UP­DAT­ED: 2,400 peo­ple re­main with­out rare dis­ease drug as Take­da man­u­fac­tur­ing woes con­tin­ue

Since Sep­tem­ber 2019, 2,400 peo­ple with the rare con­di­tion known as hy­poparathy­roidism have been wait­ing for any sign that sup­plies of their re­li­able in­jec­tion from Take­da might reemerge.

Last Wednes­day, how­ev­er, Take­da an­nounced that sup­plies won’t be ready for at least an­oth­er year, strand­ing those who still can’t ac­cess the drug, known as Nat­para (parathy­roid hor­mone), via the com­pa­ny’s Spe­cial Use Pro­gram (SUP), which is on­ly for about 400 of those who are at ex­treme risk of life-threat­en­ing com­pli­ca­tions.

“At this time we do not ex­pect a re­turn to mar­ket be­fore March 31, 2022,” Take­da said in a let­ter.

The dif­fi­cul­ties with hy­poparathy­roidism oc­cur due to low lev­els of cal­ci­um in the blood. Symp­toms can range from the more mild tin­gling or numb­ness in the fin­gers and toes, to se­vere mus­cle cramps and spasms, as well as breath­ing is­sues that can lead to hos­pi­tal­iza­tion, ac­cord­ing to the Na­tion­al Or­ga­ni­za­tion for Rare Dis­or­ders.

Even for those who still have ac­cess to Nat­para via Take­da’s spe­cial pro­gram, last week’s an­nounce­ment was a dif­fi­cult one.

“The an­nounce­ment was def­i­nite­ly a dev­as­tat­ing one for the en­tire hy­popara com­mu­ni­ty, es­pe­cial­ly af­ter the vir­tu­al hy­popara con­fer­ence in Oc­to­ber, where Take­da had re­marked that they hoped to an­nounce their plans to re­turn to mar­ket in March,” Heather No­vak, a De­troit-based ro­mance nov­el­ist who is on the SUP but told End­points News via email that she al­so deals with in­ter­mit­tent sup­ply is­sues.

In its up­date, Take­da of­fered few specifics on what’s caus­ing the man­u­fac­tur­ing is­sues at its con­trac­tor plants that are over­seen by Take­da. Back in 2019, FDA an­nounced the Class I (the high­est de­gree of po­ten­tial health haz­ard) re­call for Nat­para, and said it re­lates to rub­ber stop­per par­ti­cles clog­ging the nee­dle and lead­ing to un­der­dos­ing, ac­cord­ing to let­ters sent to pa­tients.

In its up­date, Take­da told pa­tients last week, “While we have made progress on the orig­i­nal is­sue that led to the U.S. re­call, which was the is­sue of rub­ber par­tic­u­lates orig­i­nat­ing from the rub­ber sep­tum of the NAT­PARA car­tridge, we have not yet reached a res­o­lu­tion.”

An­oth­er man­u­fac­tur­ing de­lay, which Take­da con­firmed is sep­a­rate from the orig­i­nal is­sue in 2019, is al­so af­fect­ing sup­plies the 100-mcg ver­sion of Nat­para un­der the SUP. No­vak ex­plained that when there’s an ex­pect­ed short­age of one one or more strengths of Nat­para, like the 100-mcg ver­sion, Take­da works with doc­tors to switch pre­scrip­tions or dos­ing for pa­tients to pre­vent any­one on the SUP from go­ing with­out it.

Take­da ac­quired Nat­para when it bought out Shire for $62 bil­lion in ear­ly 2019. In 2018, the last full year of Nat­para sales, the treat­ment brought in about $230 mil­lion. Since the Nat­para re­call in Sep­tem­ber 2019, no US rev­enue has been record­ed and the con­cerns are grow­ing.

“We’ve been told that they plan to keep the SUP go­ing un­til the drug re­turns to mar­ket. Many of us, of course, are won­der­ing IF it will re­turn to the US mar­ket,” No­vak said.

Those who haven’t gained ac­cess to the SUP are strug­gling even more with the Take­da de­lays.

Ri­ta Mc­Cul­lough of Le Cen­ter, MN, told End­points via email that with­in a week of the 2019 re­call, she end­ed up in the emer­gency de­part­ment twice. She said the con­di­tion af­fects her breath­ing and she has se­vere mus­cle spasms with­out Nat­para.

“I was crushed that I had to go back to all the pills and the alarm every two hours just so I can breathe,” she said, not­ing that Nat­para did work for her. “The form let­ters Take­da re­leas­es are point­less. I want to know what’s go­ing on with the rub­ber par­tic­u­lates.”

Bob Sanders, chair­man of the board of the non­prof­it Hy­poparathy­roidism As­so­ci­a­tion, said he isn’t aware of any­one who has died from a lack of ac­cess to Nat­para. He said some who have lost ac­cess to Nat­para are tak­ing Eli Lil­ly’s For­teo off-la­bel, while oth­ers are on cal­ci­um sup­ple­ments and Cal­citri­ol, which is not al­ways ap­proved for pur­chase by in­sur­ance com­pa­nies and can cre­ate fi­nan­cial bur­dens for some pa­tients.

“We all hope that there is no cal­ci­um crash as most hos­pi­tals lack the un­der­stand­ing to treat a hy­popara pa­tient be­cause it is so rare,” Sanders told End­points News via email. “An­oth­er year with­out Nat­para rep­re­sents an­oth­er year of symp­toms and strug­gles.”

He added that his as­so­ci­a­tion has a lis­ten­ing ses­sion sched­uled with the FDA and he hopes to get a pa­tient-fo­cused drug de­vel­op­ment meet­ing sched­uled for next year “to talk about our con­cerns and how the agency can best help the pa­tient com­mu­ni­ty.”

BY­OD Best Prac­tices: How Mo­bile De­vice Strat­e­gy Leads to More Pa­tient-Cen­tric Clin­i­cal Tri­als

Some of the most time- and cost-consuming components of clinical research center on gathering, analyzing, and reporting data. To improve efficiency, many clinical trial sponsors have shifted to electronic clinical outcome assessments (eCOA), including electronic patient-reported outcome (ePRO) tools.

In most cases, patients enter data using apps installed on provisioned devices. At a time when 81% of Americans own a smartphone, why not use the device they rely on every day?

Voting in the 2020 election (AP Images)

The right to vote is fun­da­men­tal — a let­ter from biotech­nol­o­gy in­dus­try lead­ers

Biotech Voices is a collection of exclusive opinion editorials from some of the leading voices in biopharma on the biggest industry questions today. Think you have a voice that should be heard? Reach out to senior editors Kyle Blankenship and Amber Tong.

We oppose all attempts to introduce laws that reduce the rights of US citizens to vote or that restrict them from exercising that right. The right to vote is fundamental to democracy. States that have enacted, or are proposing to enact, legislation to restrict voting are undermining our democracy and posing a threat to our nation. As leaders of the life sciences industry, we stand for what we believe is right for our country, our enterprises, our employees and those who benefit from our work. We join the first groups of business leaders who have challenged these laws and will continue to make our collective voices heard on this matter.

Launched by MIT grads, a small start­up gets $20M to back a ro­bot­ics rev­o­lu­tion in cell ther­a­py man­u­fac­tur­ing

As co-director of an experimental cellular therapy process development and manufacturing group at UCSF specializing in T cell therapies for autoimmune conditions, Jonathan Esensten has learned a lot about the challenges involved when his group hand-fashions a cell therapy. Esensten — who was a postdoc in Wendell Lim’s lab and counts the legendary Jeffrey Bluestone as a mentor — gives them all high marks at being great at what they do, but time and again there are variations in the treatments they construct.

Pascal Soriot (AstraZeneca via YouTube)

Af­ter be­ing goad­ed to sell the com­pa­ny, Alex­ion's CEO set some am­bi­tious new goals for in­vestors. Then Pas­cal So­ri­ot came call­ing

Back in the spring of 2020, Alexion $ALXN CEO Ludwig Hantson was under considerable pressure to perform and had been for months. Elliott Advisers had been applying some high public heat on the biotech’s numbers. And in reaching out to some major stockholders, one thread of advice came through loud and clear: Sell the company or do something dramatic to change the narrative.

In the words of the rather dry SEC filing that offers a detailed backgrounder on the buyout deal, Alexion stated: ‘During the summer and fall of 2020, Alexion also continued to engage with its stockholders, and in these interactions, several stockholders encouraged the company to explore strategic alternatives.’

Endpoints News

Keep reading Endpoints with a free subscription

Unlock this story instantly and join 106,500+ biopharma pros reading Endpoints daily — and it's free.

Near­ly a year af­ter Au­den­tes' gene ther­a­py deaths, the tri­al con­tin­ues. What hap­pened re­mains a mys­tery

Natalie Holles was five months into her tenure as Audentes CEO and working to smooth out a $3 billion merger when the world crashed in.

Holles and her team received word on the morning of May 5 that, hours before, a patient died in a trial for their lead gene therapy. They went into triage mode, alerting the FDA, calling trial investigators to begin to understand what happened, and, the next day, writing a letter to alert the patient community so they would be the first to know. “We wanted to be as forthright and transparent as possible,” Holles told me late last month.

The brief letter noted two other patients also suffered severe reactions after receiving a high dose of the therapy and were undergoing treatment. One died a month and a half later, at which point news of the deaths became public, jolting an emergent gene therapy field and raising questions about the safety of the high doses Audentes and others were now using. The third patient died in August.

“It was deeply saddening,” Holles said. “But I was — we were — resolute and determined to understand what happened and learn from it and get back on track.”

Eleven months have now passed since the first death and the therapy, a potential cure for a rare and fatal muscle-wasting disease called X-linked myotubular myopathy, is back on track, the FDA having cleared the company to resume dosing at a lower level. Audentes itself is no more; last month, Japanese pharma giant Astellas announced it had completed working out the kinks of the $3 billion merger and had restructured and rebranded the subsidiary as Astellas Gene Therapies. Holles, having successfully steered both efforts, departed.

Still, questions about precisely what led to the deaths of the 3 boys still linger. Trial investigators released key details about the case last August and December, pointing to a biological landmine that Audentes could not have seen coming — a moment of profound medical misfortune. In an emerging field that’s promised cures for devastating diseases but also seen its share of safety setbacks, the cases provided a cautionary tale.

Audentes “contributed in a positive way by giving a painful but important example for others to look at and learn from,” Terry Flotte, dean of the UMass School of Medicine and editor of the journal Human Gene Therapy, told me. “I can’t see anything they did wrong.”

Yet some researchers say they’re still waiting on Astellas to release more data. The company has yet to publish a full paper detailing what happened, nor have they indicated that they will. In the meantime, it remains unclear what triggered the events and how to prevent them in the future.

“Since Audentes was the first one and we don’t have additional information, we’re kind of in a holding pattern, flying around, waiting to figure out how to land our vehicles,” said Jude Samulski, professor of pharmacology at UNC’s Gene Therapy Center and CSO of the gene therapy biotech AskBio, now a subsidiary of Bayer.

Endpoints Premium

Premium subscription required

Unlock this article along with other benefits by subscribing to one of our paid plans.

Anand Shah (FDA)

For­mer head of FDA’s med­ical and sci­en­tif­ic af­fairs on Covid: ‘FDA has nev­er been test­ed like this’

Anand Shah has served the American public in a unique way, crisscrossing over the last two administrations between serving as an attending radiation oncologist focused on prostate cancer at NIH, serving as CMO at the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation, and most recently, leading the FDA’s operations on medical and scientific affairs from within the commissioner’s office.

Shah, who stepped down from the FDA in January, caught up with Endpoints News in a phone interview on Tuesday afternoon, offering his thoughts on the agency’s latest decision to pause the J&J vaccinations in the US, and reflecting on his time at an agency during this once-in-a-lifetime pandemic.

UP­DAT­ED: J&J paus­es vac­cine roll­out as feds probe rare cas­es of blood clots

The FDA and CDC have jointly decided to stop administering J&J’s Covid-19 vaccine after reviewing data involving six reported US cases of a rare and severe type of blood clot in individuals after receiving the vaccine.

CDC will convene a meeting of its Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices on Wednesday to further review these cases and assess their potential significance. “FDA will review that analysis as it also investigates these cases. Until that process is complete, we are recommending a pause in the use of this vaccine out of an abundance of caution,” Peter Marks, director of the FDA’s Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research and Anne Schuchat, Principal Deputy Director of the CDC, said in a joint statement Tuesday morning.

Patrizia Cavazzoni, new CDER director

Pa­trizia Cavaz­zoni named per­ma­nent di­rec­tor of CDER, adding to ques­tions around where Wood­cock will end up

Patrizia Cavazzoni on Monday became the permanent director of the FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research, which puts to rest the idea that Janet Woodcock, Cavazzoni’s predecessor, might return to lead CDER if she isn’t made permanent commissioner.

Woodcock, who’s currently serving as acting commissioner and principal medical advisor to the commissioner, a position she was detailed to last year, may not make the move to permanent commissioner because of lingering questions from Senate Democrats. She previously served as director of CDER since 1994. Cavazzoni took over as acting director of CDER when Woodcock moved over to Operation Warp Speed to run the therapeutics side of the Trump-era program.

Endpoints Premium

Premium subscription required

Unlock this article along with other benefits by subscribing to one of our paid plans.

Fifth Cir­cuit sides with FTC in ma­jor pay-for-de­lay set­tle­ment case

The US Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit on Tuesday upheld the Federal Trade Commission’s ruling that generic drugmaker Impax Laboratories should be charged with antitrust violations for accepting payments worth about $100 million to delay the entry of a generic opioid for more than two years.

The court’s opinion upheld the FTC’s anticompetitive findings on the deal between Impax (now owned by Amneal Pharmaceuticals) and Endo Pharmaceuticals, under which Endo committed to not market an authorized generic, which increased Impax’s projected profits by $24.5 million. Endo agreed to pay Impax credits for the shrunken market that Impax would inherit if, as expected, Endo made a successful hop to a reformulated Opana ER.