Covid-19 roundup: RE­COV­ERY tri­al halts re­cruit­ment for colchicine study af­ter find­ing ‘no con­vinc­ing ev­i­dence’; Italy blocks As­traZeneca vac­cine ship­ment meant for Aus­tralia

It may be the end of the road for colchicine, an in­ex­pen­sive oral an­ti-in­flam­ma­to­ry drug com­mon­ly used to treat gout, as a po­ten­tial Covid-19 treat­ment — at least in hos­pi­tal­ized pa­tients.

The UK’s RE­COV­ERY tri­al put out the word on Fri­day that it’s halt­ing en­roll­ment in its colchicine study af­ter a da­ta mon­i­tor­ing com­mit­tee saw “no con­vinc­ing ev­i­dence that fur­ther re­cruit­ment would pro­vide con­clu­sive proof of worth­while mor­tal­i­ty ben­e­fit ei­ther over­all or in any pre-spec­i­fied sub­group.”

In a pre­lim­i­nary analy­sis of 11,162 pa­tients ran­dom­ized to re­ceive ei­ther colchicine or stan­dard care alone, there was no sig­nif­i­cant dif­fer­ence in the pri­ma­ry end­point of 28-day mor­tal­i­ty, ac­cord­ing to re­searchers. The mor­tal­i­ty rate was 20% in the colchicine group ver­sus 19% in the usu­al care group. The fi­nal re­sults will be pub­lished “as soon as pos­si­ble,” ac­cord­ing to a state­ment.

The RE­COV­ERY tri­al was es­tab­lished to test a range of po­ten­tial treat­ments for Covid-19. Re­cruit­ment to all the oth­er treat­ment arms — in­clud­ing as­pirin, baric­i­tinib, Re­gen­eron’s an­ti­body cock­tail, and (in se­lect­ed hos­pi­tals) di­methyl fu­marate — will go forth as planned.

“We do large ran­domised tri­als to es­tab­lish whether a drug that seems promis­ing in the­o­ry has re­al ben­e­fits for pa­tients in prac­tice,” Ox­ford Uni­ver­si­ty and joint chief in­ves­ti­ga­tor Mar­tin Lan­dray said in a state­ment. “Un­for­tu­nate­ly, colchicine is not one of those.”

The news comes just over a month af­ter Mon­tre­al re­searchers read out some con­tro­ver­sial da­ta on colchicine’s ef­fect as a Covid-19 treat­ment. While that study al­so failed its pri­ma­ry end­point, re­searchers said the drug “re­duces the com­pos­ite rate of death or hos­pi­tal­iza­tion” in non-hos­pi­tal­ized pa­tients.

Out of 2,235 pa­tients in the colchicine group, 104 had been hos­pi­tal­ized or died; among 2,253 in the place­bo co­hort, 131 re­port­ed those events. That trans­lates to a 4.7% event rate ver­sus 5.8% on the pri­ma­ry end­point — or an odds ra­tio of 0.79 — with a p-val­ue of 0.08. Five pa­tients died in the colchicine arm, ver­sus nine in the place­bo group. On the sec­ondary end­point, 11 pa­tients tak­ing colchicine re­quired me­chan­i­cal ven­ti­la­tion while 21 who were giv­en place­bo did.

But if you look on­ly at the 4,159 pa­tients with PCR-con­firmed Covid-19, in­ves­ti­ga­tors wrote, the dif­fer­ence widens slight­ly to 4.6% ver­sus 6.0% and the 0.75 odds ra­tio be­comes sta­tis­ti­cal­ly sig­nif­i­cant (p=0.04).

Lan­dray com­ment­ed that it was a “trav­es­ty” that in­ves­ti­ga­tors in the tri­al had stopped en­roll­ment with on­ly 75% of pa­tients, adding that it re­sult­ed in in­con­clu­sive re­sults and un­cer­tain­ty. — Nicole De­Feud­is 

Italy blocks As­traZeneca vac­cine ship­ment meant for Aus­tralia

The As­traZeneca/Ox­ford vac­cine roll­out has run in­to yet an­oth­er speed bump.

As the British drug­mak­er prepped a vac­cine ship­ment for Aus­tralia of about 250,000 dos­es, Italy de­cid­ed to pre­vent the de­liv­ery from leav­ing its bor­ders, per a Fi­nan­cial Times re­port. It’s the first such in­ter­ven­tion in vac­cine ex­ports since the Eu­ro­pean Union in­tro­duced new rules gov­ern­ing such ship­ments out­side the bloc in late Jan­u­ary.

Per the FT re­port, the EU had the pow­er to ob­ject to Italy’s move and block their ef­fort, but did not do so. And ear­ly Fri­day morn­ing, France backed Italy’s plan to stop the ship­ment head­ed to Aus­tralia.

The con­tro­ver­sial ex­port plan was put in­to place by the EU in the wake of As­traZeneca say­ing it wouldn’t be able to pro­vide the amount of dos­es pledged in its con­tracts a lit­tle over a month ago. Their hope is to force com­pa­nies to dis­close ex­port plans, the FT cit­ed Eu­ro­pean of­fi­cials as say­ing, as the bloc seeks to re­assert con­trol of dos­es man­u­fac­tured in­side its bor­ders.

Sev­er­al coun­tries had been ex­empt­ed from the plan, al­low­ing for As­traZeneca shots to be able to flow to poor­er na­tions and those with­out their own pro­duc­tion ca­pa­bil­i­ties. EU of­fi­cials drew harsh crit­i­cism, how­ev­er, af­ter in­clud­ing the UK on the ex­emp­tion list de­spite leav­ing off oth­er in­dus­tri­al­ized na­tions like the US and Japan.

Fri­day’s de­vel­op­ments fol­low a rocky road for the As­traZeneca/Ox­ford vac­cine. Though Britain and the EU have au­tho­rized the shot for use, there has been slow up­take around the world as the drug­mak­er and the bloc fought pub­licly over the dos­es the com­pa­ny would pro­vide. And some peo­ple in Eu­ro­pean coun­tries are re­port­ed­ly shun­ning the vac­cine in fa­vor of mR­NA-based shots with high­er topline ef­fi­ca­cy lev­els. — Max Gel­man

Ger­many al­lows use of As­traZeneca’s vac­cine in se­niors — re­port

Days af­ter Cana­di­an of­fi­cials said As­traZeneca’s Covid-19 vac­cine should not be used on se­niors, Ger­many has re­versed its de­ci­sion to re­strict the jab from those 65 and old­er.

The Ger­man Health Min­istry’s Per­ma­nent Vac­cine Com­mis­sion OK’d the vac­cine for use on se­niors on Thurs­day, and an­nounced it would up­date guid­ance to in­cor­po­rate a new rec­om­men­da­tion that dos­es be spaced 12 weeks apart, BBC re­port­ed. 

Health Min­is­ter Jens Spahn called the de­ci­sion “good news for old­er peo­ple who are wait­ing for an in­jec­tion,” per BBC.

The move was based on new ev­i­dence that As­traZeneca and Ox­ford Uni­ver­si­ty pre­sent­ed last month, which they said proves their vac­cine is more ef­fec­tive when ad­min­is­tered over the course of 12 weeks. The new reg­i­men has al­ready been ap­proved by the UK.

In­ves­ti­ga­tors wrote in a Lancet study:

In our study, vac­cine ef­fi­ca­cy was high­er, af­ter the sec­ond dose, in those with a longer prime-boost in­ter­val, reach­ing 82.4% in those with a dos­ing in­ter­val of 12 weeks or more. Point es­ti­mates of ef­fi­ca­cy were low­er with short­er dos­ing in­ter­vals, though it should be not­ed that there is some un­cer­tain­ty as con­fi­dence in­ter­vals over­lap. High­er bind­ing and neu­tral­is­ing an­ti­body titres were ob­served in sera at the longer prime-boost in­ter­val, sug­gest­ing that, as­sum­ing there is a re­la­tion­ship be­tween the hu­moral im­mune re­sponse and ef­fi­ca­cy, these may be true find­ings and not arte­facts of the da­ta.

Back in Jan­u­ary, an ex­pert pan­el in Ger­many rec­om­mend­ed against giv­ing As­traZeneca’s vac­cine to those over the age of 65, cit­ing “in­suf­fi­cient da­ta avail­able to as­sess the vac­cine ef­fi­ca­cy.”

While a Cana­di­an pan­el of vac­cine ex­perts said ear­li­er this week that vac­cines from Pfiz­er/BioN­Tech and Mod­er­na are pre­ferred for those over 65, France al­so de­cid­ed Mon­day to al­low the vac­cine’s use in se­niors. — Nicole De­Feud­is 

For a look at all End­points News coro­n­avirus sto­ries, check out our spe­cial news chan­nel.

The Big Phar­ma dis­card pile; Lay­offs all around while some biotechs bid farewell; New Roche CEO as­sem­bles top team; and more

Welcome back to Endpoints Weekly, your review of the week’s top biopharma headlines. Want this in your inbox every Saturday morning? Current Endpoints readers can visit their reader profile to add Endpoints Weekly. New to Endpoints? Sign up here.

With earnings seasons in full swing, we’ve listened in on all the calls so you don’t have to. But news is popping up from all corners, so make sure you check out our other updates, too.

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Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) (Francis Chung/E&E News/Politico via AP Images)

In­fla­tion re­bates in­com­ing: Wyden calls on CMS to move quick­ly as No­var­tis CEO pledges re­ver­sal

Senate Finance Chair Ron Wyden (D-OR) this week sent a letter to the head of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services seeking an update on how and when new inflation-linked rebates will take effect for drugs that see major price spikes.

The newly signed Inflation Reduction Act requires manufacturers to pay a rebate to Medicare when they increase drug prices faster than the rate of inflation.

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Trodelvy notch­es a win in most com­mon form of breast can­cer

Following a promise last year to go “big and fast in breast cancer,” Gilead has secured a win for Trodelvy in the most common form.

The drug was approved to treat HR-positive, HER2-negative breast cancer patients who’ve already received endocrine-based therapy and at least two other systemic therapies for metastatic cancer, Gilead announced on Friday.

Trodelvy won its first indication in metastatic triple-negative breast cancer back in 2020, and has since added urothelial cancer to the list. HR-positive HER2-negative breast cancer accounts for roughly 70% of new breast cancer cases worldwide per year, according to senior VP of oncology clinical development Bill Grossman, and many patients develop resistance to endocrine-based therapies or worsen on chemotherapy.

Raymond Stevens, Structure Therapeutics CEO

Be­hind Fri­day's $161M IPO: A star sci­en­tist, GPCR drug dis­cov­ery and a plan to chal­lenge phar­ma in di­a­betes

What does it take to pull off a $161 million biotech IPO these days?

In Structure Therapeutics’ case, it means having a star scientist co-founder paired with the computational drug discovery company Schrödinger, $198 million in private funding from blue-chip investors, almost six years of research work on G protein-coupled receptors and a slate of oral, small-molecule drugs, with an eye on the huge and growing diabetes and weight-loss market.

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Af­ter 13 years, Ramy Mah­moud steps in­to CEO seat at Opti­nose; Ru­pert Vessey set to ex­it Bris­tol My­ers in Ju­ly

After 13 years as president and COO at Optinose, Ramy Mahmoud has stepped into a new role as its CEO. He is taking the place of Peter Miller, who stepped down earlier this week, though Miller is still staying with the company as a consultant.

In 2010, the two business partners joined Optinose to take it in a new direction, transforming it from a delivery platform to product company. They previously worked together at Johnson & Johnson, when Miller was president at Janssen and Mahmoud headed medical affairs. Miller said after he learned about Optinose, “I did what I always do, which is find people smarter than me to talk with about the idea. And the first person I called was Ramy … and I said, ‘Hey, Ramy, what do you think of this technology?’”

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Photo: Julia Weeks/AP Images

FDA ax­es re­quire­ment for pos­i­tive Covid test be­fore Paxlovid use

FDA announced today that doctors and pharmacists can now prescribe Paxlovid to patients without a positive test for Covid-19.

CDER Director Patrizia Cavazzoni reissued Paxlovid’s authorization letter Wednesday, saying it has revised the authorization to “no longer require positive results of direct SARS-CoV-2 viral testing.” The EUA now requires instead that adults and kids 12 years of age and older have a “current diagnosis of mild-to-moderate COVID-19.”

Te­va drops out of in­dus­try trade group PhRMA

Following in AbbVie’s footsteps, Teva confirmed on Friday that it’s dropping out of the industry trade group Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA).

Teva didn’t give a reason for its decision to leave, saying only in a statement to Endpoints News that it annually reviews “effectiveness and value of engagements, consultants and memberships to ensure our investments are properly seated.”

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Sanofi CFO Jean-Baptiste de Chatillon (L) and CEO Paul Hudson (Romuald Meigneux/Sipa via AP Images)

Sanofi sees downtick in flu sales as it preps for launch of RSV an­ti­body

Sanofi expects its RSV antibody jointly developed with AstraZeneca will be available next season, executive VP of vaccines Thomas Triomphe announced on the company’s quarterly call.

Beyfortus, also known as nirsevimab, was approved in the EU back in November and is currently under FDA review with an expected decision coming in the third quarter of this year. The news comes as the FDA plans to hold advisory committee meetings over the next couple months to review RSV vaccines from Pfizer and GSK.

Christophe Weber, Takeda CEO (Photographer: Shoko Takayasu/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Take­da fo­cus­es on ‘di­verse’ pipeline prospects on heels of two ac­qui­si­tions

After a whopping $4 billion asset buy from Nimbus Therapeutics, along with a $400 million deal with Hutchmed for a colorectal cancer drug, Takeda executives touted pipeline optimism on its latest earnings call this week.

That’s because the TYK2 inhibitor for psoriasis Takeda is getting from Nimbus, along with the Hutchmed fruquintinib commercialization outside of China, are just two of what it reports are 10 late-stage development programs of promising candidates.