Drown­ing in lit­i­ga­tion, Mallinck­rodt be­comes third opi­oid pro­duc­er to file for bank­rupt­cy

Be­set by hun­dreds of opi­oid law­suits and hun­dreds of mil­lions in pay­ments owed un­der a re­cent fed­er­al rul­ing on one of their best-sell­ing drugs, Mallinck­rodt, the 150-year-old Irish drug­mak­er, has filed for Chap­ter 11 bank­rupt­cy.

Mallinck­rodt, a com­pa­ny that once sold more opi­oids in the US than any oth­er, be­comes the third ma­jor opi­oid pro­duc­er to file for bank­rupt­cy amid a sea of lit­i­ga­tion. Pur­due Phar­ma and In­sys Ther­a­peu­tics each filed for bank­rupt­cy last year.

Bank­rupt­cy has be­come a com­mon tac­tic for the com­pa­nies that prof­it­ed off the opi­oid epi­dem­ic and now face thou­sands of law­suits in part, crit­ics say, be­cause it can freeze lit­i­ga­tion and leave those lit­i­gants com­pet­ing for pay­outs with a com­pa­ny’s cred­i­tors. Mallinck­rodt said they plan to con­tin­ue with a ten­ta­tive set­tle­ment they reached ear­li­er this year.

Ru­mors of a Mallinck­rodt bank­rupt­cy have swirled for months. In Feb­ru­ary, the drug­mak­er agreed to a set­tle­ment with most of its lit­i­gants, in­clud­ing 47 states and US ter­ri­to­ries, that would see it pay $1.6 bil­lion to re­solve claims over its role in the opi­oid cri­sis.

In March, though, a fed­er­al court found Mallinck­rodt li­able for over $600 mil­lion in un­paid Med­ic­aid re­bates for its top-sell­ing mul­ti­ple scle­ro­sis drug Ac­thar Gel. In sub­se­quent court fil­ings and state­ments, the com­pa­ny said that the rul­ing jeop­ar­dized their abil­i­ty to pay off the opi­oid set­tle­ment, warn­ing in June they may “have no op­tion but to take dras­tic and painful mea­sures, up to and in­clud­ing the prospect of bank­rupt­cy.”

The com­pa­ny said to­day they’ve agreed to pay $260 mil­lion to set­tle Med­ic­aid claims and that they plan to pro­ceed with the $1.6 bil­lion opi­oid set­tle­ment, pay­ing out the lat­ter over 8 years, be­gin­ning with a $450 mil­lion pay­out when they emerge from bank­rupt­cy. The par­ties in the law­suit will al­so re­ceive shares worth about 20% of the com­pa­ny.

Mallinck­rodt list­ed be­tween $1 and $10 bil­lion in as­sets and li­a­bil­i­ties. They are hop­ing to pare down their debt by $1.3 bil­lion.

Un­like Pur­due, which is at­tempt­ing to re-emerge post-bank­rupt­cy as a pro­duc­er of an­ti-ad­dic­tion drugs, Mallinck­rodt in­tends to con­tin­ue de­vel­op­ing new com­pounds dur­ing and post-bank­rupt­cy. Its pipeline, how­ev­er, has been less than ro­bust in re­cent years. Their lead ex­per­i­men­tal com­pound, the rare kid­ney dis­ease drug Ter­li­pressin, was re­ject­ed by the FDA for a sec­ond time last month, af­ter an in­ter­nal re­view spot­light­ed safe­ty con­cerns and lin­ger­ing ques­tions over whether the drug was ef­fec­tive.

Stephen Hahn, FDA commissioner (AP Images)

As FDA sets the stage for the first Covid-19 vac­cine EUAs, some big play­ers are ask­ing for a tweak of the guide­lines

Setting the stage for an extraordinary one-day meeting of the Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee this Thursday, the FDA has cleared 2 experts of financial conflicts to help beef up the committee. And regulators went on to specify the safety, efficacy and CMC input they’re looking for on EUAs, before they move on to the full BLA approval process.

All of this has already been spelled out to the developers. But the devil is in the details, and it’s clear from the first round of posted responses that some of the top players — including J&J and Pfizer — would like some adjustments and added feedback. And on Thursday, the experts can offer their own thoughts on shaping the first OKs.

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A new chap­ter in the de­cen­tral­ized clin­i­cal tri­al ap­proach

Despite the promised decentralized trial revolution, we haven’t yet moved the needle in a significant way, although we are seeing far bolder commitments to this as we continue to experience the pandemic restrictions for some time to come. The vision of grandeur is one thing, but operationalizing and execution are another and recognising that change, particularly mid-flight on studies, is worthy of thorough evaluation and consideration in order to achieve success. Here we will discuss one of the critical building blocks of a Decentralized and Remote Trial strategy: TeleConsent; more than paper under glass, it is a paradigm change and key digital enabler.

Michel Vounatsos, Biogen CEO (via YouTube)

UP­DAT­ED: Bio­gen spot­lights a pair of painful pipeline set­backs as ad­u­canum­ab show­down looms at the FDA

Biogen has flagged a pair of setbacks in the pipeline, spotlighting the final failure for a one-time top MS prospect while scrapping a gene therapy for SMA after the IND was put on hold due to toxicity.

Both failures will raise the stakes even higher on aducanumab, the Alzheimer’s drug that Biogen is betting the ranch on, determined to pursue an FDA OK despite significant skepticism they can make it with mixed results and a reliance on post hoc data mining. And the failures are being reported as Biogen was forced to cut its profit forecast for 2020 as a generic rival started to erode their big franchise drug.

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Years af­ter a ma­jor tri­al set­back, No­var­tis switch­es gears with SMA drug. This time they're try­ing it for Hunt­ing­ton's

Four years after a Phase I/II setback in spinal muscular atrophy (SMA), Novartis is hoping its drug branaplam will find more success in a new neurological indication: Huntington’s disease.

The decision was announced a year after the head of research, Jay Bradner, said he did not see a “big opportunity” in SMA, according to Reuters. Novartis says it has preclinical data showing that branaplam reduces levels of mutant huntingtin protein, and SMA data showing patients on the drug had reductions in huntingtin mRNA. The FDA gave branaplam their orphan drug designation, and Novartis plans to move forth with a Phase IIb trial next year.

Lit­tle Zosano takes an­oth­er beat­ing as the FDA slaps down their ap­pli­ca­tion for a mi­graine patch

Zosano $ZSAN has officially come up short in its bid to develop a migraine patch.

The FDA rejected the company’s application to repurpose the triptan zolmitriptan in a new delivery system as Qtrypta, Zosano said Wednesday morning, issuing a CRL for the microneedle patch. Regulators cited inconsistent exposure levels across multiple clinical trials as the main reason for the thumbs down.

Investors did not take too kindly to the news, with Zosano shares plunking down around 25%. The company is requesting a Type A meeting to “provide clarity on the next steps for the program,” CEO Steven Lo said in a statement.

Glax­o­SmithK­line's vac­cines group aims for a first as it kicks off PhI­II RSV stud­ies

One of GlaxoSmithKline’s big projects at its global vaccine R&D center in Rockville, MD is set to enter Phase III after passing early-stage tests with flying colors.

Eyeing the wide-open respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) space, GSK is pushing two different vaccine candidates: GSK3888550A is designed to confer protection to infants via maternal immunization, while GSK3844766A is meant for the elderly.

Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla (Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

Pfiz­er is on the verge of claim­ing a multi­bil­lion-dol­lar first-mover ad­van­tage with their Covid-19 vac­cine — an­a­lyst

From the beginning, Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla eschewed government funding for his Covid-19 vaccine work with BioNTech, willing to take all the $2 billion-plus risk of a lightning-fast development campaign in exchange for all the rewards that could fall its way with success. And now that the pharma giant has seized a solid lead in the race to the market, those rewards loom large.

SVB Leerink’s Geoff Porges has been running the numbers on Pfizer’s vaccine, the mRNA BNT162b2 program that the German biotech partnered on. And he sees a $3.5 billion peak in windfall revenue next year alone. Even after the pandemic is brought to heel, though, Porges sees a continuing blockbuster role for this vaccine as people around the world look to guard against a new, thoroughly endemic virus that will pose a permanent threat.

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Pur­due Phar­ma signs guilty plea, preps $8B+ set­tle­ment on Oxy con­tro­ver­sy — re­port; Flag­ship brings in a comms chief

Purdue Pharma may soon be signing off on a guilty plea and an $8 million-plus settlement to wrap up its controversial role distributing OxyContin.

The AP has the breaking story this morning.

Purdue filed for bankruptcy last year, along with Insys and followed by Mallinckrodt, as it navigated its way through a blizzard of litigation surrounding Oxy, which triggered an epidemic of abuse around the country.

UP­DAT­ED: CRISPR Ther­a­peu­tics gets a snap­shot of off-the-shelf CAR-T suc­cess in B-cell ma­lig­nan­cies — marred by the death of a pa­tient

Just days after scientific founder Emmanuelle Charpentier shared the Nobel prize for her work on CRISPR/Cas9, CRISPR Therapeutics $CRSP is showing off a snapshot of success in their early-stage study for an off-the-shelf CAR-T approach to CD19+ B cell malignancies — a snapshot marred by the death of a patient who had been given a high dose of the treatment.

Using their gene editing tech, researchers for CRISPR engineered cells from healthy donors into an attack vehicle aimed at cancer, something that has been achieved with great success using patients’ own cells — the autologous approach. But autologous CAR-T is hampered by the more complex vein-to-vein requirement that delays treatment, and now CRISPR Therapeutics along with other players like Allogene are determined to replace the pioneers with CAR-T 2.0.

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