MannKind (MNKD) used its quarterly conference call Monday night to tamp down any concerns about the firing of Sanofi (SNY) CEO Chris Viehbacher causing problems for the Afrezza diabetes partnership ahead of the expected first quarter 2015 launch.
Not everyone shares MannKind's confidence. Diabetic Investor's David Kliff, a longtime Afrezza skeptic, believes Viehbacher was the driving force behind the MannKind partnership and pushed the deal against the wishes of others at Sanofi who didn't want anything to do with the inhaled insulin device. Now that Viehbacher is out at Sanofi, Kliff says the Afrezza commercial launch might be in trouble even before it starts.
Kliff, writing today to his subscribers:
With Viehbacher now gone and Sanofi expected to bring in a change agent with diabetes experience it's quite possible that this new person could reexamine the deal and decide it's just not worth the effort, not to mention the capital investment needed. A critical date here is November 20 when the company holds their analyst day, a day which according to MannKind management Afrezza will be big part of, the star of the show so to speak. Many observers believe that Sanofi will announce Viehbacher's replacement as early as this week. Given the timing of all these events it will be interesting to see if the new person, only in charge a short time, makes the first of several changes and knocks Afrezza out if it's starring role.
Now for anyone out there who seriously is buying manure that's been spread about Afrezza and how it will become a mega-blockbuster, we suggest they go back and listen to Sanofi's last earnings call. We strongly suggest they pay close attention to the remarks made about insulin pricing. We then suggest they remember that Afrezza isn't cheap to make and all along Al Mann was touting how payors would pay a premium for this product. These are the same payors who have basically forced Sanofi to lower the price or increase rebates for Lantus...
Afrezza won't suffer the same fate as Exubera as it will see some sales. We do however believe that Sanofi could well suffer the same fate as Pfizer and that alone may cause the company, with a new CEO, new Chairman to pull the rug from under this ill-advised partnership before it's too late.
Just something else to watch as Sanofi chooses its next CEO and the Afrezza commercial launch draws closer.