Am­gen, Al­ler­gan biosim­i­lar of Roche's block­buster Rit­ux­an clears an­oth­er US piv­otal study 

No­var­tis $NVS may have giv­en up, but Am­gen $AMGN and Al­ler­gan $AGN are plow­ing ahead with their knock­off of Roche’s block­buster bi­o­log­ic Rit­ux­an in the Unit­ed States.

Their copy­cat, ABP 798, was found to have a clin­i­cal­ly equiv­a­lent im­pact as Rit­ux­an — meet­ing the main goal of the study in­volv­ing CD20-pos­i­tive B-cell non-Hodgkin’s lym­phoma pa­tients. This is the sec­ond tri­al sup­port­ing the pro­file of the biosim­i­lar. In Jan­u­ary, it came through with pos­i­tive PK re­sults in pa­tients with rheuma­toid arthri­tis.

Rit­ux­an is one of Roche’s top-sell­ing med­i­cines, it gen­er­at­ed about $6.9 bil­lion in glob­al sales last year.

In the Unit­ed States, Cell­tri­on and Te­va’s $TE­VA Rit­ux­an biosim­i­lar, Trux­i­ma, was ap­proved last No­vem­ber by the FDA. The month pri­or, No­var­tis threw in the tow­el on get­ting its copy­cat  US ap­proval — af­ter the health reg­u­la­tor de­mand­ed ex­tra in­for­ma­tion, which skewed its time­line to the fin­ish line and en­abled its ri­vals to leapfrog it. This Ju­ly, Pfiz­er’s $PFE Rit­ux­an knock­off, Rux­ience, se­cured its FDA ap­proval.

In re­cent years, Roche has been feel­ing the heat — and bat­ting away — biosim­i­lar ri­vals eat­ing in­to rev­enues for its big Rit­ux­an, Her­ceptin and Avastin fran­chis­es.

In Eu­rope, where Rit­ux­an is brand­ed as MabThera, sales de­clined by 47% in 2018 as Cell­tri­on and No­var­tis’s knock­offs took a bite out of its mar­ket share.

But in the Unit­ed States, the mag­ni­tude of dis­counts of­fered by biosim­i­lar mak­ers dwarf the cuts seen in Eu­rope, lead­ing some crit­ics to con­clude that the US biosim­i­lar mar­ket is bro­ken.

“Even to­day there are bare­ly a dozen biosim­i­lars on the U.S. mar­ket and no com­peti­tors on the hori­zon for dozens of bi­o­log­ic drugs. The bar­ri­ers to en­try are so high that even the hun­dreds of mil­lions in sales these un­con­test­ed prod­ucts gen­er­ate isn’t enough to at­tract even one com­peti­tor,” in­flu­en­tial re­searcher Pe­ter Bach, Di­rec­tor of the Drug Pric­ing Lab at Memo­r­i­al Sloan Ket­ter­ing Can­cer Cen­ter, wrote in an opin­ion piece pub­lished in the Wall Street Jour­nal on Wednes­day, along with co-au­thor Mark Trusheim, who serves as strate­gic di­rec­tor of MIT’s New Drug De­vel­op­ment Par­a­digms.

Bach and Trusheim al­so pre­scribed an an­ti­dote: gov­ern­ment price reg­u­la­tion that gives a man­u­fac­tur­er a ‘fair price’ af­ter the bi­o­log­ic’s pe­ri­od of ex­clu­siv­i­ty ends.

“Most is­sues in drug pric­ing are con­tentious. End­ing mo­nop­oly pric­ing af­ter a com­pa­ny has been re­ward­ed for in­no­va­tion isn’t. Pur­su­ing biosim­i­lars might seem like a so­lu­tion, but this ap­proach is draw­ing pa­tients away from stud­ies of new­er ther­a­pies even as it fails to con­trol costs. Price reg­u­la­tion may be a tough sell in some quar­ters, but it’s the best way to keep the promise of Amer­i­ca’s ex­tra­or­di­nary phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal in­dus­try alive,” they con­clud­ed.

Scott Gottlieb, AP Images

Scott Got­tlieb is once again join­ing a team that en­joyed good times at the FDA un­der his high-en­er­gy stint at the helm

Right after jumping on Michael Milken’s FasterCures board on Monday, the newly departed FDA commissioner is back today with news about another life sciences board post that gives him a ringside chair to cheer on a lead player in the real-world evidence movement — one with very close ties to the FDA.

Aetion is reporting this morning that Gottlieb is joining their board, a group that includes Mohamad Makhzoumi, a general partner at New Enterprise Associates, where Gottlieb returned after stepping out of his role at the FDA 2 years after he started.

Gottlieb — one of the best connected execs in biopharma — knows this company well. As head of FDA he championed the use of real-world evidence to help guide drug developers and the agency in gaining greater efficiencies, which helped set up Aetion as a high-profile player in the game.

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Deborah Dunsire. Lundbeck

UP­DAT­ED: Deb­o­rah Dun­sire is pay­ing $2B for a chance to leap di­rect­ly in­to a block­buster show­down with a few of the world's biggest phar­ma gi­ants

A year after taking the reins as CEO of Lundbeck, Deborah Dunsire is making a bold bid to beef up the Danish biotech’s portfolio of drugs in what will likely be a direct leap into an intense rivalry with a group of giants now carving up a growing market for new migraine drugs.

Bright and early European time Monday morning the company announced that it will pay up to about $2 billion to buy Alder, a little biotech that is far along the path in developing a quarterly IV formulation of a CGRP drug aimed at cutting back the number of crippling migraines patients experience each month. In a followup call, Dunsire also noted that the company will likely need 200 to 250 reps for this marketing task on both sides of the Atlantic. And analysts were quick to note that the dealmaking at Lundbeck isn’t done, with another $2 billion to $3 billion available for more deals to beef up the pipeline.

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San Diego cou­ple charged with steal­ing trade se­crets, open­ing Chi­nese biotech as DOJ crack­down con­tin­ues

A San Diego couple has been charged with stealing trade secrets from a US hospital and opening a business based off those secrets in China as the controversial industry-wide crackdown on alleged corporate espionage continues. On the same day, the Department of Justice announced they had arrested Beijing representative Zhongsan Liu for allegedly trying to obtain research visas for government recruiters.

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UP­DAT­ED: Bio­gen pulls the plug on prized IPF drug from $562M+ Stromedix buy­out

One of Biogen’s attempts to branch out has flopped as the biotech scraps a mid-stage program for idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis.

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Tower Bridge in London [Shutterstock]

#UK­BIO19: Join GSK’s Hal Bar­ron and a group of top biotech ex­ecs for our 2nd an­nu­al biotech sum­mit in Lon­don

Over the past 10 years I’ve made a point of getting to know the Golden Triangle and the special role the UK biopharma industry plays there in drug development. The concentration of world class research institutes, some of the most accomplished scientists I’ve ever seen at work and a rising tide of global investment cash leaves an impression that there’s much, much more to come as biotech hubs are birthed and nurtured.

It’s fi­nal­ly over: Bio­gen, Ei­sai scrap big Alzheimer’s PhI­I­Is af­ter a pre­dictable BACE cat­a­stro­phe rais­es safe­ty fears

Months after analysts and investors called on Biogen and Eisai to scrap their BACE drug for Alzheimer’s and move on in the wake of a string of late-stage failures and rising safety fears, the partners have called it quits. And they said they were dropping the drug — elenbecestat — after the independent monitoring board raised concerns about…safety.

We don’t know exactly what researchers found in this latest catastrophe, but the companies noted in their release that investigators had determined that the drug was flunking the risk/benefit analysis.

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Warts for the win: Aclar­is' lead drug clears piv­otal study

Aclaris Therapeutics has found a way to get rid of the warts and all.

The company — which earlier this month decided to focus on its arsenal of kinase inhibitors — on Monday unveiled positive data from a pivotal study testing its lead experimental drug for use in common warts.

The drug, A-101, was tested in a 502-patient study called THWART-2 — patients enrolled had one to six warts before qualifying for the trial. Patients either self-administered A-101 topical solution or a vehicle twice a week over a two-month period. A higher proportion of patients on the drug (a potent hydrogen peroxide topical solution) saw their warts disappear at day 60, versus the vehicle (p<0.0001) — meeting the main goal of the study.  Each secondary endpoint also emerged in favor of A-101, the company said.

Charles Nichols, LSU School of Medicine

Could psy­che­delics tack­le the obe­si­ty cri­sis? A long­time re­searcher in the field says his lat­est mouse study sug­gests po­ten­tial

Psychedelics have experienced a renaissance in recent years amid a torrent of preclinical and clinical research suggesting it might provide a path to treat mood disorders conventional remedies have only scraped at. Now a preclinical trial from a young biotech suggests at least one psychedelic compound has effects beyond the mind, and — if you believe the still very, very early hype — could provide the first single remedy for some of the main complications of obesity.

Ac­celeron drops a de­vel­op­ment pro­gram as #2 drug fails to spark func­tion­al ben­e­fits in pa­tients with a rare neu­ro­mus­cu­lar ail­ment

Acceleron is scrapping a muscular dystrophy development program underway for its number 2 drug in the pipeline after pouring over some failed mid-stage secondary data.

Gone is the ACE-083 project in patients with facioscapulohumeral muscular dystrophy. Their drug hit the primary endpoint on building muscle but flopped on key secondaries for functional improvements in patients, which execs felt was vital to the drug’s success.