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Sanofi Chief Sees Promising Start for Newcomer Drug Dupixent

Sanofi, the French drugmaker grappling with falling revenue of its best-selling insulin for diabetes, indicated its newest medicine is off to a promising start.

Dupixent, a potential blockbuster aimed at a severe form of eczema, is making progress in the U.S. market just days after it reached pharmacy shelves, Chief Executive Officer Olivier Brandicourt said on a conference call on Friday. The drug has garnered “encouraging” coverage from two large pharmacy-benefit managers, he said.

Olivier BrandicourtSource: Sanofi
Sanofi is pursuing new drivers of growth as its aging diabetes treatment Lantus fades under pressure from cheaper competitors. The Paris-based drugmaker warned that the decline in sales of diabetes medicines in the U.S. will accelerate over the rest of the year, even as it reported better-than-expected quarterly earnings and a healthy start for Dupixent.

The stock rose 1.8 percent to 87.48 euros at 10:42 a.m. in Paris trading. It has gained about 14 percent since the start of the year.

Dupixent secured coverage from Express Scripts Holding Co. and CVS Health Corp., according to Sanofi. “It is very rare in the U.S. to have coverage at that level right from the beginning of the launch,” Brandicourt said.

Next Humira?

Sanofi and Regeneron Pharmaceuticals Inc. last month received U.S. regulatory approval for the new $37,000-a-year injection, which targets a condition that causes the skin to itch, flake, ooze or bleed. The companies are also testing it in asthma, nasal polyps and a form of inflammation of the esophagus. The treatment may turn out to be the “next Humira,” the world’s best-selling medicine, because it shows promise against a variety of diseases, Sanford C. Bernstein & Co. analysts wrote in a report in March.

Sanofi’s earnings excluding some items climbed to about 1.80 billion euros ($1.96 billion) last quarter, up from 1.72 billion euros a year earlier, the drugmaker said in a statement. Analysts had predicted 1.59 billion euros, the average of 10 estimates compiled by Bloomberg. Sales rose 11 percent to 8.65 billion euros, led by demand for vaccines, two medicines for multiple sclerosis and consumer products such as allergy, cough and cold remedies.

Lantus sales fell sales fell 14 percent at constant exchange rates, dragging down overall diabetes revenue. This could be the toughest year for the diabetes business, potentially pushing the company toward the low end or even below the range of its multi-year sales outlook for the unit, Chief Financial Officer Jerome Contamine said in a Bloomberg Television interview with Guy Johnson. The company said in 2015 that diabetes sales will probably drop between 4 percent and 8 percent through 2018 at an average annualized rate.