Novartis plans to invest $200 million this year to increase sales of heart failure medication

Novartis plans on spending an additional $200 million this year to boost sales of sacubitril/valsartan (Entresto), the company’s twice-daily oral medication to treat patients with heart failure.

During the second quarter of 2016, Novartis reported $32 million in sales of sacubitril/valsartan, up from $17 million in the first quarter. For the full year, Novartis expects sales of $200 million.

When the FDA approved the medication in July 2015, the company expected the drug to become a blockbuster. However, its sales have fallen below expectations so far, partly due to its high cost.

Meanwhile, the company has been pleased with the sales of secukinumab (Cosentyx), which the FDA approved in January 2015 to treat patients with psoriasis. For the second quarter, Novartis reported $260 million in sales for secukinumab.

Novartis CEO Joe Jimenex told reporters that the company would invest the $200 million into hiring more salespeople who will focus on making sacubitril/valsartan more widely available. The company also said the investment may decrease its core operating income for the year.

“That is absolutely the right thing to do,” Jimenez said, according to Bloomberg. “There are two big catalysts for this company in the next five years in terms of growth. One of them is Cosentyx and one of them is Entresto, so we’re not going to let any constraints minimize the peak sales potential of that brand.”

In May, the American College of Cardiology, American Heart Association, Heart Failure Society of America and European Society of Cardiology released guidelines recommending the use of sacubitril/valsartan in patients with acute or chronic heart failure.

Later that month, Novartis announced a program that will include 40 clinical trials examining the safety, efficacy and real world outcomes of patients with heart failure who receive sacubitril/valsartan.

In June, a study published in JAMA Cardiology showed that the use of sacubitril/valsartan could prevent more than 28,000 deaths per year. Another trial found the medication was cost effective for eligible patients.