Argenx is off to the races with the launch of its new med Vyvgart.
With its first FDA-approved drug Vyvgart now rolling out, Argenx is charting a course to become an immunology “powerhouse” by the middle of the decade, CEO Tim Van Hauwermeiren said in a recent interview.
It’s early days for the product’s debut: Vyvgart, also known as efgartigimod, won its green light in generalized myasthenia gravis less than a week before Christmas. But the company’s field team mobilized in late December, the drug has now reached its first patients—and its direct-to-consumer advertising has already launched, the CEO said.
Argenx sees its DTC campaign as a way to give a voice to MG patients, Van Hauwermeiren said. The first ad features four real patients talking about why they need a new treatment option—they want to get up and get ready for their day, take care of their animals, go out to dinner with friends and smile in family photos.
It’s not unusual in rare, difficult-to-treat diseases like myasthenia gravis for physicians to think the patient is doing fine, because that patient has adapted to a new normal—despite serious limitations from their disease. Argenx wants to not only spread the word to doctors but to get the news about Vyvgart out to patients to help “equip them to stand up and ask for better [treatment],” the CEO said.
Patients reaching out to neurologists and inquiring about Vyvgart by name would provide a substantial tailwind for the launch, he said.
Argenx is investing heavily in the rollout, aiming to create “economies of scale” to support efgartigimod as it charts four other potential launches by 2024. The company is testing the drug in several other diseases and in a new subcutaneous formulation.
One interesting note about efgartigimod’s subcutaneous formulation? That product will roll out as its own “standalone product,” with its own brand name and its own pricing. That will effectively allow Argenx to “take a second bite at the apple” in myasthenia gravis, Van Hauwermeiren said. Having both delivery formulas “shoulder to shoulder is going to help. It’s going to maximize the opportunity in front of us, which we think is very significant,” Van Hauwermeiren said.
Vyvgart carries a wholesale acquisition cost of $5,950 per vial, the CEO said. Given the drug’s weight-based dosing and value-based arrangements with payers, Argenx figures one year of treatment would cost a typical myasthenia gravis patient about $225,000, Van Hauwermeiren said.
By 2025, Argenx hopes efgartigimod will be playing in 15 indications across both the commercial and development spectrum.
Efgartigimod has five phase 3 trials reading out in the next four quarters: First up, a subcutaneous formulation of efgartigimod in myasthenia gravis is due to deliver results in the first quarter of 2021. The quarter after that, argenx is expecting a readout of the first of two registration trials in immune thrombocytopenia, Van Hauwermeiren said. Next comes a pemphigus readout in the fourth quarter, followed by data in chronic inflammatory demyelinating polyradiculoneuropathy in the first three months of 2023.
Argenx isn’t laying out sales forecasts for its so-called “pipeline in a product” just yet. Instead, the first quarter will mainly be about creating demand, Van Hauwermeiren said. The company will do some work toward quantifying that demand in its quarterly earnings call, he added.
by Fraiser Kansteiner
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