Published on 28 April 2020
COVID-19 increased demand and challenges
“The COVID-19 pandemic impacted Orion’s operations in many ways in the first quarter of 2020. During this exceptional time, the most important thing for us is to take care of the health and safety of employees, the continuity of production and patient safety in ongoing clinical trials. We have prioritised the production and fully utilised the capacity of medicines that are critical in this situation. Orion is also collaborating with authorities from different countries in these matters.
Orion‘s net sales and operating profit from January to March 2020 clearly increased from the comparative period. The growth is mainly due to a strong increase in demand for pharmaceuticals caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. In some products, growth in demand was a temporary spike due to hoarding and stockpiling, and in some products demand has remained higher than normal or increased even further.
Net sales of Orion‘s intensive care sedative Dexdor® decreased from the strong comparative period, but notably less than expected. Due to the coronavirus situation and shortages in other sedatives in the European market, the demand for Dexdor® turned to a strong growth in March and demand is forecast to remain steady in the coming months. We have made producing Dexdor® a priority in manufacturing and have introduced full capacity to be able to deliver as much of the sedative as possible to patients in need. Unfortunately the coronavirus pandemic has increased the number of patients in intensive care so much that we are currently not fully able to meet demand.
Sales of the Easyhaler® product family for asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease increased faster than anticipated especially due to very strong sales in March. Demand for products has increased partly because of the coronavirus. The demand for Easyhaler® products is estimated to continue higher than forecast at least for the time being. We have also increased the production of these products to meet growing demand.
The sales of Simdax® (levosimendan), used in the treatment of acute decompensated heart failure, continued to grow well in the first quarter of the year. The first generic levosimendan product has been launched in Germany and Austria, but its product formulation is different from Simdax®. The start of generic competition is not expected to have material impact on the sales of Simdax® this year.
Net sales of Parkinson‘s drugs Stalevo® and Comtess®/Comtan® increased as anticipated due to the reacquisition of their sales and distribution rights by Orion at the end of 2018 and in early 2019 as well as timing of partner deliveries.
Nubeqa®, a drug for the treatment of non-metastatic castration-resistant prostate cancer, received marketing authorisation in the review period, first in Japan in January and then in the EU in March. Sales did not start, however, in Japan or EU in the first quarter. Orion is eligible to receive milestone payments for darolutamide from Bayer, EUR 8 million upon first commercial sales in Japan and EUR 20 million in Europe. In the United States, the product has been in the market since the summer of 2019. Nubeqa® has also been granted marketing authorisation, among others, in Australia, Brazil and Canada, and Bayer has initiated or is planning marketing authorisation application processes in other regions.
The coronavirus situation caused a hoarding phenomenon and a spike in demand for self-care products and generic prescription drugs in March, which resulted in a marked rise in net sales of the Specialty Products unit. In our estimate, however, the basic demand for these products has not essentially changed, and the increase is expected to level off in the course of the year. Travel bans and other restrictions in place around the world due to the COVID-19 pandemic are estimated to cause disturbances in global pharmaceutical supply chains, which may negatively affect the net sales of the Specialty Products unit in particular from the end of the year.
The coronavirus situation and subsequent travel bans and other restrictions in different parts of the world also pose challenges to clinical development projects. Orion focuses on managing the safety and continued treatment of patients involved in clinical trials during the COVID-19 pandemic. However, the exceptional circumstances may cause delays in ongoing projects. Research projects in earlier phases may have delays because, among other things, some of the R&D personnel has transferred to assisting in the Orion supply chain and ensuring continuity of pharmaceutical production. Personnel from other functions has also transferred to assisting the supply chain. I greatly appreciate the great spirit and ability of all Orionees to pull together in this exceptional situation."