As FDA looks to speed re­views even more, 2 pol­i­cy ex­perts want to re­strict the price of drugs that win an ac­cel­er­at­ed OK

Even af­ter the FDA added reg­u­la­to­ry path­ways for drug de­vel­op­ers to win ac­cel­er­at­ed ap­provals for new drugs, the po­lit­i­cal pres­sure in Wash­ing­ton to speed up drug re­views con­tin­ues to grow.

In tes­ti­mo­ny be­fore a House sub­com­mit­tee yes­ter­day, FDA com­mis­sion­er Scott Got­tlieb as­sured law­mak­ers that bio­mark­ers, new tech­nolo­gies and more ef­fi­cient tri­al de­signs made it pos­si­ble to short­en the reg­u­la­to­ry process as he vowed to urge all the FDA to repli­cate the fast pace of the agency’s on­col­o­gy di­vi­sion, which has re­con­fig­ured can­cer drug de­vel­op­ment pro­grams over the past 3 years.

But should drugs ap­proved ear­ly with on­ly part of the da­ta that was once re­quired for an OK be able to fetch the full re­tail price that man­u­fac­tur­ers ex­pect to­day?

Two health pol­i­cy ex­perts say no.

Aaron Kessel­heim
Walid Gel­lad

In an op-ed for The New Eng­land Jour­nal of Med­i­cine, Walid Gel­lad from the Uni­ver­si­ty of Pitts­burgh and Har­vard’s Aaron Kessel­heim ar­gue that any bio­phar­ma com­pa­ny that wins an ac­cel­er­at­ed ap­proval should be sub­ject to cer­tain price re­stric­tions. And they’ve of­fered a few ex­am­ples of how that could work. You could, for ex­am­ple:

— Re­quire drug mak­ers to of­fer pub­lic pay­ers a set dis­count on drugs that get an ear­ly OK ahead of con­fir­ma­to­ry stud­ies. Med­ic­aid could get a statu­to­ry price re­duc­tion on top of the dis­counts it al­ready qual­i­fies for.

— Hold a por­tion of the rev­enue from these drugs in es­crow, un­til they prove they work as as­sumed based on the pre­lim­i­nary da­ta. Drug mak­ers can win it on a pos­i­tive Phase III, or lose it all as the cash is used to re­im­burse pay­ers.

— To avoid any gam­ing of this sys­tem, hik­ing the whole­sale price to make sure sell­ers make what they want from the dis­count­ed fig­ure, man­u­fac­tur­ers could be forced to switch to a cost-plus sys­tem, with set mar­gins.

The au­thors al­so call for a new sys­tem where de­vel­op­ers are held ac­count­able to see­ing their late-stage tri­als through on sched­ule. A sys­tem of re­wards and penal­ties can be put in place for com­pa­nies as they set out to achieve spe­cif­ic mile­stones in their stud­ies. And no more long run­ways, they say. New tri­als should start with­in months of an ac­cel­er­at­ed OK. And these con­fir­ma­to­ry stud­ies should be ex­pect­ed to wrap in a rea­son­able amount of time, not ex­tend for years in­to the fu­ture.

We be­lieve there should be plans in place to be­gin con­fir­ma­to­ry tri­als with­in 3 months af­ter ap­proval, with track­ing of tri­al progress through Clin­i­cal­Tri­als.gov. Though the rar­i­ty of the dis­ease and oth­er fac­tors might rea­son­ably af­fect tri­al ac­cru­al times, there should al­so be mean­ing­ful reper­cus­sions for miss­ing mile­stones such as hav­ing a pro­to­col in place or hit­ting re­cruit­ment tar­gets, cul­mi­nat­ing in with­draw­al of the drug if the tri­al is un­nec­es­sar­i­ly de­layed for an ex­tend­ed pe­ri­od. The FDA can, un­der cur­rent law, as­sess fi­nan­cial penal­ties or with­draw an ac­cel­er­at­ed-ap­proval drug from the mar­ket if the man­u­fac­tur­er fails to con­duct its con­fir­ma­to­ry tri­al or fails to do so with “due dili­gence,” a bench­mark that the FDA can fur­ther clar­i­fy with stake­hold­er in­put.

Even more con­tro­ver­sial­ly, they sug­gest that an eco­nom­ic im­pact study should be used to eval­u­ate these drugs af­ter one or two years on the mar­ket, to see if the val­ue of a drug giv­en an ac­cel­er­at­ed ap­proval is lost to the fi­nan­cial tur­moil it can cause.

As far as the in­dus­try is con­cerned, there isn’t any­thing here that would slip un­der the radar. It would all be fought tooth and nail. Ag­gres­sive gov­ern­ment reg­u­la­tions re­strict­ing prices and gov­ern­ing tri­als is anath­e­ma to bio­phar­ma, which much prefers vol­un­tary re­straint in the US. But as the de­bate over drug prices con­tin­ues to boil in Wash­ing­ton DC, it’s an­oth­er set of “so­lu­tions” like­ly to trig­ger fresh de­bate at a time ac­cel­er­at­ed ap­provals may just be get­ting start­ed.

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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It's not per­fect, but it's a good start: FDA pan­elists large­ly en­dorse Aim­mune's peanut al­ler­gy ther­a­py

Two days after a fairly benign review from FDA staff, an independent panel of experts largely endorsed the efficacy and safety of Aimmune’s peanut allergy therapy, laying the groundwork for approval with a risk evaluation and mitigation strategy (REMS).

Traditionally, peanut allergies are managed by avoidance, but the threat of accidental exposure cannot be nullified. Some allergists have devised a way to dose patients off-label with peanut protein derived from supermarket products to wean them off their allergies. But the idea behind Aimmune’s product was to standardize the peanut protein, and track the process of desensitization — so when accidental exposure in the real world invariably occurs, patients are less likely to experience a life-threatening allergic reaction.

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Lisa M. DeAngelis, MSKCC

MSK picks brain can­cer ex­pert Lisa DeAn­ge­lis as its next CMO — fol­low­ing José Basel­ga’s con­tro­ver­sial ex­it

It’s official. Memorial Sloan Kettering has picked a brain cancer expert as its new physician-in-chief and CMO, replacing José Baselga, who left under a cloud after being singled out by The New York Times and ProPublica for failing to properly air his lucrative industry ties.

His replacement, who now will be in charge of MSK’s cutting-edge research work as well as the cancer care delivered by hundreds of practitioners, is Lisa M. DeAngelis. DeAngelis had been chair of the neurology department and co-founder of MSK’s brain tumor center and was moved in to the acting CMO role in the wake of Baselga’s departure.

Penn team adapts CAR-T tech, reengi­neer­ing mouse cells to treat car­diac fi­bro­sis

After establishing itself as one of the pioneer research centers in the world for CAR-T cancer therapies, creating new attack vehicles to eradicate cancer cells, a team at Penn Medicine has begun the tricky transition of using the basic technology for heart repair work.

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Tal Zaks. Moderna

The mR­NA uni­corn Mod­er­na has more ear­ly-stage hu­man da­ta it wants to show off — reach­ing new peaks in prov­ing the po­ten­tial

The whole messenger RNA field has attracted billions of dollars in public and private investor cash gambled on the prospect of getting in on the ground floor. And this morning Boston-based Moderna, one of the leaders in the field, wants to show off a few more of the cards it has to play to prove to you that they’re really in the game.

The whole hand, of course, has yet to be dealt. And there’s no telling who gets to walk with a share of the pot. But any cards on display at this point — especially after being accused of keeping its deck under lock and key — will attract plenty of attention from some very wary, and wired, observers.

“In terms of the complexity and unmet need,” says Tal Zaks, the chief medical officer, “this is peak for what we’ve accomplished.”

Moderna has two Phase I studies it wants to talk about now.

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Sanofi takes a $260M hit to ex­tri­cate it­self from a dis­as­trous al­liance with Lex­i­con

Sanofi spent $300 million in cash to get into a $1.7 billion alliance with Lexicon on their SGLT1/2 diabetes drug sotagliflozin. And now that the drug has been spurned by the FDA after burning through a program that provided mixed late-stage data and a late shot at a last-place finish, the French pharma giant is forking over another $260 million to get out of the deal.

Sanofi’s unhappiness was already apparent when the company — now under new CEO Paul Hudson — posted a statement back in July that they were dropping the deal. But it wasn’t that simple. 

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Rit­ter bombs fi­nal PhI­II for sole lac­tose in­tol­er­ance drug — shares plum­met

More than two years ago Ritter Pharmaceuticals managed to find enough silver lining in its Phase IIb/III study — after missing the top-line mark — to propel its lactose intolerance toward a confirmatory trial. But as it turned out, the enthusiasm only set the biotech and its investors up to be sorely disappointed.

This time around there’s little left to salvage. Not only did RP-G28 fail to beat placebo in reducing lactose intolerance symptoms, patients in the treatment group actually averaged a smaller improvement. On a composite score measuring symptoms like abdominal pain, cramping, bloating and gas, patients given the drug had a mean reduction of 3.159 while the placebo cohort saw a 3.420 drop on average (one-sided p-value = 0.0106).

Ear­ly snap­shot of Ad­verum's eye gene ther­a­py sparks con­cern about vi­sion loss

An early-stage update on Adverum Biotechnologies’ intravitreal gene therapy has triggered investor concern, after patients with wet age-related macular degeneration (AMD) saw their vision deteriorate, despite signs that the treatment is improving retinal anatomy.

Adverum, on Wednesday, unveiled 24-week data from the OPTIC trial of its experimental therapy, ADVM-022, in six patients who have been administered with one dose of the therapy. On average, patients in the trial had severe disease with an average of 6.2 anti-VEGF injections in the eight months prior to screening and an average annualized injection frequency of 9.3 injections.

Alex Ar­faei trades his an­a­lyst's post for a new role as biotech VC; Sanofi vet heads to Vi­for

Too often, Alex Arfaei arrived too late. 

An analyst at BMO Capital Markets, he’d meet with biotech or pharmaceutical heads for their IPO or secondary funding and his brain, trained on a biology degree and six years at Merck and Endo, would spring with questions: Why this biomarker? Why this design? Why not this endpoint? Not that he could do anything about it. These execs were coming for clinical money; their decisions had been made and finalized long ago.