MannKind Names Commercial Officer to Relaunch Afrezza

Michael Castagna, PharmD, MBA, has significant sales and marketing experience, but does he have enough time or money to rescue Afrezza?

MannKind Corp., the maker of the inhaled insulin Afrezza, on Monday named a veteran chief commercial officer, but not all industry-watchers were convinced the company is poised for the powerful relaunch that will be needed to make its product a success.

Michael Castagna, PharmD, MBA, will join MannKind after 3 years at Amgen as a vice president and global commercial lead for a portfolio of biosimilar drugs. He was previously at Bristol Myers Squibb as executive director of its immunology franchise, and has also spent time at Sandoz (Novartis), Merck, and other companies.

“I’m very pleased to welcome Michael to the MannKind team in this important new role,” said CEO Matthew Pfeffer. “His extensive pharma background, including driving sales and marketing for so many new and relaunched products, will be invaluable as we prepare to reintroduce Afrezza to the market in the upcoming months.”

MannKind: Path to Afrezza Survival Involves Lower Prices to Woo Payers

Castagna joined the company on the day of a conference call where Pfeffer outlined grim statistics: MannKind finished 2015 with $59.1 million on hand; analysts project it has enough money to last through June.

Though it enjoys a small core of loyal users, the mealtime insulin aimed at giving those with type 1 diabetes (and some with type 2) greater convenience and glycemic control has been a spectacular failure from a sales perspective, causing its marketing partner Sanofi to announce the end of a partnership in January. MannKind regains control of the product April 5, 2016.

Spencer Osborne of Seeking Alpha writes that while Castagna’s background is impressive, the company is running out of time to mount a solid relaunch. “What investors wanted to hear … was that the company was preparing to hit the ground running when Afrezza is fully returned April 5th,” he wrote.

In the new issue of Evidence-Based Diabetes Management, analysts report that MannKind’s survival strategy hinges on overseas markets and cutting prices to gain payer approval. Lack of access to formulary, despite encouraging reports from users who have tried the product, has been a huge barrier to success, in the opinion of the company and some of those who track it.

On Monday, MannKind also announced the resignation of Juergen A. Martens as chief operating officer effective Friday.