What happens in Vegas…..

What happens in Vegas…..

One thing great about the folks who come up with marketing slogans for Las Vegas, like ESPN commercials they are memorable. One of the more memorable is the “What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas campaigns, that of course is provided visitors aren’t employed by our wine drinking friends from France at the soap opera now known as Sanofi (NYSE:SNY). Yes Vegas is where the company is holding their Afrezza launch and training session.

It seems the company is going all out in their attempt to convince the sales team, approximately 1300 in size, that Afrezza is the greatest thing since sliced bread and soft soap. They have brought some heavyweight talent to help as well.  The company has brought in Dr. Bruce Bode, who’s best known for his work with insulin pumps, Kelly Close industry cheerleader and publisher of Close Concerns, Dr. Robert Wise Professor of Medicine at the highly respected John Hopkins, Dr. Wise according to his bio is an expert in “Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease, Critical Care Medicine, Pulmonary Disease and Critical Care Medicine.” Of course Al Mann the founder and former CEO of MannKind (NASDAQ:MNKD) is in attendance along with Pierre Chancel Senior Vice President of Global Diabetes and Senior Vice President of Global Marketing for Sanofi.

Yes this team of heavyweights is trying to convince the sales people that Sanofi won’t do what they have done with every other diabetes product not named Lantus and actually get it right with Afrezza. This won’t be an easy task and not just because Afrezza has more issues than Minnesota has lakes, no this is an especially tough job as morale is at an all-time low and based on comments from the sales team they believe management is clueless. Not surprising comments from a group of people who’ve been publicly maligned by their very own CEO.

Yet in this case the normal gripping we hear from sales people actually has some merit as management seems to believe that Afrezza can succeed with trier 3 formulary position, something Diabetic Investor reported long ago and now has been confirmed by meeting attendees. As we have been reporting since this partnership was announced Afrezza would be a tough sale at trier 1 let alone trier 2, but at trier 3 management has made the sales job next to impossible.

Perhaps this is why they have also decided to throw co-pay cards and in the ultimate sign of desperation the first prescription will be FREE. The co-pay cards will limit the patients out of pocket cost to just $30.

Still company expectations for Afrezza are on the low end as they looking to add less than 60,000 patients this year. A number Diabetic Investor believes is still on the high side given the obstacles this drug must overcome plus the added burden of having trier 3 formulary position and a less than motivated sales team.

The simple fact is Sanofi is desperate and needs to prove they can actually do something right in diabetes other than Lantus. Yet try as they might what we’ve learned about Afrezza shows they just don’t get it. Allowing Afrezza to be regulated to trier 3 formulary status is huge and costly mistake. The use of co-pay cards and the FREE first script is evidence of this, as both programs will eat into what little margin Afrezza had.

This a fact so many ignore about Afrezza as the drug isn’t cheap to make as it takes a whole bunch of liquid insulin to make inhaled insulin. Add in the use of co-pay cards, free first scripts and a direct to consumer marketing campaign coming in the second half of the year one has to wonder if Sanofi is actually taking a loss on initial sales, not something one would expect for such an “innovative” product.

The fact is neither MannKind and now Sanofi cannot get away from the truth, Afrezza is short-acting insulin whose loan compelling feature is that it’s inhaled and not injected. Afrezza is NOT a better short-acting insulin as study data shows, it’s as good as injectable short-acting insulin’s but not better. And we all know that injectable short-acting insulin is cheaper than Afrezza and that neither Lilly (NYSE:LLY) nor Novo Nordisk (NYSE:NVO) will allow Afrezza to gain even a minor share of this highly competitive market.

Based on what we’re hearing all the fun should begin in early February. That’s when we’ll find out whose right Afrezza, Sanofi/MannKind or Diabetic Investor. Not to be overly modest but our track record is certainly better than Sanofi but then again given their less than impressive history in diabetes other than Lantus that really isn’t saying much. Heck a corporate frog has better track record than Sanofi  does – RIBIT!!!!