Sanofi finally launches Afrezza inhaled insulin in the US
- Sanofi announced on Tuesday that the company had commercially launched Afrezza inhaled insulin in the U.S.
- Afrezza was co-developed with MannKind and will be the only inhaled insulin product available in America.
- The big question is the product's commercial viability. Previous iterations of inhaled insulin haven't turned out to be very popular (although Sanofi points out that Afrezza is far more conventient to use than the infamous Pfizer product Exubera, which patients complained was clunky and awkward to use).
Industry watchers don't have particularly high expectations for Afrezza. According to CNBC, Thomson Reuters Cortellis analysts predict sales of $182 million per year by 2019 (Afrezza is priced at $7.54 for 12 daily doses).
Many had even questioned how committed Sanofi was to Afrezza, given the company's noted silence on announcing a commercial launch date during the JP Morgan Healthcare Conference last month (the diabetes franchise part of Sanofi's investor presentation focused almost exclusively on the upcoming glargine product Toujeo). But in an interview with BioPharma Dive at JPM, Sanofi EVP Pascale Witz said that Afrezza is meant for a very different market while Toujeo heralds the next gold standard of injectable insulin.
"Afrezza, inhaled insulin, as much as we work on convincing patients to move into insulin, some patients are very resistant to insulin," said Witz. The product, then, is only really meant for people who can't stand the thought of an injection. The question is: Just how big is that market? And will doctors be sufficiently impressed by the product's delivery mechanism to recommend it to certain diabetic patients?