MannKind investors were disappointed when its marketing partner Sanofi revealed that Afrezza generated only $1.1 million sales in the first two months of launch. On the other hand, RBC Capital Markets analyst Adnan Butt and Jefferies analyst Shaunak Deepak have reiterated that Afrezza sales are picking up, albeit slowly. The two research firms have been keeping close tabs on the prescription numbers of MannKind’s inhaled insulin treatment.
MannKind must educate
One key problem facing Afrezza is awareness. Earlier this month, Shaunak Deepak conducted a survey of 56 different endocrinologists, physicians, and other health care providers. He found that 35% of them did not even know about MannKind’s drug. The number of could be significantly higher for patients. MannKind and its marketing partner Sanofi have planned to launch a massive Direct to Customer (DTC) advertising campaign to raise awareness.
And then the feedback and opinion of early adopters will become crucial as diabetes patients look for experiences of other users with Afrezza. As Robert Sacher of Seeking Alpha points out, a large number of early adopters have been sharing online their positive experience with Afrezza and how it has helped them get rid of the regular needles. Among them is Amy Tenderich, the founder of Healthline.com, one of the most popular websites among diabetics.
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MannKind looks to succeed where Exubera failed
The United States has about 29 million diabetes patients, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. A large chunk of them have been injecting themselves three or more times a day for years to keep their glucose levels in check. Plus, many diabetics are not comfortable taking out a syringe in public and injecting themselves.
According to the National Post, many of them have tried the awkwardly large Exubera. A diabetes patient told the National Post that it was not user-friendly. Exubera’s dosing units were different from liquid insulin, so it required patients to figure out conversions. In contrast, using MannKind’s Afrezza is hassle-free and far more convenient. Of course, the drug has some regulatory concerns such as it is not recommended for people with chronic lung diseases.
The feedback from early adopters would play a crucial role in the success of Afrezza as MannKind launches DTC this summer. It will still likely take several weeks before patients begin to respond to advertising.