Bat­tered by le­gal ex­pens­es, opi­oid drug­mak­er In­sys files for bank­rupt­cy days af­ter $225M deal to set­tle gov­ern­ment probes

To no­body’s sur­prise, con­tro­ver­sial opi­oid drug­mak­er In­sys is fil­ing for bank­rupt­cy.

John Kapoor In­sys

Last week, the com­pa­ny $IN­SY agreed to pay $225 mil­lion to set­tle the US gov­ern­ment’s sep­a­rate crim­i­nal and civ­il in­ves­ti­ga­tions re­lat­ed to its fen­tanyl spray Sub­sys, about a month af­ter its founder and for­mer se­nior ex­ec­u­tive team were found guilty by a fed­er­al ju­ry of rack­e­teer­ing. Founder John Kapoor and his four com­pa­tri­ots’ an­tics in­clud­ed brib­ing doc­tors to pre­scribe the po­tent, ad­dic­tive painkiller and dup­ing in­sur­ers in­to pay­ing for the dead­ly opi­oid drug.

The US De­part­ment of Jus­tice set­tle­ment com­pound­ed the stress on a fi­nan­cial­ly strained In­sys. Last month, the com­pa­ny in­di­cat­ed it was fac­ing a liq­uid­i­ty cri­sis trig­gered by the litany of law­suits it was sub­ject to, and in April, In­sys’ au­di­tor raised doubts on the drug­mak­er’s abil­i­ty to con­tin­ue as a go­ing con­cern.

“Af­ter con­duct­ing a thor­ough re­view of avail­able strate­gic al­ter­na­tives, we de­ter­mined that a court-su­per­vised sale process is the best course of ac­tion to max­i­mize the val­ue of our as­sets and ad­dress our lega­cy le­gal chal­lenges…” In­sys CEO An­drew Long said in a state­ment on Mon­day. The com­pa­ny’s shares $IN­SY sank about 46% in­to pen­ny stock ter­ri­to­ry at 71 cents in ear­ly morn­ing trad­ing.

The chap­ter 11 fil­ing will al­low for the pletho­ra of lit­i­ga­tion against In­sys to be pre­sent­ed be­fore a soli­tary judge who will de­ter­mine what each plain­tiff will re­ceive.

The firm will con­tin­ue to sell Sub­sys, while it looks for buy­ers for the spray and its oth­er as­sets. If In­sys is un­able to woo a Sub­sys suit­or in 90 days, the com­pa­ny will be com­pelled to stop mar­ket­ing it, ac­cord­ing to a June 5 agree­ment with the HHS. Sub­sys ac­count­ed for a bulk of $82 mil­lion in 2018 In­sys sales (to­tal loss for that year was about $124 mil­lion), down from $141 mil­lion in 2017 and a far cry from $242 mil­lion in 2016.

Af­ter re­view­ing In­sys’ court doc­u­ments, Er­ic Sny­der of NYC-based law firm Wilk Aus­lan­der found that the In­sys has 92 patents and 62 patent ap­pli­ca­tions pend­ing, mak­ing it dif­fi­cult to val­ue the com­pa­ny’s as­sets. “They say that they are seek­ing to con­duct an auc­tion sale of all of their as­sets on an ex­pe­dit­ed ba­sis, but they have yet to file a mo­tion seek­ing this au­thor­i­ty,” he said in an emailed state­ment.

“This case is very un­usu­al, be­cause they (In­sys) do not have a se­cured cred­i­tor/lender.  So, they are self-fund­ing the bank­rupt­cy. This is very ex­pen­sive and that is prob­a­bly the rea­son they mov­ing for an im­me­di­ate auc­tion, even though they have no “stalk­ing horse” (par­ties in con­tract) bid­ders,” added Sny­der, who serves as chair­man of his firm’s bank­rupt­cy de­part­ment.

In­sys is hard­ly the on­ly opi­oid drug mak­er in fi­nan­cial trou­ble. Pur­due Phar­ma — the mak­er of one of the most wide­ly abused pre­scrip­tion opi­oid painkiller Oxy­con­tin — is re­port­ed­ly con­sid­er­ing bank­rupt­cy. Mean­while, oth­er drug man­u­fac­tur­ers, dis­trib­u­tors and phar­ma­cies are al­so fac­ing hun­dreds of civ­il law­suits for their role in prop­a­gat­ing the opi­oid cri­sis.

“(T)here is lit­tle doubt that Pur­due, the mak­er of Oxy­con­tin, will be next. The po­ten­tial li­a­bil­i­ty and the stig­ma of its as­so­ci­a­tion with the drug over­comes any val­ue of the as­sets,” Sny­der said.

In­sys’ Sub­sys — which is made of fen­tanyl, the man-made opi­oid 50 times more po­tent than hero­in and 100 times more po­tent than mor­phine — was ap­proved in 2012 by the FDA for break­through can­cer pain. Pros­e­cu­tors charged the for­mer In­sys ex­ec­u­tives with in­flat­ing Sub­sys sales by brib­ing doc­tors to pre­scribe the drug to pa­tients with­out can­cer — in an elab­o­rate scheme that in­clud­ed win­ing and din­ing physi­cians, pay­ing them to speak at “ed­u­ca­tion­al events” — there­by fu­el­ing the rag­ing opi­oid cri­sis that kills 130 Amer­i­cans every day. Ju­rors at the tri­al were giv­en a front-row seat to the video en­gi­neered to train the com­pa­ny’s sales reps, in which two im­pec­ca­bly suit­ed men — os­ten­si­bly In­sys em­ploy­ees — rapped about com­pa­ny busi­ness strat­e­gy: “I love titra­tions. Yeah, that’s not a prob­lem. I got new pa­tients, and I got a lot of ‘em…If you want to be great, lis­ten to my voice. You can be great — but it’s your choice.”

Founder John Kapoor — and four mem­bers of the for­mer se­nior ex­ec­u­tive team — face up to 20 years in prison and will be sen­tenced in Sep­tem­ber.

Bat­tered by scan­dal, In­sys in re­cent years sharp­ened its fo­cus on cannabis-de­rived drug de­vel­op­ment, but even in that are­na its track record is trou­bling. In 2016, the Ari­zona-based com­pa­ny re­port­ed­ly do­nat­ed $500,000 to a cam­paign against the le­gal­iza­tion of cannabis in the state, out­rag­ing mar­i­jua­na ac­tivists who ac­cused the com­pa­ny of try­ing to sti­fle com­pe­ti­tion. That skep­ti­cism was war­rant­ed when the fol­low­ing March In­sys’ cannabi­noid oral so­lu­tion Syn­dros was resched­uled by the DEA — at the fed­er­al lev­el cannabis is strict­ly con­trolled in the same sched­ule LSD and hero­in is, and any de­rived prod­uct must be rel­e­gat­ed to low­er cat­e­go­ry be­fore it can be sold — and thus primed for launch.

Im­age: In­sys (Glass­door)

UP­DAT­ED: In sur­prise switch, Bris­tol-My­ers is sell­ing off block­buster Ote­zla, promis­ing to com­plete Cel­gene ac­qui­si­tion — just lat­er

Apart from revealing its checkpoint inhibitor Opdivo blew a big liver cancer study on Monday, Bristol-Myers Squibb said its plans to swallow Celgene will require the sale of blockbuster psoriasis treatment Otezla to keep the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) at bay.

The announcement — which has potentially delayed the completion of the takeover to early 2020 — irked investors, triggering the New York-based drugmaker’s shares to tumble Monday morning in premarket trading.

Celgene’s Otezla, approved in 2014 for psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis, is a rising star. It generated global sales of $1.6 billion last year, up from the nearly $1.3 billion in 2017. Apart from the partial overlap of Bristol-Myers injectable Orencia, the company’s rival oral TYK2 psoriasis drug is in late-stage development, after the firm posted encouraging mid-stage data on the drug, BMS-986165, last fall. With Monday’s decision, it appears Bristol-Myers is favoring its experimental drug, and discounting Otezla’s future.

The move blindsided some analysts. Credit Suisse’s Vamil Divan noted just days ago:

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Novotech CEO Dr. John Moller

Novotech CRO Award­ed Frost & Sul­li­van Best Biotech CRO Asia-Pa­cif­ic 2019

Known in the in­dus­try as the Asia-Pa­cif­ic CRO, Novotech is now lead CRO ser­vices provider for the grow­ing num­ber of in­ter­na­tion­al biotechs se­lect­ing the re­gion for their stud­ies.

Re­flect­ing this Asia-Pa­cif­ic growth, Novotech staff num­bers are up 20% since De­cem­ber 2018 to 600 in-house clin­i­cal re­search peo­ple across a full range of ser­vices, across the re­gion.

Novotech’s ca­pa­bil­i­ties have been rec­og­nized by an­a­lysts like Frost & Sul­li­van, most re­cent­ly with the pres­ti­gious Asia-Pa­cif­ic CRO Biotech of the year award for best prac­tices in clin­i­cal re­search for biotechs for the fifth year. See oth­er awards here.

Gene ther­a­py biotech sees its stock rock­et high­er on promis­ing re­sults for rare cas­es of but­ter­fly dis­ease

Shares of Krys­tal Biotech took off this morn­ing $KRYS af­ter the lit­tle biotech re­port­ed promis­ing re­sults from its gene ther­a­py to treat a rare skin dis­ease called epi­der­mol­y­sis bul­losa.

Fo­cus­ing on an up­date with 4 new pa­tients, re­searchers spot­light­ed the suc­cess of KB103 in clos­ing some stub­born wounds. Krys­tal says that of 4 re­cur­ring and 2 chron­ic skin wounds treat­ed with the gene ther­a­py, the KB103 group saw the clo­sure of 5. The 6th — a chron­ic wound, de­fined as a wound that had re­mained open for more than 12 weeks — was par­tial­ly closed. That brings the to­tal so far to 8 treat­ed wounds, with 7 clo­sures.

Bris­tol-My­ers star Op­di­vo fails sur­vival test in a matchup with Nex­avar aimed at shak­ing up the big HCC mar­ket

Bris­tol-My­ers Squibb has suf­fered an­oth­er painful set­back in its years-long quest to ex­pand the reach of Op­di­vo. The phar­ma gi­ant this morn­ing not­ed that their Check­mate-459 study com­par­ing Op­di­vo with Bay­er’s Nex­avar in front­line cas­es of he­pa­to­cel­lu­lar car­ci­no­ma — the most com­mon form of liv­er can­cer — failed to hit the pri­ma­ry end­point on over­all sur­vival.

This was a sig­nif­i­cant mile­stone in Bris­tol-My­ers’ tal­ly of PD-1 cat­a­lysts this year. Nex­avar (so­rafenib) has been the stan­dard of care in front­line HCC for the past decade, though Op­di­vo has been mak­ing head­way in sec­ond-line HCC cas­es, where it’s go­ing toe-to-toe with Bay­er’s Sti­var­ga (re­go­rafenib) af­ter re­cent ap­provals shook up the mar­ket.

Fol­low­ing news of job cuts in Eu­ro­pean R&D ops, Sanofi con­firms it’s of­fer­ing US work­ers an 'ear­ly ex­it'

Ear­li­er in the week we learned that Sanofi was bring­ing out the bud­get ax to trim 466 R&D jobs in Eu­rope, re­tool­ing its ap­proach to car­dio as re­search chief John Reed beefed up their work in can­cer and gene ther­a­pies. And we’re end­ing the week with news that the phar­ma gi­ant has al­so been qui­et­ly re­duc­ing staff in the US, tar­get­ing hun­dreds of jobs as the com­pa­ny push­es vol­un­tary buy­outs with a fo­cus on R&D sup­port ser­vices.

Suf­fer­ing No­var­tis part­ner Cona­tus is pack­ing it in on NASH af­ter a se­ries of un­for­tu­nate tri­al events

The NASH par­ty is over at No­var­tis-backed Cona­tus. And this time they’re turn­ing off the lights.

More than 2 years af­ter No­var­tis sur­prised the biotech in­vest­ment com­mu­ni­ty with its $50 mil­lion up­front and promise of R&D sup­port to part­ner with the lit­tle biotech on NASH — ig­nit­ing a light­ning strike for the share price — Cona­tus $CNAT is back with the lat­est bit­ter tale to tell about em­ri­c­as­an, which once in­spired con­fi­dence at the phar­ma gi­ant.

Dean Hum. Nasdaq via YouTube

Gen­fit goes to Chi­na with a deal worth up to $228M for NASH drug

Fresh off the high of its Nas­daq IPO de­but, and the low of com­par­isons to Cymabay — whose NASH drug re­cent­ly stum­bled — Gen­fit on Mon­day un­veiled an up to $228 mil­lion deal with transpa­cif­ic biotech Terns Phar­ma­ceu­ti­cals to de­vel­op its flag­ship ex­per­i­men­tal liv­er drug — elafi­bra­nor — in Greater Chi­na.

The deal comes more than a week af­ter Gen­fit $GN­FT is­sued a fiery de­fense of its dual PPAR ag­o­nist elafi­bra­nor, when com­peti­tor Cymabay’s PPARδ ag­o­nist, se­ladel­par, fiz­zled in a snap­shot of da­ta from an on­go­ing mid-stage tri­al. The main goal at the end of 12 weeks was for se­ladel­par to in­duce a sta­tis­ti­cal­ly sig­nif­i­cant im­prove­ment in liv­er fat con­tent, but da­ta showed that pa­tients on the place­bo ac­tu­al­ly per­formed bet­ter.

Alex­ion wins pri­or­i­ty re­view for Ul­tomiris' aHUS in­di­ca­tion; FDA ex­pands ap­proval of Ver­tex's Symdeko

→ Alex­ion $ALXN has scored a speedy re­view for Ul­tomiris for pa­tients with atyp­i­cal he­molyt­ic ure­mic syn­drome (aHUS) af­ter post­ing pos­i­tive da­ta from a piv­otal study in Jan­u­ary. The drug is the rare dis­ease com­pa­ny’s shot at pro­tect­ing its block­buster blood dis­or­der fran­chise that is cur­rent­ly cen­tered around its flag­ship drug, Soliris, which is a com­ple­ment in­hibitor typ­i­cal­ly ad­min­is­tered every two weeks. Ul­tomiris has a sim­i­lar mech­a­nism of ac­tion but re­quires less-fre­quent dos­ing — every eight weeks. The de­ci­sion date has been set to Oc­to­ber 19. Late last year, Ul­tomiris se­cured ap­proval for noc­tur­nal he­mo­glo­bin­uria (PNH) pa­tients.

Bet­ter than Am­bi­en? Min­er­va soars on PhI­Ib up­date on sel­torex­ant for in­som­nia

A month af­ter roil­ing in­vestors with what skep­tics dis­missed as cher­ry pick­ing of its de­pres­sion da­ta, Min­er­va is back with a clean slate of da­ta from its Phase IIb in­som­nia tri­al.

In a de­tailed up­date, the Waltham, MA-based biotech said sel­torex­ant (MIN-202) hit both the pri­ma­ry and sev­er­al sec­ondary end­points, ef­fec­tive­ly im­prov­ing sleep in­duc­tion and pro­long­ing sleep du­ra­tion. In­ves­ti­ga­tors made a point to note that the ef­fects were con­sis­tent across the adult and el­der­ly pop­u­la­tions, with the lat­ter more prone to the sleep dis­or­der.