Regeneron secures more coverage for cholesterol drug Praluent

(Reuters) - Regeneron Pharmaceuticals Inc, facing slowing sales of blockbuster eye drug Eylea, said it was making substantial progress in securing more insurance coverage for cholesterol drug Praluent, its other key product.

A robotic DNA sample automation machine works on DNA samples at a Regeneron Pharmaceuticals Inc. laboratory at the biotechnology company's headquarters in Tarrytown, New York March 24, 2015. REUTERS/Mike Segar

Shares of the company, which reported better-than-expected first-quarter revenue, rose as much 5.8 percent on Thursday.

Praluent, which is co-owned by Sanofi SA, has often been touted as the company’s next blockbuster but the cholesterol-lowering drug has been slow to take off in the market with insurers resisting its high cost.

Regeneron said on Thursday about 74 percent of commercially insured lives and 91 percent of Medicare insured lives had access to Praluent, as of April 1.

Unprecedented utilization criteria for the drug and tedious paperwork put in place by pharmacy benefit managers and health insurers had made access to Praluent difficult, Regeneron said on a call with analysts.

However, the company said it had seen a recent improvement in the number of Praluent prescriptions that were filled.

RBC Capital Markets analyst Adnan Butt said upcoming data from trials on Praluent’s cardiovascular benefits will likely make insurers loosen their restrictions on the drug.

“That’s the big catalyst the buyside is looking for - statistically significant difference that makes it difficult for payers to deny the benefit this class of drugs is showing.”

The list price of Praluent is about $14,600 per year. Rival drug Repatha, made by Amgen Inc, has a list price of $14,100 per year.

A federal jury ruled in March that Praluent infringes two Amgen patents, making matters worse for Regeneron.

Praluent’s first-quarter sales were about $13 million, falling short of the average analyst estimate of $15.6 million, JP Morgan analyst Cory Kasimov said.


Regeneron raised sales growth forecast for Eylea, the success of which has powered much of Regeneron’s explosive growth since late 2011.

However, the drug’s slowing sales in recent quarters have raised concerns about Regeneron’s prospects, erasing a quarter of the company’s market value in the past year.

Regeneron said it expected sales of Eylea, which treats wet age-related macular degeneration among other eye disorders, to increase by 20-25 percent this year, compared with its previous estimate of about 20 percent. The drug’s sales surged 54 percent last year.

Regeneron’s net income more than doubled to $165.7 million in the quarter ended March 31.

Excluding items, Regeneron earned $2.57 per share, just missing the average analyst estimate of $2.58 according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

Revenue rose to $1.20 billion, beating the average Wall Street estimate of $1.18 billion.

Regeneron’s shares were up 5.2 percent at $379.42 in late afternoon trading.

Reporting by Amrutha Penumudi in Bengaluru; Editing by Saumyadeb Chakrabarty