- Biogen's treatment for a rare motor disorder had a much stronger rollout in the early months of 2017 than many industry followers anticipated.
- In December, Spinraza became the first Food and Drug Administration approved treatment for spinal muscular atrophy (SMA). But due to a high price tag of $125,000 per vial and pushback from payers, Biogen leadership and analysts anticipated the drug would have slow uptake.
- However, 165 commercial and Medicaid plans had approved the drug and 88 sites began administering it to patients as of April 21, said the company during its first quarter earnings call on Tuesday. What's more, the treatment brought in $47 million worth of revenue during the first quarter, topping consensus estimates of $16 million.
Biogen identified two bottlenecks that Spinraza faced following its approval: the infrastructure of various therapy sites and coverage from payers. While those hurdles remain, the company was able to work with various stakeholders to improve the drug's prospects, according to CEO Michel Vounatsos.
"Motivated families, patients, parents, advocacy groups, a professional team at Biogen, dedicated providers, the leadership of the hospital and providers were able to accommodate [rollout of Spinraza]," Vounatsos said during a first quarter earnings call, adding that his company has tapped bigger centers with more ironed out therapy patterns and smaller centers that have become more speedy and flexible. "One size does not fit all, but all in all this is where we stand today."
The big biotech expects a greenlight for Spinraza in Canada and Japan in 2017, has filed the drug for approval in Australia, and received a positive opinion from the CHMP in Europe.
"With respect to Europe, we effectively have been putting pre-launch efforts in place on a country by country basis, prioritizing obviously those countries that we expect to get reimbursement earlier as opposed to later. So a tremendous amount of energy in Germany, energy in the Nordics, energy also in the U.K. for some relatively unique circumstances," the company said.
Spinraza's promise coupled with a 3% revenue gain compared to the first quarter of 2016 helped push up Biogen's stock. Shares were up nearly 4% to $287.76 apiece in early afternoon trading.