Protocols

Arena’s diet drug castoff deemed safe in study; UK price overseers say breakthrough CAR-T Yescarta is too expensive

Arena Pharmaceuticals never could make much money from their weight loss drug Belviq (lorcaserin). But at least researchers have good reason to believe it’s relatively safe. A long-running safety study concluded that there was “no statistical difference in the proportion of patients with a major adverse cardiovascular event between the group that received lorcaserin (6.1 percent) versus in those that received placebo (6.2 percent) at study completion.” And the drug did deliver a consistent benefit for patients, with the drug group losing an average of 9.3 pounds compared to 3 pounds in the placebo group. Arena dropped out of the flagging weight loss drug field more than 18 months ago, handing over rights to Eisai. 

→ UK drug price watch dog NICE says that Gilead is trying to price its groundbreaking CAR-T drug Yescarta too high. The price overseers spurned the drug a day after European regulators provided a thumbs-up on marketing. But it won’t be available on the NHS unless the big biotech is ready to drop the price lower. Novartis’ rival Kymriah — also approved Monday — is under review now.

Editas Medicine is searching for a new exec to steer the first clinical tests of its CRISPR gene editing tech as CMO Gerald Cox plans to depart the company at the end of the year. Cox, a 16-year Sanofi Genzyme vet who joined Editas in 2016, did not give a reason for his resignation except that it “felt like a natural transition point.” Cox will continue to lead the efforts in submitting Editas’ first IND, which is expected in 2018.


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