Regeneron Pharmaceuticals, Inc., appears to be riding the wave of aging baby boomers to amazing success with sales of the drug Eylea. The drug is approved for the treatment of wet age-related macular edema which is one of the primary causes of blindness in elderly patients.
Wet macular degeneration is an eye disease characterized by loss of sight in the center of the field of vision and caused by blood vessels leaking fluid into the macular area of the eye near the center of the retina and inside the back of the eyeball.
The dry type of macular degeneration is both more common and less severe, but the wet type usually begins as the dry type.
Treatment with Eylea involves injecting the drug into the eye either every four or eight weeks. This, of course, must be done by an experienced physician. The cost of treatment is about $1,800 per injection, but the high cost is offset by fewer injections and less follow-up than that required by competing drugs.
Regeneron is currently testing Eylea for two additional uses. One is the treatment of diabetic macular edema and the other is the treatment of macular edema following branch retinal vein occlusion.
With Elyea, Regeneron is riding the wave of aging baby boomers to very solid profitability. Approved in late 2011, Eylea, is lauded as one of the fastest growing drugs in biotechnology history.
Recently, the company announced that fourth quarter sales of the sight-saving drug increased by 46 percent to reach $402 million in the United States and $184 million internationally.
Part of the dramatic sales success is due to the effect of large numbers of aging baby boomers, the first of whom reached 65 in 2011. In that year, the health care industry experienced a 7 percent growth, nearly double that of 2010. Pharmaceutical and medicine manufacturing experienced an increase of 15.6 percent.
An infographic, developed by Concordia University using government data, indicates that among other factors, Americans over 65 have multiple chronic conditions including diabetes. They are also less active with only about 66 percent engaging in regular physical activity. Finally, they are inclined to spend about $1,500 more each year out-of-pocket for insurance, medical supplies, medications, and services.
These boomers are expected to change the health care system both because of their sheer numbers and because they are demanding more of the system compared to previous generations.
For Regeneron, success has not come easily nor cheaply. For most of its 24 history, the company experienced mostly failures and accumulated losses of around $1.2 billion. All that changed in 2011 with the approval of Eylea for the treatment of wet macular degeneration.
When Eylea is approved for the treatment of diabetic macular edema and the treatment of macular edema following branch retinal vein occlusion, Regeneron will have two new markets and plenty of aging baby boomers who will need the treatment.
The magic bullet for pharmaceutical companies may well be a medicine that successfully treats a chronic condition suffered by a group that is getting larger and larger every day. Right now, Regeneron is riding a wave of aging baby boomers to incredible success with Eylea.
Editorial by Sharon I. Fawley