Struggling MannKind's New Strategy Includes Doubling Its Sales Force

Published: Jan 19, 2017

Struggling MannKind's New Strategy Includes Doubling Its Sales Force January 19, 2017
By Alex Keown, Breaking News Staff

VALENCIA, Calif. – MannKind Corporation is hoping the third-time is the charm when it comes to developing a strategy to market its lead product Afrezza, a rapid-acting inhaled form of insulin to treat diabetes.

At the J.P. Morgan Healthcare Conference in San Francisco earlier this month, Matthew Pfeiffer, chief executive officer of MannKind, said the company plans to double its in-house sales team and begin a direct-to-consumer marketing plan for Afrezza. How many new hires the company is considering was not indicated. Writing in The Motley Fool, Keith Speights said the company is developing a television commercial and is considering sponsoring a reality television program, although which one was not identified. Not only that, but Pfeiffer said the company has gained access for Afrezza with managed care providers like Aetna and Express Scripts. Also, MannKind is looking to expand sales of Afrezza internationally and has submitted regulatory filings in Australia, Brazil, Canada and Mexico, Speights said.

Afrezza has had a troubled past. Last year, partner Paris-based Sanofi terminated its license and collaboration deal for Afrezza with MannKind because the drug had not met sales expectations. Afrezza was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 2014 and hit the market in the U.S. in a partnership with Sanofi (SNY) in February 2015. Part of Afrezza’s sales problems were related to insurance reimbursement issues. The drug was classified as a Tier 3 medication, which meant patients had to pay a higher co-pay for the drug. The higher tier status also means more restrictions can be placed on the drug. Another issue with the drug is that it cannot be prescribed to patients with asthma and other serious lung ailments. Some analysts suggested the novelty of inhaling the insulin rather than injecting it is not worth the additional price.

Speights said MannKind’s plan to go with its own in-house sales team is a good idea. He said if Afrezza has any chance of commercial success, the company must control its message and sales efforts. While the company has been embattled due to the decline in Sales, Speights said MannKind will use stock options and funds that had been slated for a third-party sales team to finance the new hires. Speights also touted the direct-to-consumer plan and reaching out to managed-care providers.

Whether or not MannKind’s plans will work though, remains to be seen. Speights said the biggest concern is how long the company can afford to wait to see if the plan pays off, particularly given the company’s limited cash flow and reserves.

Shares of MannKind Corporation are trading at 66 cents this morning.

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