MannKind Corporation: Take a Deep Breath, This Time Afrezza Will Work
In June 2014, MannKind Corporation announced that after years of development and billions of dollars in expenses, the FDA had finally approved its drug, Afrezza. MannKind would thus be the only company with an inhalable insulin on the market. As an alternative to injectable rapid-acting (or mealtime) insulin, Afrezza boasted a potential market of at least 4 million diabetic patients. Shortly thereafter, Sanofi, a company with vast experience in the diabetic space, became MannKind's marketing partner and helped launch Afrezza in February, 2015. Although the drug had a black box warning and required doctors to perform a lung test on patients, expectations were high, with some analysts predicting peak sales of up to $4 billion a year. However, those lofty hopes were quickly dashed when Afrezza generated lackluster first-year sales, driving Sanofi to terminate its short-lived contract with MannKind in January, 2016. MannKind's management attributed the launch's failure to a poor marketing approach, convinced that Sanofi, despite its strong global presence and experience, did not effectively address critical barriers to adoption. The company now planned to overhaul Afrezza's entire marketing strategy. This included rethinking: which patients and physicians to target, how to position the drug to engender interest and adoption, how to lower end consumer price, through which media to convey Afrezza's benefits, and how to streamline the process of performing the lung-test and getting the drug into the hands of patients. But would all these changes and initiatives, no matter how well executed, be enough to turn sales around? Would Afrezza ever realize the potential that Alfred Mann, the late founder and former CEO, saw in the novel treatment?