Sanofi's new Lantus may not be the new Lantus
The FDA approved Sanofi's daily diabetes drug Toujeo Wednesday, but the new treatment does not appear to pack a profile that will pull payers or physicians away from Lantus to generic-free Toujeo. Lantus went off-patent in the US earlier this month.
Sanford C. Bernstein analyst Tim Anderson wrote in a Wednesday analysis that although Toujeo has a slight edge over Lantus when it comes to nighttime hypoglycemia, this isn't even mentioned in the label's clinical trials section. “All the label shows is non-inferiority of Toujeo to Lantus and the trends in blood sugar reduction are not uniformly in favor of Toujeo,” he wrote.
This could be a problem. Sanofi said at a November pipeline presentation that it considers current Lantus patients a key target for Toujeo. The company is also hoping to attract patients who dislike Novo Nordisk's Levimir in addition to newly diagnosed diabetes patients.
Anderson wrote that newly diagnosed patients represent Toujeo's major target audience because he expects Lantus patients to stay with the drug. They will also have other options, including Eli Lilly's Lantus biosimilar. The lookalike is currently sidelined in the US by a lawsuit but it will start popping up in Europe later this year.
Anderson likened Sanofi's bind to GSK's struggle to attract patients to its new line of Breo respiratory products, which have to compete with the success of its Advair product line. Uptake of the new Breo line is going to take time, and Anderson expects the same will be true for Toujeo.
The diabetes space is crowded and drugmakers are battling both lapsing patents and difficulty creating products that show clear benefits over older medications.
Sanofi's diabetes struggle is of particular note, however, because the firm expects flat sales for the division for 2015. Patent-protected Lantus accounted for $7 billion of the company's 2014 sales, which totaled $38 billion.
Anderson's team pegs Toujeo's sales at around $1.4 billion in 2020, with Lantus still taking in close to $4 billion in sales.