Head-to-head late-stage clinical trials published on Tuesday showed that a Novartis (NYSE:NVS) drug to treat patients with neovascular age-related macular degeneration doesn’t need to be injected as frequently as a rival drug from competitor Regeneron (NSDQ:REGN).
Analysts reportedly said the data gives Novartis’ treatment, RTH258, a competitive edge compared to its rival therapies.
The trials showed RTH258 worked as well as Regeneron’s Eylea and that slightly more than half the patients needed doses every 12 weeks, compared to every 8 weeks for Regeneron’s drug.
Although the data seemed to be a bad sign for Regeneron, its shares soared 6.7% to $503.59.
Geoffrey Porges, a Leerink Partners analyst, told Reuters that the results remove uncertainty for Regeneron investors who were looking to capitalize on the positive sales trajectory for the company’s recently-approved treatment for severe atopic dermatitis, Dupixent.
Eylea has fueled Regeneron’s growth since 2011, but the therapy’s sales have slowed recently, due largely to competition from rival drugs, and now the company is betting on Dupixent.
He also said that it’s possible that the potential negative impact of Novartis’ data was already priced into the Regeneron stock.
But Jefferies analysts called the trial results “a significant differentiator and competitive advantage for RTH258,” according to the newswire.
Reducing the number of injections a patient has to endure could also give RTH258 a boost over Lucentis, an eye drug that Roche (PINK:RHHBY) markets in the U.S. and Novartis sells elsewhere. Patients who are treated with Lucentis usually need doses every 4 weeks.
Novartis reportedly expects annual sales for RTH258 to top $1 billion.
“It exceeds our expectations and we’re looking forward to filing in 2018” Vas Narasimhan, Novartis’s drug development chief, told Reuters.
The company said it hoped to see 40% or more of patients responding well to injections every 12 weeks.
“Now that we see it well into the 52 to 57% range, we feel very good about the result,” Narasimhan said.
Allergan (NYSE:AGN) is also hoping that reduced injection frequency will score a win for its investigational medicine Abicipar. The company is set to release data from Abicipar trials in 2018.
Material from Reuters was used in this report.
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