Teva sees 25% of US EpiPen auto-injector market by end 2019

In first press conference in Israel, CEO of troubled Israeli drugmaker Kare Schultz says company is still in ‘tough situation’; focus will be on generics and biopharmaceuticals

Shoshanna Solomon was The Times of Israel's Startups and Business reporter

Kåre Schultz, CEO and president of Teva. (Courtesy)
Kåre Schultz, CEO and president of Teva. (Courtesy)

The chief executive officer of Teva Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd. Kare Schultz said Tuesday he expects the company’s generic version of EpiPen, an auto-injector for the emergency treatment of allergic reactions, to capture some 25 percent of the US market by the end of 2019.

In August, the FDA gave the Israeli drugmaker approval to market a generic version of competitor Mylan’s EpiPen. Teva has been selling its product for adults in the US since then, and plans to start selling its junior version for children in three to four months, Schultz said.

He added that the shortages of the auto-injector noted by pharmacists in the US, as reported by Reuters in January, are due to supply issues with Mylan and not Teva’s product. Mylan’s EpiPen dominates the market, Reuters said, but has been in short supply since May, leaving patients searching for alternatives.

“We have enough supplies,” Schultz said at the press conference, adding that anyone who needs the injector can contact the firm’s distributor in the US. “We don’t have enough supplies to fill up all the holes,” he said. “But we will fill up the supply chain more and more.”

Teva CEO Kare Schultz at a press conference in Tel Aviv; Feb. 19, 2019 (Shoshanna Solomon/Times of Israel)

Teva appointed Schultz president and chief executive officer in September 2017, tasking him with setting out the Israeli firm’s strategy, divesting assets, cutting debt and restoring investor confidence after a series of missteps saw the firm’s debt balloon.

In his first press conference in Israel since taking the reins of the troubled Petah Tikva-based drugmaker in November 2017,  Schultz laid out the strategy for the firm going forward, after the company earlier this month disappointed analysts with its forecasts for 2019 as it faces continued revenue declines for its flagship branded multiple sclerosis drug, Coxpaxone. Teva’s respiratory drug ProAir is also expected to be hurt by competition this year, the company said.

“We will continue to be the leaders in generics worldwide,” Schlutz said, detailing  the plans. “That is, of course, the foundation of our business.”

But the firm will also “strive for leadership” in biopharmaceuticals — both innovative biopharmaceuticals, like Teva’s recently launched Ajovy injection for the preventative treatment of migraine in adults, and in biosimilars, which the company hopes to launch with partners in the US in the coming years, Schultz said.

Copaxone, the only non-interferon multiple sclerosis treatment, was developed by Teva Pharmaceuticals in the mid-1990s. (Weizmann Institute of Science/JTA)

Biopharmaceuticals are drugs made up of biological sources like sugars, proteins and nucleic acids. Biosimilars are generic versions of biopharmaceutical drugs.

Teva is entering these fields because it is “the area that has been growing the most over the last 10 years,” he said.

Biological medicines are growing more than traditional chemical-based medicines, he said, “and they will keep on growing.” In the next 20 years innovative biopharmaceuticals and biosimilars “will be the most growing segment of the pharmaceutical business world.”

“It is simply a combination of us having the expertise, the facilities and the people and this being the biggest opportunity of the next 10-20 years,” Schultz said

For 2019, Teva earlier this month forecast (PDF) continued price erosion of its branded Copaxone drug globally due to generic competition, and a “significant erosion” of its ProAir product.

It forecast sales of its Ajovy migraine drug to grow in the US to some $150 million in 2019 from $3 million in 2018 and for sales of its Austedo drug, for Huntington’s disease and tardive dyskinesia, to grow to $350 million in 2019 from $204 million in 2018.

The firm forecast adjusted earnings per share of $2.20-$2.50 and revenue of $17.0-$17.4 billion, below analysts estimates of EPS of $2.81 on revenue of $17.9 billion, Reuters said.

In a conference call at the time of the results, Schultz said the firm had cut workers by more than 10,000 since the start of a restructuring plan set out at end 2017 and closed seven manufacturing facilities in 2018. He said that 11 more will be closed or divested in 2019.

Regarding Teva’s 2019 outlook, Schultz said at the press conference in Tel Aviv that analysts had been hoping for higher numbers. That may have been due to Teva’s “positive performance in 2018,” with the drugmaker meeting or exceeding its financial targets for the year, he said.

In a lab in the Teva Medical Factory in Har Hotzvim, Jerusalem, March 15, 2010. (Nati Shohat/Flash90)

“The fact is, we still have a tough situation with revenues going downhill,” he said. “The fact that we are managing it in a good way doesn’t mean that we don’t have a problem anymore. People forgot that a little bit, so we had to remind them that unfortunately the revenues are still going down and they will go down in 2019. In 2020 we hope to stabilize it” with a small increase, and then in 2021 with a bigger increase, he said.

Schultz added that he was counting on Teva’s two new drugs, Austedo and Ajovy, to eventually counterbalance the drop in Copaxone revenues.

He said that the company’s debt was down to $27 billion, and the aim of the company was to get that figure down even further. “Unless we bring the debt down, we will never get our flexibility and freedom back from a strategic point of view. So, the next three to five years all the cash will go to reducing the debt.”

In answer to a question, Schultz said that the company had no plans to move its headquarters overseas but instead to new rented premises in Tel Aviv, where all of the divisions will work together rather than in separate buildings. In answer to a question, he said the company was not for sale.

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