Em­bat­tled AM­AG braces for Oc­to­ber FDA Mak­e­na ad­com, but it need not wor­ry — an­a­lyst

When the FDA ap­proved AM­AG Phar­ma­ceu­ti­cals’ fe­male li­bido drug, Vyleesi, months ago sans an ad­vi­so­ry com­mit­tee de­spite weak da­ta — con­tro­ver­sy en­sued. But the Mass­a­chu­setts-based drug­mak­er must now con­tend with the reg­u­la­to­ry fall­out of an­oth­er one of its women’s health drugs: Mak­e­na.

Mak­e­na — which has been on the mar­ket for years as a ther­a­py de­signed to cut the risk of preterm birth in preg­nant women — ear­li­er this year failed a post-con­fir­ma­to­ry study. Now, the FDA has set up a meet­ing of in­de­pen­dent ad­vi­sors in Oc­to­ber to fig­ure out whether or not to take it off the shelves.

For long the ther­a­py, a man-made ver­sion of the hor­mone prog­es­terone, was used off-la­bel sourced from un­reg­u­lat­ed con­coc­tions pre­pared by com­pound­ing phar­ma­cies. Even­tu­al­ly, the FDA grant­ed the prod­uct ac­cel­er­at­ed ap­proval in 2011, de­spite lim­it­ed clin­i­cal da­ta. The man­u­fac­tur­er was ac­quired by AM­AG in 2014. Last year, a pre­filled au­to-in­jec­tor ver­sion with a thin­ner, al­most in­vis­i­ble, nee­dle (ver­sus the orig­i­nal bulky in­tra­mus­cu­lar Mak­e­na in­jec­tion) was en­dorsed by the US reg­u­la­tor.

In March, AM­AG $AM­AG re­vealed the ther­a­py had fiz­zled in the 1,700-pa­tient post-ap­proval PRO­LONG study — blam­ing the fail­ure on the fact that 75% of the pa­tients en­rolled were not from the Unit­ed States, sug­gest­ing that the dif­fer­ence in de­mo­graph­ics had played a role in the set­back.

Back when the FDA orig­i­nal­ly ap­proved Mak­e­na, the agency was “pre­sent­ed with a very dif­fi­cult choice: ac­cept fair­ly lim­it­ed clin­i­cal da­ta (al­beit via spon­sor­ship from the NIH) or con­tin­ue to al­low preg­nant women to re­ceive an in­jec­tion from un­reg­u­lat­ed sources. The Agency clear­ly ac­cept­ed the lim­it­ed clin­i­cal da­ta and grant­ed ap­proval for Mak­e­na as we be­lieve (and spec­u­late) that the true goal was to bring the man­u­fac­tur­ing un­der FDA com­pli­ance,” Cowen’s Ken Cac­cia­tore wrote in a note.

“For these rea­sons, we do not be­lieve that the Agency would now rel­e­gate clin­i­cians and pa­tients to once again sourc­ing this crit­i­cal care prod­uct from un­ap­proved man­u­fac­tur­ing sources.”

As part of its sec­ond-quar­ter re­sults un­veiled in Au­gust, AM­AG said that gener­ic com­pe­ti­tion for Mak­e­na was eat­ing in­to sales, that it had faced sup­ply con­straints re­lat­ing to the prod­uct, that it had de­cid­ed to ex­it the in­tra­mus­cu­lar Mak­e­na mar­ket, and that it had ter­mi­nat­ed an arrange­ment with Pras­co, its au­tho­rized gener­ic part­ner.

Mean­while, AM­AG is bat­tling on oth­er fronts. On Mon­day, the com­pa­ny put out a state­ment ad­mon­ish­ing the ac­tivist hedge fund Cali­gan Part­ners, which has been ac­cu­mu­lat­ing its shares.

“(L)ast month Cali­gan ini­ti­at­ed what ap­pears to be a rushed, ag­gres­sive and mis­lead­ing scheme to seize near con­trol of your AM­AG Board. Now you are es­sen­tial­ly be­ing asked by Cali­gan — as part of a rarely used cor­po­rate ac­tion called a con­sent so­lic­i­ta­tion — to re­move and re­place four mem­bers of the re­cent­ly-re­elect­ed Board as a pre­cur­sor to risky and ill-in­formed changes that Cali­gan wants to make at AM­AG,” the com­pa­ny wrote in a let­ter to share­hold­ers, urg­ing them to dis­re­gard Cali­gan’s cam­paign.

Last month, the com­pa­ny low­ered its full-year fi­nan­cial guid­ance af­ter ex­it­ing the Mak­e­na in­tra­mus­cu­lar mar­ket and re­vis­ing its ex­pec­ta­tions of cira­paran­tag de­vel­op­ment mile­stone rev­enue. Now, the drug­mak­er ex­pects $325 – $355 mil­lion in rev­enue, ver­sus its pre­vi­ous range of $365 – $415 mil­lion.

So­cial im­age: Wes­t­i­form

At the In­flec­tion Point for the Next Gen­er­a­tion of Can­cer Im­munother­a­py

While oncology researchers have long pursued the potential of cellular immunotherapies for the treatment of cancer, it was unclear whether these therapies would ever reach patients due to the complexity of manufacturing and costs of development. Fortunately, the recent successful development and regulatory approval of chimeric antigen receptor-engineered T (CAR-T) cells have demonstrated the significant benefit of these therapies to patients.

All about Omi­cron; We need more Covid an­tivi­rals; GSK snags Pfiz­er’s vac­cine ex­ec; Janet Wood­cock’s fu­ture at FDA; 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.

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Pfiz­er, Am­gen and Janssen seek fur­ther clar­i­ty on FDA's new ben­e­fit-risk guid­ance

Three top biopharma companies are seeking more details from the FDA on how the agency conducts its benefit-risk assessments for new drugs and biologics.

While Pfizer, Amgen and Janssen praised the agency for further spelling out its thinking on the subject in a new draft guidance, including a discussion of patient experience data as part of the assessment, the companies said the FDA could’ve included more specifics in the 20-page draft document.

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Janet Woodcock (AP Images)

Janet Wood­cock plots her fu­ture at FDA, with se­nior ad­vi­sor role to fall back on if Califf wins con­fir­ma­tion

Acting FDA commissioner Janet Woodcock has been the face of just about every drug approval decision at the agency since the turn of the century. Since the pandemic began, she’s moved between the top of the drugs center to the head of therapeutics at Operation Warp Speed, leading the drive for work on Covid-targeted mAbs and antivirals.

Looking forward — and pending a quick Senate confirmation to cement Rob Califf’s return to the top of FDA early next year — Woodcock’s role at the agency will again be in flux.

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Richard Pazdur (via AACR)

Ac­cel­er­at­ed ap­proval re­forms need mean­ing­ful con­fir­ma­to­ry tri­al im­prove­ments, pro­fes­sors write in Sci­ence

Outside of Covid-19, 2021 has been the year of the accelerated approval.

Beginning last spring, FDA openly challenged six “dangling” accelerated approvals (hadn’t confirmed their clinical benefit yet), three of which were later pulled by the companies.

Then in June, FDA pulled out the accelerated approval pathway, seemingly out of nowhere, to sign off on Biogen’s controversial Alzheimer’s drug Aduhelm. It hadn’t even been mentioned at the drug’s adcomm.

Usama Malik

Ex-Im­munomedics CFO charged with in­sid­er trad­ing, faces up to 20 years in prison af­ter al­leged­ly tip­ping off girl­friend and rel­a­tives of a PhI­II suc­cess

The former CFO of Immunomedics, who helped steer the company to its $21 billion buyout by Gilead last year, has been charged with insider trading, the Department of Justice announced Thursday.

Usama Malik tipped off his then-girlfriend and four others that a Phase III study for Trodelvy would be stopped early four days before Immunomedics publicly announced the result in April 2020, DoJ alleged in its complaint. The individuals then purchased Immunomedics shares, selling them after the news broke and Immunomedics’ stock price doubled.

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Merck's new antiviral molnupiravir (Quality Stock Arts / Shutterstock)

As Omi­cron spread looms, oral an­tivi­rals ap­pear to be one of the best de­fens­es — now we just need more

After South African scientists reported a new Covid-19 variant — dubbed Omicron by the WHO — scientists became concerned about how effective vaccines and monoclonal antibodies might be against it, which has more than 30 mutations in the spike protein.

“I think it is super worrisome,” Dartmouth professor and Adagio co-founder and CEO Tillman Gerngross told Endpoints News this weekend. Moderna CEO Stéphane Bancel echoed similar concerns, telling the Financial Times that experts warned him, “This is not going to be good.”

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Ab­b­Vie tacks on a new warn­ing to Rin­voq la­bel as safe­ty frets crimp JAK class

The safety problems that continue to plague the JAK class as new data highlight some severe side effects are casting a large shadow over AbbVie’s Rinvoq.

As a result of a recent readout highlighting major adverse cardiac events (MACE), malignancy, mortality and thrombosis with Xeljanz a couple of months ago, AbbVie put out a notice late Friday afternoon that it is adding the new class risks to its label for their rival drug.

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Biospec­i­men M&A: Dis­cov­ery ac­quires Al­bert Li's he­pa­to­cyte project; PhI­II tri­al on Bay­er's Nube­qa reached pri­ma­ry end­point

Discovery Life Sciences has acquired what claims to be the Maryland-based host of the world’s largest hepatocyte inventory, known as IVAL, to help researchers select more effective and safer drug candidates in the future.

The combined companies will now serve a wider range of drug research and development scientists, according to Albert Li, who founded IVAL in 2004 and is set to join the Discovery leadership team as the CSO of pharmacology and toxicology.