- Sales of Apellis Pharmaceuticals’ new eye drug Syfovre continued to climb in the third quarter, even after a series of reports linked the medicine to a potentially blinding condition called occlusive retinal vasculitis.
- Syfovre in February became the first drug approved to treat geographic atrophy, a form of vision loss triggered by age-related macular degeneration. The drug launched in March, bringing in sales of $18.4 million in the first month that surpassed analyst expectations. The medicine’s fast start continued with revenue of $67 million in the second quarter.
- But in mid-July, reports linking Syfovre to retinal vasculitis emerged. Apellis continued to keep doctors updated on new cases and in August indicated that a faulty needle might be related to the issue. That may have been enough to reassure doctors, because Apellis said Thursday that prescription growth returned in August and third quarter sales reached $74 million.
The steady demand for Syfovre even amid side effect concerns reflects the great need for treatment options in the geographic atrophy market. When Syfovre first won approval, analysts predicted it could bring in peak annual sales of $3 billion.
On Thursday, Apellis once again emphasized that cases of retinal vasculitis among patients given Syfovre are rare, amounting to about 0.01% per injection. The company said there have now been 10 confirmed and two suspected cases of the condition among patients, while more than 100,000 vials of the medication have been shipped to doctors.
Six of the 10 patients with confirmed cases have recovered either partially or fully, Apellis said. Three have severe vision impairment that likely won’t get better, and one outcome is still being monitored, along with that of the two suspected cases.
Meanwhile, Apellis said continuing studies support the long-term efficacy of Syfovre, and payers are increasingly covering the drug. The company also said the medicine now has a permanent billing code that will help with reimbursement.
Apellis is laser-focused on the success of Syfovre. In late August, the company announced plans to lay off staff and reprioritize research projects to focus resources on Syfovre and Empaveli, a version of the same drug that it sells for a rare blood disorder.