Faced with fresh con­cerns about Hem­li­bra’s safe­ty, Roche spells out what it knows about 5 deaths

Roche is of­fer­ing some ad­di­tion­al de­tails on the 5 deaths they’ve record­ed among he­mo­phil­ia pa­tients tak­ing Hem­li­bra, re­peat­ing their as­ser­tion that the risk/ben­e­fit pro­file of the would-be block­buster re­mains un­changed as they con­duct an “on­go­ing” in­ves­ti­ga­tion of two re­cent cas­es.

Ac­cord­ing to a spokesper­son, 2 new deaths were record­ed re­cent­ly which physi­cians linked to a pre-ex­ist­ing con­di­tion in one case and ma­jor vas­cu­lar surgery in an­oth­er. Those cas­es fol­lowed deaths as­so­ci­at­ed with a rec­tal he­m­or­rhage and two in­tracra­nial he­m­or­rhages.

News of the death tal­ly, which spread like wild fire af­ter Roche sent out a state­ment to pa­tient groups, reignit­ed lin­ger­ing safe­ty con­cerns about the drug, which an­a­lysts be­lieve has been on track to rack up $4 bil­lion to $5 bil­lion in an­nu­al sales.

David Stein­berg

Jef­feries an­a­lyst David Stein­berg high­light­ed the state­ment from Roche and some con­tin­ued puz­zle­ment over the drug’s mech­a­nism of ac­tion, writ­ing that these new­ly re­port­ed deaths could arouse fresh safe­ty con­cerns. He not­ed:

It is Pos­si­ble that Con­cerns Over Hem­li­bra’s Safe­ty Could Now Reemerge Amongst Clin­i­cians and Pa­tients: Im­por­tant­ly, the NHA – which re­ceived in­for­ma­tion from Roche’s clin­i­cal de­vel­op­ment lead on March 26 – fur­ther in­di­cat­ed that these deaths have all ap­par­ent­ly been deemed un­re­lat­ed to Hem­li­bra by in­ves­ti­ga­tors or treat­ing physi­cians. How­ev­er, giv­en the pre­vi­ous­ly re­port­ed death and cas­es of throm­boem­bol­ic events and throm­bot­ic mi­croan­giopa­thy ob­served dur­ing clin­i­cal test­ing in a rel­a­tive­ly small num­ber of pa­tients – at­trib­uted to the con­cur­rent use of Hem­li­bra with by­pass­ing agents (Fei­ba/No­vo 7) dur­ing break­through bleed­ing episodes – it is not en­tire­ly sur­pris­ing to see ad­di­tion­al dis­clo­sures of se­ri­ous ad­di­tion­al ad­verse events, in­clud­ing un­for­tu­nate­ly – deaths. And with very lim­it­ed in­for­ma­tion, it is un­clear if there are ad­di­tion­al safe­ty con­cerns with Hem­li­bra at this point. How­ev­er, it’s a pos­si­bil­i­ty that height­ened con­cerns – which arose af­ter the ini­tial death in the HAVEN 1 study – could re­merge. Ad­di­tion­al­ly, we’d note that some ex­perts still do not ful­ly un­der­stand the mech­a­nism be­hind Hem­li­bra, which could po­ten­tial­ly im­pact use in non-in­hibitor pa­tients who are gen­er­al­ly well con­trolled on SH­PG’s Ad­vate.

And for its part, Shire — fac­ing a ma­jor ri­val to a key fran­chise pro­gram — has stoked fears as well, claim­ing ear­li­er that Roche has made “in­ac­cu­rate and mis­lead­ing” state­ments about the se­ri­ous ad­verse events tracked in its Phase III.

Ac­cord­ing to the spokesper­son for Roche, here’s what they know about the deaths:

— In 2017, the adult pa­tient in the Phase III HAVEN 1 tri­al ex­pe­ri­enced a se­ri­ous rec­tal he­m­or­rhage, which the in­ves­ti­ga­tor as­sessed as the cause of death, un­re­lat­ed to Hem­li­bra.

— Three deaths have been re­port­ed to Genen­tech in adult pa­tients tak­ing Hem­li­bra through re­quests to Roche for com­pas­sion­ate use.

— In 2016, an adult pa­tient tak­ing Hem­li­bra through a re­quest for com­pas­sion­ate use passed away due to an in­tracra­nial he­m­or­rhage and wide­spread bac­te­r­i­al in­fec­tion, which the treat­ing physi­cian as­sessed as the cause of death, un­re­lat­ed to Hem­li­bra.

— In 2017, an adult pa­tient tak­ing Hem­li­bra through a re­quest for com­pas­sion­ate use passed away. The pa­tient had suf­fered mul­ti­ple in­tracra­nial he­m­or­rhages in the past due to pre­dis­pos­ing fac­tors, pri­or to start­ing Hem­li­bra. The treat­ing physi­cian’s as­sess­ment was that the cause of death was due to an in­tracra­nial he­m­or­rhage, and it was un­re­lat­ed to Hem­li­bra.

— We just re­cent­ly learned that a third adult pa­tient tak­ing Hem­li­bra through a re­quest for com­pas­sion­ate use passed away. The treat­ing physi­cian’s as­sess­ment was that the cause of death was due to a pre-ex­ist­ing med­ical con­di­tion, and it was un­re­lat­ed to Hem­li­bra. It was re­port­ed that the pa­tient had been en­rolled in the com­pas­sion­ate use pro­gram due to a med­ical emer­gency re­lat­ed to an ab­dom­i­nal pseu­do-tu­mor and passed away from com­pli­ca­tions re­lat­ed to this pre-ex­ist­ing con­di­tion.

— We just re­cent­ly learned that a fifth adult pa­tient tak­ing Hem­li­bra passed away. It was re­port­ed that the pa­tient passed away sev­er­al weeks fol­low­ing an elec­tive ma­jor vas­cu­lar surgery. The treat­ing physi­cian’s as­sess­ment was that the pa­tient’s death was un­re­lat­ed to Hem­li­bra.

Our in­ves­ti­ga­tion and as­sess­ment of these two re­cent events is cur­rent­ly on­go­ing. We un­der­stand the ur­gency of re­view­ing and as­sess­ing safe­ty events, and it is a pri­or­i­ty for us to share ac­cu­rate in­for­ma­tion about the safe­ty of Hem­li­bra that is based on a thor­ough as­sess­ment. We will work dili­gent­ly to pro­vide ap­pro­pri­ate up­dates as quick­ly as pos­si­ble, while en­sur­ing the con­fi­den­tial­i­ty of the pa­tients is re­spect­ed. As men­tioned pre­vi­ous­ly, based on these as­sess­ments and the avail­able in­for­ma­tion, these events do not change the cur­rent­ly known ben­e­fit/risk pro­file of Hem­li­bra.

We’ll keep you post­ed as any new de­tails come in. It’s un­like­ly the safe­ty spot­light will fade any­time soon.

A New Fron­tier: The In­ner Ear

What happens when a successful biotech venture capitalist is unexpectedly diagnosed with a chronic, life-disrupting vertigo disorder? Innovation in neurotology.

That venture capitalist was Jay Lichter, Ph.D., and after learning there was no FDA-approved drug treatment for his condition, Ménière’s disease, he decided to create a company to bring drug development to neurotology. Otonomy was founded in 2008 and is dedicated to finding new drug treatments for the hugely underserved community living with balance and hearing disorders. Helping patients like Jay has been the driving force behind Otonomy, a company heading into a transformative 2020 with three clinical trial readouts: Phase 3 in Ménière’s disease, Phase 2 in tinnitus, and Phase 1/2 in hearing loss. These catalysts, together with others in the field, highlight the emerging opportunity in neurotology.
Otonomy is leading the way in neurotology
Neurotology, or the treatment of inner ear neurological disorders, is a large and untapped market for drug developers: one in eight individuals in the U.S. have moderate-to-severe hearing loss, tinnitus or vertigo disorders such as Ménière’s disease.1 With no FDA-approved drug treatments available for these conditions, the burden on patients—including social anxiety, lower quality of life, reduced work productivity, and higher rates of depression—can be significant.2, 3, 4

Af­ter 4 years of furor, the FTC and New York state ac­cuse Mar­tin Shkre­li of run­ning a drug mo­nop­oly. And this time they plan to squash it

Pharma bro Martin Shkreli was jailed, publicly pilloried and forced to confront some lawmakers in Washington riled by his move to take an old generic and move the price from $17.50 per pill to $750. But through 4 years of controversy and public revulsion, his company never backed away from the price — left uncontrolled by a laissez faire federal policy on a drug’s cost.

Now the FTC and the state of New York plan to pry his fingers off the drug once and for all and open it up to some cheap competition.

Patrik Jonsson, the president of Lilly Bio-Medicines

Who knew? Der­mi­ra’s board kept watch as its stock price tracked Eli Lil­ly’s se­cret bid­ding on a $1.1B buy­out

In just 8 days, from December 6 to December 14, the stock jumped from $7.88 to $12.70 — just under the initial $13 bid. There was no hard news about the company that would explain a rise like that tracking closely to the bid offer, raising the obvious question of whether insider info has leaked out to traders.

Endpoints Premium

Premium subscription required

Unlock this article along with other benefits by subscribing to one of our paid plans.

Short at­tack­er Sahm Ad­ran­gi draws crosshairs over a fa­vorite of Sanofi’s new CEO — with PhII da­ta loom­ing

Sahm Adrang Kerrisdale

Kerrisdale chief Sahm Adrangi took a lengthy break from his series of biotech short attacks after his chief analyst in the field pulled up stakes and went solo. But he’s making a return to drug development this morning, drawing crosshairs over a company that’s one of new Sanofi CEO Paul Hudson’s favorite collaborators.

Endpoints News

Keep reading Endpoints with a free subscription

Unlock this story instantly and join 70,700+ biopharma pros reading Endpoints daily — and it's free.

UP­DAT­ED: Ac­celeron of­fers thumbs up on a PhII suc­cess for would-be block­buster drug — and shares rock­et up

There’s no public data yet, but Acceleron $XLRN says that its first major trial readout of 2020 is a success.

In a Phase II study of 106 patients with pulmonary arterial hypertension (PAH), Acceleron’s experimental drug sotatercept hit its primary endpoint: a significant reduction in pulmonary vascular resistance. The drug also met three different secondary endpoints, including the 6-minute walking test.

Endpoints News

Keep reading Endpoints with a free subscription

Unlock this story instantly and join 70,700+ biopharma pros reading Endpoints daily — and it's free.

Civi­ca and Blue Cross Blue Shield launch new ven­ture to low­er gener­ic prices

Five years after Martin Shkreli put a smug face to the volatile prices companies can charge even for generic drugs, payers and governments are coming up with outside-the-box solutions.

The latest fix is a new venture from the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association, 18 of its members and Civica, the generics company founded in 2018 by hospitals fed up with high prices for drugs that had long-since lost patent protection. While Civica focused on drugs that hospitals purchased, the new company will aim to lower prices on drugs that, like Shkreli’s Daraprim, are purchased by individuals.

Endpoints News

Keep reading Endpoints with a free subscription

Unlock this story instantly and join 70,700+ biopharma pros reading Endpoints daily — and it's free.

Merck Invests in State-Of-The-Art Biotech Development Facility in Switzerland

Mer­ck KGaA match­es lofty R&D goals with €250M in­vest­ment in­to a new clin­i­cal man­u­fac­tur­ing site in Switzer­land

As Merck KGaA strives to prove itself as a capable biopharma R&D player, it has begun construction on a €250 million facility dedicated to developing and manufacturing drugs for use in clinical trials.

The German drugmaker chose a location at Corsier-sur-Vevey, Switzerland, where it already has a commercial manufacturing site, in order to “bridge together research and manufacturing.”

“This investment in the Merck Biotech Development Center reflects our commitment to speed up the availability of new medicines for patients in need, and confirms the importance of Switzerland as our prime hub for the manufacturing of biotech medicines,” CEO Stefan Oschmann said at the groundbreaking ceremony, according to a statement.

Breast can­cer ap­proval in tow, As­traZeneca, Dai­ichi armed an­ti­body scores in key gas­tric can­cer study

AstraZeneca kicked off Monday with a flurry of good news. Apart from unveiling positive results on its stroke trial testing its clot-fighter Brilinta, and welcoming its experimental IL-23 inhibitor brazikumab back from Allergan — the British drugmaker also disclosed some upbeat gastric cancer data on its HER2-positive oncology therapy it is collaborating on with Daiichi Sankyo.

Buoyed by the performance of its oncology drugs, last March AstraZeneca chief Pascal Soriot bet big to partner with Daiichi on the cancer drug, with $1.35 billion upfront in a deal worth up to roughly $7 billion. Roughly 8 months later, as 2019 drew to a close, the FDA swiftly approved the drug — trastuzumab deruxtecan — for use in breast cancer, months ahead of the expected decision date.

Sor­ren­to shrugs off an anony­mous pri­vate eq­ui­ty group’s $1B of­fer to buy the com­pa­ny

San Diego-based Sorrento Therapeutics isn’t going the M&A route — at least not today.

The biotech caused quite a stir when it put out word a few weeks ago that an unidentified private equity group was bidding a billion dollars-plus for the company. The news drove a quick spike in the company’s share price as investors hooked up for the ride — that didn’t happen.

The update sparked a 5% drop in the share price $SRNE ahead of the bell. It’s now trading just above $4, without any evidence that the $7 price looked like it was firm.