- Sales of Apellis Pharmaceuticals’ new drug for a common type of vision loss significantly exceeded Wall Street forecasts in its first month on the market, suggesting early adoption of the treatment by physicians.
- Apellis won Food and Drug Administration of the drug, called Syfovre, in mid-February and launched it commercially on March 1. Between then and March 31, sales totaled $18.4 million, the company said Thursday in a first quarter earnings statement.
- According to Steven Seedhouse, an analyst at Raymond James, Syfovre’s sales total was about 15 times the consensus Wall Street estimate of $1.2 million for the quarter. Seedhouse’s team is now predicting sales of $311 million this year.
Syfovre is the first drug approved to treat geographic atrophy, an irreversible form of vision loss triggered by age-related macular degeneration.
While people with “wet” AMD have multiple treatments available to them, no options existed to slow the progressive deterioration in sight caused by geographic atrophy until now.
As a result, Apellis has both the advantage and challenge of being the first drugmaker to market a geographic atrophy therapy. Its task is complicated by mixed results in clinical testing and safety risks that led some eye specialists to question how widely Syfovre should be used.
So far at least, demand appears high. Apellis said Thursday that it had shipped more than 6,000 commercial vials of the drug, and engaged with more than 2,000 physician practices. The company has distributed another 3,400 or so vials as samples.
“Even with [Apellis] cautioning there will be some fluctuations in this launch, this bodes well for the potential of the class overall — and explains strategic interest,” wrote Evercore ISI analysts Jon Miller and Umer Raffat in a Thursday note to clients.
That “strategic interest” is from pharmaceutical companies interested in acquiring drugs like Syfovre. Apellis has long been seen as a buyout target by analysts — a view bolstered by Astellas Pharma’s recent agreement to acquire the rival biotechnology company Iveric Bio for $5.9 billion.
Iveric is developing a would-be competitor to Syfovre that’s currently under Food and Drug Administration review, with a decision expected by mid-August.
Apellis is worth much more. A 8% stock jump Friday on the company’s first quarter earnings numbers pushed its market valuation to about $10.5 billion, with any acqusition likely to be priced at a premium.
In addition to Syfovre, Apellis also sells a drug for the rare disease paroxysmal nocturnal hemoglobinuria called Empvali. Sales totaled $20.4 million in the first quarter.