As gener­ic en­try looms for its cash cow, Jazz wins FDA nod for fol­low-up sleep dis­or­der drug

Af­ter a 3-month de­lay at­trib­uted to la­belling dis­cus­sions, Jazz Phar­ma­ceu­ti­cals $JAZZ has notched an ap­proval for its wake-pro­mot­ing drug sol­ri­amfe­tol, now chris­tened Sunosi.

Like Xyrem — the block­buster nar­colep­sy drug that ac­counts for the bulk of Jazz’s sales — Sunosi is de­signed to treat ex­ces­sive day­time sleepi­ness for pa­tients with ob­struc­tive sleep ap­nea (OSA) as well as nar­colep­sy. In 2018, Xyrem sales reg­is­tered at $1.4 bil­lion, trans­lat­ing to over 70% of to­tal rev­enue. But with Sunosi in tow, to­tal prod­uct sales are ex­pect­ed to jump sub­stan­tial­ly.

Jazz bought Sunosi from Aer­i­al Phar­ma in 2014 af­ter the drug had passed muster in 2 Phase II tri­als for $125 mil­lion up­front. It’s the first dual-act­ing dopamine and nor­ep­i­neph­rine re­up­take in­hibitor to be ap­proved by the FDA, and al­though the com­pa­ny is un­clear as to how it works, the drug has im­proved pa­tients’ over­all clin­i­cal con­di­tion com­pared to a place­bo across four Phase III stud­ies.

Bruce Cozadd

“With this ap­proval, a new, day­time med­i­cine that can pro­vide sus­tained wake­ful­ness through­out the day will be avail­able for pa­tients,” CEO Bruce Cozadd said in a state­ment. “The FDA ap­proval of Sunosi al­so rep­re­sents an im­por­tant mile­stone for Jazz as we con­tin­ue to of­fer new treat­ment op­tions that ad­dress un­met needs for peo­ple liv­ing with chron­ic, and of­ten de­bil­i­tat­ing, sleep dis­or­ders.”

Sunosi is ap­proved with once-dai­ly dos­es of 75 mg and 150 mg for pa­tients with nar­colep­sy and dos­es of 37.5 mg, 75 mg, and 150 mg for pa­tients with OSA — but no­tably not 300 mg, Umer Raf­fat of Ever­core ISI wrote in a note.

[In] our opin­ion, not get­ting 300 mg ap­proved might be the sin­gle most im­por­tant thing that makes this la­bel as clean as it is. As you scroll to page 8 of (the) la­bel, there is a ta­ble on BP and HR da­ta on dos­es in­clud­ing 300 mg dose — and you can clear­ly see why FDA did NOT ap­prove that dose de­spite bet­ter ef­fi­ca­cy. In fact, la­bel men­tions “dosages above 150 mg do not con­fer in­creased ef­fec­tive­ness suf­fi­cient to out­weigh AE”.

By not hav­ing 300 mg, the BP and HR events mere­ly be­came a warn­ing, and NOT a black­box. And…al­though la­bel rec­om­mends as­sess­ing BP and HR be­fore ini­ti­at­ing and dur­ing treat­ment, (the) re­al­i­ty is that many nar­colep­sy and OSA pa­tients have mul­ti­ple CV risk fac­tors

Jazz is wait­ing for a DEA sched­ul­ing be­fore it can launch the drug, a process that’s es­ti­mat­ed to take 90 days. Mean­while, the com­pa­ny will be hir­ing 50 more sales reps for their 95-mem­ber sleep team, ac­cord­ing to Cowen an­a­lysts.

By mak­ing some cross-tri­al com­par­isons be­tween Sunosi and cur­rent stan­dard of care Provig­il/Nu­vig­il (which re­cent­ly went gener­ic), they gave the Jazz drug a ring­ing en­dorse­ment as a best-in-class agent.

“Im­por­tant­ly, our con­sul­tant checks and sur­vey re­sults in­di­cate that Sunosi ap­pears to be a need­ed treat­ment op­tion and a like­ly $500 mil­lion+ long du­ra­tion prod­uct,” they wrote. “The bot­tom line is that sol­ri­amfe­tol ap­pears to be the most ef­fec­tive wake-pro­mot­ing agent ever de­vel­oped for EDS.”

George Yancopoulos (Regeneron)

Re­gen­eron co-founder George Yan­copou­los of­fers a com­bat­ive de­fense of the po­lice at a high school com­mence­ment. It didn’t go well

Typically, the commencement speech at Yorktown Central School District in Westchester — like most high schools — is an opportunity to encourage students to face the future with confidence and hope. Regeneron president and co-founder George Yancopoulos, though, went a different route.

In a fiery speech, the outspoken billionaire defended the police against the “prejudice and bias against law enforcement” that has erupted around the country in street protests from coast to coast. And for many who attended the commencement, Yancopoulos struck the wrong note at the wrong time, especially when he combatively challenged someone for interrupting his speech with a honk for “another act of cowardness.”

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Elias Zerhouni (Photo by Vincent Isore/IP3/Getty Images)

Elias Zer­houni dis­cuss­es ‘am­a­teur hour’ in DC, the de­struc­tion of in­fec­tious dis­ease R&D and how we need to prep for the next time

Elias Zerhouni favors blunt talk, and in a recent discussion with NPR, the ex-Sanofi R&D and ex-NIH chief had some tough points to make regarding the pandemic response.

Rather than interpret them, I thought it would be best to provide snippets straight from the interview.

On the Trump administration response:

It was basically amateur hour. There is no central concept of operations for preparedness, for pandemics, period. This administration doesn’t want to or has no concept of what it takes to protect the American people and the world because it is codependent. You can’t close your borders and say, “OK, we’re going to be safe.” You’re not going to be able to do that in this world. So it’s a lack of vision, basically just a lack of understanding, of what it takes to protect the American people.

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An ex­pe­ri­enced biotech is stitched to­geth­er from transpa­cif­ic parts, with 265 staffers and a fo­cus on ‘new bi­ol­o­gy’

Over the past few years, different teams at a pair of US-based biotechs and in labs in Japan have labored to piece together a group of cancer drug programs, sharing a single corporate umbrella with research colleagues in Japan. But now their far-flung operations have been knit together into a single unit, creating a pipeline with 10 cancer drug development programs — going from early-stage right into Phase III — and a host of discovery projects managed by a collective staff of some 265 people.

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New stan­dard of care? FDA hands Pfiz­er, Mer­ck KGaA an OK for Baven­cio in blad­der can­cer

The breakthrough therapy designation Pfizer and Merck KGaA notched for Bavencio in bladder cancer has quickly paved way for a full approval.

The PD-L1 drug is now sanctioned as a first-line maintenance treatment for patients with locally advanced or metastatic urothelial carcinoma, applicable in cases where cancer hasn’t progressed after platinum-containing chemotherapy.

Petros Grivas, the principal investigator of the supporting Phase III JAVELIN Bladder 100, called the approval “one of the most significant advances in the treatment paradigm in this setting in 30 years.”

On a roll, Mer­ck blazes through a new seg­ment of the bio­mark­er trail

Merck has notched an approval for using Keytruda to treat a biomarker-based subset of first-line colorectal cancer patients with unresectable or metastatic tumors, as the pharma giant continues to find new niches for its blockbuster PD-1 star.

The OK is significant in a number of ways. Not only does it build on an accelerated approval for all tumors characterized as microsatellite instability-high (MSI-H) or mismatch repair deficient (dMMR); it also marks the first single treatment for colorectal cancer that doesn’t contain chemotherapy.

Pfiz­er shares surge on pos­i­tive im­pact of their mR­NA Covid-19 vac­cine — part­nered with BioN­Tech — in an ear­ly-stage study

Pfizer and their partners at the mRNA specialist BioNTech have published the first glimpse of biomarker data from an early-stage study spotlighting the “robust immunogenicity” triggered by their Covid-19 vaccine, which is one of the leaders in the race to vanquish the global pandemic.

Researchers selected 45 healthy volunteers 18-55 years of age for the study. They were randomized to receive 2 doses, separated by 21 days, of 10 µg, 30 µg, or 100 µg of BNT162b1, “a lipid nanoparticle-formulated, nucleoside-modified, mRNA vaccine that encodes trimerized SARS-CoV-2 spike glycoprotein RBD.” Their responses were compared against the effect of a natural, presumably protective defense offered by a regular infection.

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Sec­ond death trig­gers hold on Astel­las' $3B gene ther­a­py biotech's lead pro­gram, rais­ing fresh con­cerns about AAV

Seven months after Astellas shelled out $3 billion to acquire the gene therapy player Audentes, the biotech company’s lead program has been put on hold following the death of 2 patients taking a high dose of their treatment. And there was another serious adverse event recorded in the study as well, with a total of 3 “older” patients in the study affected.

The incidents are derailing plans to file for a near-term approval, which had been expected right about now.

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Paul Hudson, Sanofi CEO (Getty Images)

Sanofi preps an­oth­er round of lay­offs as new ex­ecs look to slim down the glob­al phar­ma in an on­go­ing re­or­ga­ni­za­tion — re­port

Sanofi is reportedly once again sharpening up the budget axe as the pharma giant prepares to chop more jobs.

Reuters reports this morning that Sanofi has its sights set on cutting 1,680 jobs in Europe, where the unions have been combating rounds of cutbacks at the Paris-based player. Sanofi itself hasn’t said anything about these cuts, as the company looks to discuss a 3-year plan with staff representatives.

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Covid-19 roundup: Vac­cines will need to beat place­bo by 50% to qual­i­fy for FDA OK; UK tri­al drops Kale­tra

The FDA will set the bar for approving a Covid-19 vaccine at 50% efficacy, the Wall Street Journal reported, meaning any successful candidate will have to reduce the risk of coronavirus disease by at least half compared to placebo.

That requirement is part of guidance that the agency is set to release later today, laying out detailed criteria for vaccine developers — some of whom are eyeing an OK by the end of the year, in line with expectations at Operation Warp Speed.

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