Sanofi exits insulin flop Afrezza, MannKind shares dive


MannKind, the company that developed inhaled insulin Afrezza, has announced that its co-marketing deal with Sanofi is to end, after the drug proved a commercial failure.

The California-based firm says its licence and collaboration agreement with Sanofi to develop and market Afrezza will end no later than 4 July this year.

The news is no surprise, as the drug earned a paltry $5.5 million in the first nine months of last year, after having been launched in February 2015.

The collaboration is an embarrassing failure for Sanofi, which had been looking for ways to rejuvenate its flagship diabetes portfolio. Sanofi signed a $925 million licensing deal in 2014 when Chris Viehbacher was chief executive, but his successor, Olivier Brandicourt has clearly now decided to cut his firm's losses.

Despite Sanofi's expertise in the insulin product market, US payers were reluctant to reimburse the product, and few doctors were keen to prescribe it in place of injected insulin.

The failure of Afrezza could be fatal for MannKind, which has seen its share price nosedive on the news. The company could seek out a new partner, but is unlikely to find any takers, which means bankruptcy and a sell-off of its assets looks more likely.

Afrezza follows an earlier inhaled insulin which also flopped, Pfizer's Exubera. MannKind's failure is likely to be the nail in the coffin for the idea, despite one or two other companies, such as Dance Biopharm, having similar products in development.

Linda Banks

5 January, 2016