Bristol Myers Squibb’s cancer cell therapies are on track to earn the company half a billion dollars in sales this year, despite production issues that have constrained supply and forced tough choices on doctors and patients.
From April to June, sales of Bristol Myers’ multiple myeloma treatment Abecma rose to reach $89 million, while the company recorded $39 million in sales of its lymphoma therapy Breyanzi. During the second quarter last year, the two cellular medicines earned $24 million and $17 million, respectively.
Demand for the products was strong and outstripped supply, executives said Wednesday as the company reported earnings for the second quarter.
Both Abecma and Breyanzi are CAR-T therapies, personalized treatments made from the immune cells of each cancer patient treated. Manufacturing them is a complex task, involving shipping the cells frozen to central production sites, where they’re genetically engineered to seek out and attack cancers. But they can be powerful therapies for some, putting into remission patients who have few remaining options.
Early on in the launch of Abecma, which was approved in March 2021, Bristol Myers was unable to make enough and in response, instituted a policy where cancer centers had to apply for production slots, STAT previously reported. Because CAR-T treatment must be carefully timed, and the products require weeks to manufacture, doctors had to choose which patients might be the best candidates for treatment, according to STAT.
While some supply constraints have eased, Bristol Myers is still working to expand production to better match demand. Christopher Boerner, Bristol Myers chief commercial officer, said Wednesday that his company is focused on improving its supply of the inactivated viruses used to engineer patient immune cells, as well as supply of the drug product itself.
Specifically, Bristol Myers is adding two cell therapy manufacturing sites in Massachusetts and in the Netherlands. Those facilities should help the company ramp up production early next year, Boerner said.
Abecma is only one of two CAR-T therapies approved for multiple myeloma. The other, Carvykti from Johnson & Johnson, was approved in February and is also in limited supply.
Breyanzi, though, is one of three CAR-Ts for large B-cell lymphoma, following to market Gilead’s Yescarta and Novartis’ Kymriah by several years.
During the second quarter, however, sales of Breyanzi were held back by “lower-than-expected manufacturing success rates,” David Elkins, Bristol Myers’ CFO, said on the conference call. The problem has since been resolved, he added.
While Elkins didn’t offer further details, Novartis previously ran into issues with manufacturing its CAR-T drug Kymriah to commercial specifications, affecting sales.
Across its entire business, Bristol Myers reported product revenue in the second quarter of nearly $11.9 billion, up 2% from the same period a year ago. Sales of Eliquis and Opdivo — two of the company’s top medicines — rose by 16% and 8%, respectively.