Will Teva’s bold AirDuo inhaler strategy work?
Wednesday, April 26, 2017
I can't recall ever seeing a company launch a brand and a generic simultaneously. Maybe it has happened before, but I honestly can't recall it.
Teva Pharmaceuticals, however, is willing to try something unusual, if not unprecedented, in order to grab some of the $4.5 billion market for combination ICS/LABA inhalers. Right now, the category giant is the Advair inhaler line by GSK, pulling in about $2 billion annually. But Teva's new AirDuo RespiClick, and the approved generic, will offer a significant threat to their share of that pie.
Yes, you read it right. According to their press release, the plan for Teva appears to be to launch their own brand AirDuo RespiClick (like Advair, a combination of fluticasone and salmeterol) at the same time it also launches a generic version of its own product. Of course, prescriptions will naturally end up being filled with the generic in most circumstances, and that is exactly what Teva wants. Their generic is strategically priced at about 70 to 80 percent less than the current price of the Advair inhaler.
The exact date that this AirDuo brand and generic will hit the wholesalers has not yet been released, but expectations are that we shall see it within a few weeks.
"With the launch of AirDuo RespiClick and its authorized generic, our intent is to meet the needs of patients, providers and payers in the U.S. seeking greater access to lower-cost asthma inhaler technology, while also allowing Teva to compete in the highly competitive asthma combination controller market," said Dr. Rob Koremans, president and CEO of Global Specialty Medicines at Teva.
The new AirDuo RespiClick and generic both utilize the same breath-activated "RespiClick" technology, which has been introduced already with the ProAir RespiClick inhaler, a device that eliminates the need for shaking, priming and routine cleaning.
As a pharmacist who spends a lot of time thinking about hospital readmission reduction strategies, I must admit that I am excited to see a more cost-effective ICS/LABA inhaler enter the market. In a study published in 2016 on hospital admission and readmission data for asthma, the authors noted that "there has been no significant change in asthma readmission rates between 2009 and 2013."
The high cost or copays of available ICS/LABA inhalers, even when patients have coverage, may certainly be a contributing factor to these hospital readmissions.
I expect that this launch will be accompanied by terrific plan coverage as well, given the pricing advantage that Teva's new generic will offer over other similar inhalers on the market. So unless someone on the contracting team has really dropped the ball, the AirDuo generic will probably quickly become the preferred option for many managed care formularies, available at typical generic-copay prices to consumers and likely without a prior authorization requirement.
Like Advair, AirDuo RespiClick will offer three steps in terms of the ICS dosage (55mcg, 113mcg, 232mcg), while offering a slightly lower dosage of salmeterol (14mcg vs. 21mcg in the Advair HFA and 50mcg in the Advair Diskus).
Teva is undoubtedly taking a unique approach to pick up market share in this valuable and important category. Assuming they have taken care of coverage issues, and assuming GSK doesn't counter with stronger rebates and negotiating for lower copay tiers, Teva has a strong chance at gaining a significant place in this category.
When brands compete, the usual result is that patients win, and I always think that is great news to share.
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