Drug Development

AstraZeneca shuffles the deck, deals out a new hand for two troubled drugs

Several months ago, an AstraZeneca spokesman insisted that the late-stage tralokinumab may have been quietly dropped for idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis, but the IL-13 therapy still had real potential for asthma and atopic dermatitis (AD); even after failing a Phase IIb study last year.

Today, the pharma giant announced that it has outlicensed tralokinumab’s global AD rights to Leo Pharma for $115 million in cash and up to a billion dollars in milestones. And as an extra, the company is also transferring European rights on the questionable brodalumab program over to Leo, getting that back from a deeply dysfunctional Valeant Pharma.

AstraZeneca once insisted it thought highly of brodalumab as well, even after Amgen bailed on its partnership after concluding that the suicidal thinking the drug triggered in some patients made it commercially unviable in a crowded field. In the end, though, AstraZeneca doesn’t hesitate to offload drugs that don’t fit its pipeline profile any more.

AstraZeneca says that it will now focus on its Phase III study for asthma.

It was a different story earlier in the year.

“It is well accepted that the disease pathophysiology underlying IPF is both complex and very different to that of asthma and AD (atopic dermatitis). IL-13 is a key Th2 cytokine implicated in both asthma and AD and we are committed to the ongoing program of studies,” the company said in a statement at the time.

Now, it’s just sticking with asthma, even though Roche has also had trouble with its rival IL-13 drug lebrikizumab.

Luke Miels, Executive Vice President, Global Product and Portfolio Strategy, AstraZeneca, said: “This agreement allows us to concentrate our efforts on tralokinumab’s potential for patients with severe asthma, a priority area for AstraZeneca, while benefitting from LEO Pharma’s expertise in dermatology for the continued development and commercialisation of tralokinumab in atopic dermatitis and other dermatology conditions.”

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