Merck's New Insomnia Drug No Future Blockbuster
BMI View: Whilst Merck's Belsomra is a novel addition to a large therapy market in the US, we do not envisage blockbuster sales due to the high use of generic Ambien/Ambien CR. In a time of cost containment, more potential lies in premium-priced areas such as cancer and autoimmune disease.
The FDA has approved Merck's Belsomra (suvorexant) for adults with insomnia who have difficulty falling asleep and/or staying asleep.
Although insomnia is the most highly prevalent (approximately 10-50% of population, depending on how defined and in which country) sleep disorder, only a fraction of patients pursue pharmaceutical treatments. Worldwide, the prescription insomnia therapeutics market is estimated at USD3.3bn. In the US, approximately 70mn prescriptions are written annually for insomnia, representing a USD1.8bn market, with a 5-10% annual growth rate. However, of the 40-70mn American adults who suffer insomnia (of which 25mn are chronic or severe cases), only 20% take prescription sleep aids (source: Somnus Therapeutics).