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Business Maverick

Pill for hot flushes to reap $2.2-billion a year, Astellas says

Pill for hot flushes to reap $2.2-billion a year, Astellas says
A bird flies over the Astellas Pharma Inc. headquarters building in Tokyo, Japan, on Tuesday, 14 January 2014. (Photo: Kiyoshi Ota/Bloomberg)

Japanese pharmaceutical company Astellas Pharma expects sales of its new pill for hot flushes to hit ¥300 billion ($2.2-billion) for fiscal 2025, driven by demand from menopausal women who eschew the use of hormones.  

The once-daily drug called Veozah became the first non-hormonal medicine to treat one of the most vexing symptoms of menopause when it won US Food and Drug Administration approval last week. Many women experience hot flushes and night sweats due to menopause, and in the US, more than 60% of physicians or their patients refuse hormone therapy, according to Astellas.

The new treatment, which was developed internally at Astellas, will help boost the company’s core operating profit margin to 30% in the next two years, from 19% in the current fiscal year, CEO Naoki Okamura said in a briefing held on Friday. It will sell a 30-day supply for $550 to wholesalers, excluding rebates, according to presentation documents. 

“We expect sales to grow rapidly in a few years,” Okamura said. “Profitability of the drug is high because it’s our own. We’ll continue to make aggressive investments so as not to lose opportunities for rapid market penetration and sales expansion.” 

While hormones are the mainstay of treatment to reduce symptoms of menopause, they have a complex impact on women’s broader health. They were linked to the risk of blood clots, stroke and heart attack in a controversial study years ago that cast a cloud over their use. Some hormone combinations increase the risk of breast cancer, while others reduce it, according to the National Cancer Institute

Veozah blocks a chemical in a brain that normally balances with estrogen to regulate body temperature, and falls out of sync when levels of the hormone drop during menopause. Astellas is counting on Veozah to help buffer a sales decline when its best-selling cancer drug Xtandi faces generic competition in 2027. 

The company also agreed to buy Iveric Bio for $5.9-billion earlier this month, gaining a drug to treat age-related blindness. 

Most women between the ages of 45 and 55 years experience menopause as a natural part of biological ageing, marking the end of their reproductive years. The hormonal changes associated with menopause can cause symptoms such as hot flushes, night sweats, insomnia, mood swings and anxiety. BM/DM

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