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Regeneron allays competition fears for 'gold standard' eye drug, shares rise

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FILE PHOTO: The Regeneron Pharmaceuticals company logo is seen on a building at the company's Westchester campus in Tarrytown, New York

By Mrinalika Roy

(Reuters) -Regeneron Pharmaceuticals said on Wednesday it expects demand for blockbuster eye drug Eylea to remain strong in the third quarter even in the face of emerging competition from rival drugs, sending the company's shares up nearly 8%.

Analysts earlier this year flagged competition concerns for Eylea from newly launched Roche Holding AG's Vabysmo, as both belong to the same class of drugs, called anti-VEGF.

"Despite new competition, Eylea's share was approximately half of the anti-VEGF category, affirming its status as the gold standard," Regeneron Chief Executive Officer Leonard Schleifer said.

U.S. sales of Eylea, which has dominated the market for treatments for eye diseases such as macular degeneration, jumped 14% to $1.62 billion in the second quarter ended June 30.

"Ongoing demographic trends such as the aging population and prevalence of diabetes support anticipated mid to high single-digit category growth for the foreseeable future," said senior Regeneron executive Marion McCourt.

Shares of the company rose 8.3% to $622.30 in mid day trading.

The company is testing high-dose Eylea in two chronic eye diseases, with data expected in the later half of 2022.

Wells Fargo analyst Mohit Bansal says the data will be "the most important catalyst" for the company, as the high dosage has the potential to make Eylea sustainable for a longer term.

Regeneron's anti inflammatory drug, Dupixent, recorded sales growth of nearly 40% in the quarter.

The company's quarterly revenue fell 44% to $2.86 billion, but came in ahead of analysts' expectation of $2.80 billion.

The fall was due to the U.S. regulator's decision to limit the use of Regeneron's COVID-19 antibody drug in January in all states due to its lack of effectiveness against the Omicron variant.

Regeneron said the U.S. Food and Drug Administration's review of application for the drug's full approval in certain patients was ongoing.

(Reporting by Mrinalika Roy in Bengaluru; Editing by Shinjini Ganguli)