In the world of pharmaceuticals, Roche’s eye drug Vabysmo has been gaining unstoppable “momentum,” according to Teresa Graham, the company’s pharma chief. Since its FDA approval in January 2022, Vabysmo has already surpassed the billion-dollar sales mark, raking in an impressive 957 million Swiss francs ($1.1 billion) during the first half of 2023.
During a recent press briefing, Graham enthusiastically proclaimed that Vabysmo is rapidly establishing itself as the standard of care for age-related macular degeneration (AMD) and diabetic macular edema (DME) patients. This momentum has been further bolstered by a recent setback faced by its rival, Regeneron’s market-leading Eylea, which suffered a high-dose rejection from the FDA due to manufacturing problems. Both drugs aim to reduce the dosing frequency for patients.
Graham sees this delay as an opportunity for Roche to further solidify Vabysmo’s position in the market. Although some patients may have been waiting for high-dose Eylea, Graham assured investors that it is not a major trend. Currently, most of Vabysmo’s sales come from patients who have switched from Eylea, but there has been a significant increase in new patients taking Vabysmo, indicating a growing interest in the drug.
However, during an investor call, an analyst pointed out that Vabysmo’s quarter-over-quarter sales gain has slowed slightly. Graham attributed this to “funky” buying patterns, suggesting that such fluctuations are normal for a drug that relies on contracting.
To maintain its growth momentum, Roche has recently filed for Vabysmo’s third indication, retinal vein occlusion, with the FDA’s decision expected by December 22, according to Graham.
While Vabysmo remains Roche’s top growth driver, another medication in the company’s portfolio, the antibody-drug conjugate Polivy, has been gaining momentum with its blockbuster ambitions. Sales for Polivy soared by an impressive 129% in the second quarter compared to the same period last year, primarily due to the FDA’s approval for first-line diffuse large B-cell lymphoma in April.
Graham stated that Polivy is now the preferred choice for treating first-line DLBCL as it offers the best chance for a cure. Additionally, Roche has received requests from both doctors and the FDA to include Polivy as an option in new clinical trials for newly diagnosed DLBCL, further validating its potential as the next standard of care.
Looking at Roche’s broader portfolio, Polivy and Vabysmo are part of a group of 20 new medicines launched by the company since 2015, which now constitute half of its entire pharma sales.
In the second quarter, Roche’s pharma division achieved sales of 11 billion Swiss francs, slightly down from 11.7 billion Swiss francs in the first quarter. The company faced two headwinds, with Actemra’s COVID-related sales coming to an end this quarter, and sales of the COVID antibody Ronapreve also ceasing earlier this year. Despite these challenges, Roche’s innovative drugs continue to drive the company’s success in the pharmaceutical industry.