Afrezza sales still underperforming, but MannKind remains optimistic
- Afrezza, an inhaled insulin product sold by MannKind and Sanofi, had sales of $5.5 million for the first five months of the year, leading Goldman Sachs analysts to rate MannKind's stock a "sell."
- MannKind's chief financial officer, Matthew Pfeffer, said that the companies have begun an Internet-based direct-to-consumer (DTC) campaign, and that it should start to pay off soon.
- MannKind's founder Alfred Mann continues to stand by Afrezza not only for its convenience, but also for the fact that it is extremely fast-acting—it gets into the blood stream with 12 to 15 minutes of being inhaled.
In June 2014, there was a great deal of excitement when Afrezza finally won FDA approval after being rejected by the FDA in 2011. The stock was up and MannKind was launch-ready. But it's been tough-going since then.
While there was a lot of promise early on—and the product does have many desirable features—the FDA has required that every patient receive a lung function test (LFT) before being able to use Afrezza. In addition, patients who smoke or have lung disease should not use Afrezza. And then there is the cost factor. Sanofi's wholesale price for 20 units of Afrezza per day is $9.29, compared with $5.23 for its injected insulin, Apidra. However, to offset the cost differential, Sanofi is offering coupons to cover co-pays for Afrezza.
Sanofi and MannKind are focused on making Afrezza a successful product, and determined to help patients achieve the full benefits of use, including convenience and improved compliance. Nonetheless, the numbers are the numbers. For the quarter that ended June 30, Afrezza had $2.2 million worth of sales, which many observers have considered underwhelming.
There was a time when analysts were forecasting $1 billion in annual sales for Afrezza. While it's not clear if the product will be resuscitated based on the efforts of determined marketers and passionate patients, it appears increasingly unlikely that Afrezza will become a blockbuster product this year.