Sales of oral heart failure medication fall short of expectations

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During the first quarter of 2016, Novartis reported $17 million in sales of sacubitril/valsartan (Entresto), which  was short of analyst expectations.

The FDA  approved sacubitril/valsartan in July 2015 to treat patients with heart failure and reduced ejection fraction. The approval of the twice-daily oral medication was based on results of a study that showed the drug significantly reduced the risk of cardiovascular mortality, heart failure hospitalizations and all-cause mortality compared with enalapril, which is a commonly used FDA-approved ACE inhibitor.

At the time, Novartis  said it estimated worldwide sales of sacubitril/valsartan could reach more than $5 billion. However, the company now expects U.S. sales of approximately $200 million in 2016.

In February, Novartis  entered into pay-for-performance agreements with Cigna and Aetna to help make sacubitril/valsartan available to more patients. Novartis said the drug is available to 91 percent of Medicare patients on their formularies, including 65 percent at the lowest branded co-pay health plan.

Novartis is making a commitment to reaching out to more cardiologists to tout the benefits of sacubitril/valsartan. CEO Joe Jimenez  told the Wall Street Journal the company has increased its U.S. sales force devoted to sacubitril/valsartan by 50 percent.

Novartis also plans on launching a direct-to-consumer advertising plan for sacubitril/valsartan this month.