Amarin gets a boost from the FDA as reg­u­la­tors promise speedy Vas­cepa de­ci­sion — but what about that pan­el re­view?

There’s plen­ty of buzz to­day about Amarin $AM­RN and its quest to get car­dio out­comes da­ta added to the la­bel for Vas­cepa, its ther­a­peu­tic strength ver­sion of fish oil.

John Thero Amarin Cor­po­ra­tion

The FDA has giv­en their sN­DA pri­or­i­ty re­view sta­tus, leav­ing a de­ci­sion on open­ing up the mar­ket for this ther­a­py just 4 short months away on Sep­tem­ber 28. The move lops months off the reg­u­la­to­ry process and moves a po­ten­tial ap­proval in­to Q3 of this year — one of the biggest cat­a­lysts on the H2 cal­en­dar.

That’s a very big deal for Amarin, which man­aged to wow just about every­one with its 25% re­duc­tion in the risk for the first oc­cur­rence of a ma­jor car­dio event in their tar­get pop­u­la­tion, the pri­ma­ry end­point that has sparked buzz about a po­ten­tial takeover — though one has yet to ma­te­ri­al­ize.

As an ex­cit­ed Michael Yee at Jef­feries not­ed to­day, Amarin CEO John Thero is stay­ing con­ser­v­a­tive in an­tic­i­pat­ing a pan­el re­view. But as Am­gen got a pass on PC­SK9 CV out­comes, he’s 50% to 60% cer­tain there won’t be a pan­el — which would be the fi­nal de-risk­ing event that would pave a like­ly ap­proval here.

Here’s the biotech’s rather dry sum­ma­ry:

Amarin pre­vi­ous­ly ex­pressed that it be­lieves an Ad­Com meet­ing or­ga­nized by the FDA in con­junc­tion with its re­view of the ex­pand­ed la­bel for Vas­cepa is like­ly, as this will be the first ever drug ap­proved for the large pa­tient pop­u­la­tion stud­ied in the RE­DUCE-IT tri­al.  It is not un­com­mon for the FDA to pro­vide clar­i­fi­ca­tion lat­er in the process on whether an Ad­Com will be held.

Set­ting aside some of the wilder pro­jec­tions, the new peak sales es­ti­mates for Vas­cepa are now in block­buster ter­rain, which is why so many in­vestors have bet on a buy­out. On the oth­er hand, this is a tough mar­ket to cap­i­tal­ize on, as Am­gen and Re­gen­eron learned the hard way with PC­SK9. And that could give buy­ers cold feet in any ne­go­ti­a­tions tied to big sums in a sell­er’s mar­ket when it comes to late-stage and ap­proved drugs.

In­vestors liked the sounds of progress to­day, though, bid­ding up shares by 5% while bet­ting on the like­li­hood of an ap­proval. And Yee is al­so count­ing the mon­ey as they wait on the FDA. He notes:

The scripts con­tin­ue to go high­er each week de­spite any la­bel ex­pan­sion yet. We be­lieve this is a tes­ta­ment to the strong CVOT da­ta pub­licly pre­sent­ed and pub­lished al­ready, and the de­mand by pa­tients and docs and ease in re­im­burse­ment – per our nu­mer­ous doc checks. We think Q2 is like­ly to be a strong quar­ter (in­to the $90M+ and up from $77M in Q1) and this strong tra­jec­to­ry would put them pos­si­bly on track to beat 2019 guid­ance of $350M this year.

Im­age: An­drew Harnik AP

John Hood [file photo]

UP­DATE: Cel­gene and the sci­en­tist who cham­pi­oned fe­dra­tinib's rise from Sanofi's R&D grave­yard win FDA OK

Six years after Sanofi gave it up for dead, the FDA has approved the myelofibrosis drug fedratinib, now owned by Celgene.

The drug will be sold as Inrebic, and will soon land in the portfolio at Bristol-Myers Squibb, which is finalizing a deal to acquire Celgene.

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UP­DAT­ED: AveX­is sci­en­tif­ic founder was axed — and No­var­tis names a new CSO in wake of an ethics scan­dal

Now at the center of a storm of controversy over its decision to keep its knowledge of manipulated data hidden from regulators during an FDA review, Novartis CEO Vas Narasimhan has found a longtime veteran in the ranks to head the scientific work underway at AveXis, where the incident occurred. And the scientific founder has hit the exit.

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Ab­b­Vie gets its FDA OK for JAK in­hibitor upadac­i­tinib, but don’t look for this one to hit ex­ecs’ lofty ex­pec­ta­tions

Another big drug approval came through on Friday afternoon as the FDA OK’d AbbVie’s upadacitinib — an oral JAK1 inhibitor that is hitting the rheumatoid arthritis market with a black box warning of serious malignancies, infections and thrombosis reflecting fears associated with the class.

It will be sold as Rinvoq — at a wholesale price of $59,000 a year — and will likely soon face competition from a drug that AbbVie once controlled, and spurned. Reuters reports that a 4-week supply of Humira, by comparison, is $5,174, adding up to about $67,000 a year.

The top 10 fran­chise drugs in bio­phar­ma his­to­ry will earn a to­tal of $1.4T (tril­lion) by 2024 — what does that tell us?

Just in case you were looking for more evidence of just how important Amgen’s patent win on Enbrel is for the company and its investors, EvaluatePharma has come up with a forward-looking consensus estimate on what the list of top 10 drugs will look like in 2024.

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UP­DAT­ED: Sci­en­tist-CEO ac­cused of im­prop­er­ly us­ing con­fi­den­tial in­fo from uni­corn Alec­tor

The executive team at Alector $ALEC has a bone to pick with scientific co-founder Asa Abeliovich. Their latest quarterly rundown has this brief note buried inside:

On June 18, 2019, we initiated a confidential arbitration proceeding against Dr. Asa Abeliovich, our former consulting co-founder, related to alleged breaches of his consulting agreement and the improper use of our confidential information that he learned during the course of rendering services to us as our consulting Chief Scientific Officer/Chief Innovation Officer. We are in the early stage of this arbitration proceeding and are unable to assess or provide any assurances regarding its possible outcome.

There’s no explicit word in the filing on what kind of confidential info was involved, but the proceeding got started 2 days ahead of Abeliovich’s IPO.

Abeliovich, formerly a tenured associate professor at Columbia, is a top scientist in the field of neurodegeneration, which is where Alector is targeted. More recently, he’s also helped start up Prevail Therapeutics as the CEO, which raised $125 million in an IPO. And there he’s planning on working on new gene therapies that target genetically defined subpopulations of Parkinson’s disease. Followup programs target Gaucher disease, frontotemporal dementia and synucleinopathies.

But this time Abeliovich is the CEO rather than a founding scientist. And some of their pipeline overlaps with Alector’s.

Abeliovich and Prevail, though, aren’t taking this one lying down.

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Chi­na has be­come a CEO-lev­el pri­or­i­ty for multi­na­tion­al phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal com­pa­nies: the trend and the im­pli­ca­tions

After a “hot” period of rapid growth between 2009 and 2012, and a relatively “cooler” period of slower growth from 2013 to 2015, China has once again become a top-of-mind priority for the CEOs of most large, multinational pharmaceutical companies.

At the International Pharma Forum, hosted in March in Beijing by the R&D Based Pharmaceutical Association Committee (RDPAC) and the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA), no fewer than seven CEOs of major multinational pharmaceutical firms participated, including GSK, Eli Lilly, LEO Pharma, Merck KGaA, Pfizer, Sanofi and UCB. A few days earlier, the CEOs of several other large multinationals attended the China Development Forum, an annual business forum hosted by the research arm of China’s State Council. It’s hard to imagine any other country, except the US, having such drawing power at CEO level.

As dis­as­ter struck, Ab­b­Vie’s Rick Gon­za­lez swooped in on Al­ler­gan with an of­fer Brent Saun­ders couldn’t say no to

Early March was a no good, awful, terrible time for Allergan CEO Brent Saunders. His big lead drug had imploded in a Phase III disaster and activists were after his hide — or at least his chairman’s title — as the stock price continued a steady droop that had eviscerated share value for investors.

But it was a perfect time for AbbVie CEO Rick Gonzalez to pick up the phone and ask Saunders if he’d like to consider a “strategic” deal.

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CEO Pascal Soriot via Getty Images

As­traZeneca's jug­ger­naut PARP play­er Lyn­parza scoops up an­oth­er dom­i­nant win in PhI­II as the FDA adds a 'break­through' for Calquence

AstraZeneca’s oncology R&D group under José Baselga keeps churning out hits.

Wednesday morning the pharma giant and their partners at Merck parted the curtains on a successful readout for their Phase III PAOLA-1 study, demonstrating statistically significant improvement in progression-free survival for women with ovarian cancer in a first-line maintenance setting who added their PARP Lynparza to Avastin. This is their second late-stage success in ovarian cancer, which will help stave off rivals like GSK.

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ICER blasts FDA, PTC and Sarep­ta for high prices on DMD drugs Em­flaza, Ex­ondys 51

ICER has some strong words for PTC, Sarepta and the FDA as the US drug price watchdog concludes that as currently priced, their respective new treatments for Duchenne muscular dystrophy are decidedly not cost-effective.

The final report — which cements the conclusions of a draft issued in May — incorporates the opinion of a panel of 17 experts ICER convened in a public meeting last month. It also based its analysis of Emflaza (deflazacort) and Exondys 51 (eteplirsen) on updated annual costs of $81,400 and over $1 million, respectively, after citing “incorrect” lower numbers in the initial calculations.