BARCELONA Aug 31 The expected launch of
Novartis's new heart failure drug next year promises
to be the company's most exciting ever and profit margins on the
medicine will be good, its head of pharmaceuticals said on
The Swiss drugmaker impressed doctors at the European
Society of Cardiology meeting in Barcelona at the weekend by
unveiling strikingly good clinical trial results for the drug,
known as LCZ696, in a keenly awaited clinical trial.
Investigators working on the study and the company itself
believe it has potential to replace drugs that have been central
to treating heart failure for a quarter of century, opening up a
multibillion-dollar sales opportunity.
"It will be possibly the most exciting launch the company
has ever had," David Epstein told an investor meeting.
The profitability of the drug would also be higher than
Novartis achieved when its blockbuster hypertension medicine
Diovan was still patent-protected, since the cost of marketing
LCZ696 will be lower. That reflects the more specialised nature
of heart failure, which requires a smaller sales force.
As a result, LCZ696 should become profitable relatively
quickly, though Novartis will be investing to ensure a strong
launch. Epstein said he did not expect any increase in the
overall sales force because staff would be switched from
promoting some older drugs.
In a research note issued by investment bank Leerink on the
back of the strong trial results, analyst Seamus Fernandez said
that LCZ696 could rack up annual sales of $6-8 billion, with
further upside in emerging markets and from new indications.
The study unveiled in Barcelona targeted heart patients with
reduced ejection fraction, where the heart muscle does not
contract effectively. However, Novartis is also starting a trial
in a similar-sized group with preserved ejection fraction, where
the ventricles do not relax as they should.
(Reporting by Ben Hirschler; Editing by David Goodman)