaled insulin drug, Afrezza, starting in April. The company says the decision was made based on the lackluster number of prescriptions for Afrezza, despite launching a targeted “Surprise, it’s insulin” campaign in 2015, along with additional investments in marketing.
According to data from Kantar Media, Sanofi made approximately $2 million on sales of Afrezza in the third quarter of 2015, despite spending $3.75 million on advertising for the drug. Since its launch in February of 2015, Afrezza has brought in $5.4 million in total sales.
“The decision to terminate is due to a number of factors, including the continued low level of prescriptions for Afrezza in the marketplace despite Sanofi’s substantial efforts,” said a spokesperson from Sanofi. The announcement that the licensing agreement for Afrezza between MannKind and Sanofi had been terminated, was made on Tuesday.
“This is not the end of the line for Afrezza,” said Matthew Pfeffer, CEO of MannKind. Pfeffer expressed interest in finding a new licensing or marketing partner for the inhaled insulin, and stressed the need to educate both patients and physicians regarding the “value proposition” presented by Afrezza.
Mannkind had high hopes that Afrezza would become a major non-traditional insulin drug, and the first of its kind on the market. The drug was approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in June of 2014, and the company partnered with Sanofi in August of that year in order to commercialize the product.
Afrezza is currently the only FDA-approved inhaled insulin drug, and has been marketed towards diabetic patients who dislike using injectable insulin. Afrezza has suffered from the same lack of market share that plagued its predecessor, Pfizer’s Exubera, which was pulled from the market in 2007 after disappointing sales numbers.
There are a number of issues which may have contributed to Afrezza’s low number of prescriptions and subsequent underwhelming sales numbers. The uniqueness of drug delivery – inhalation as opposed to injection – could have prevented patients from adopting the drug, along with the FDA stipulation that patients taking Afrezza must participate in recurrent lung testing.
Insurance reimbursement for the drug was also reported to be low. To complicate matters, a poll conducted by a Jefferies analyst in May of last year suggested that out of 120 doctors surveyed, 35 percent were not aware of the drug’s existence.