July 28, 2009 / 9:37 AM / 10 years ago

UPDATE 1-Sanofi prices heart drug above expectations

* Multaq list price set at $7.20 a day

* Premium could trigger peak sales upgrades

PARIS, July 28 (Reuters) - French drugmaker Sanofi-Aventis (SASY.PA) set a higher-than-expected price for its Multaq heart drug, a move which some analysts said could boost sales forecasts for the potential blockbuster product.

Multaq will cost $7.20 per daily dose for wholesalers who will sell the twice-a-day tablet at $9, a Sanofi spokesman said.

Sanofi said earlier on Tuesday that the anti-arrhythmic drug, chemically known as dronedarone, was now available in U.S. pharmacies after the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) cleared it for marketing on July 1.

Multaq should help Sanofi offset a looming sales drop as generic versions of several key drugs appear following patent expiries.

Morgan Stanley said it now expects analysts to lift their peak sales estimates for Multaq. Consensus for peak sales ranges from 1 billion to 1.5 billion euros but Morgan Stanley has been more optimistic with its forecast of 3 billion.

“Multaq’s launch in the U.S. with a list price at a steep 44 percent premium to consensus — 20 percent on our forecast — pricing assumptions comes as a surprise to us and underscores the unique pharmaco-economic data that supports our above-consensus 3 billion euro peak sales estimate for the drug,” Morgan Stanley analysts said in a research note.

Shares in Sanofi-Aventis, which is due to report its second-quarter earnings on Wednesday, rose as much as 2.8 percent on Tuesday and were up 2.4 percent at 47.22 euros by 0911 GMT. The DJ healthcare index .SXDP rose 1.9 percent.

The FDA approved Multaq to reduce the risk of cardiovascular hospitalisation in patients with atrial fibrillation or flutter but ordered that the drug’s label carry a severe warning.

Doctors may not prescribe it to patients with severe heart failure as it may cause critical adverse reactions, including death. (Reporting by Caroline Jacobs; Editing by James Regan)

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