FDA busts Mer­ck­'s Keytru­da in triple-neg­a­tive breast can­cer with a CRL — not un­ex­pect­ed giv­en its dis­as­trous ad­comm

Mer­ck and the FDA have en­gaged in a high-noon stand­off over check­point in­hibitor Keytru­da in triple-neg­a­tive breast can­cer af­ter the agency round­ly panned its re­sults in high-risk pa­tients. Now, with a de­ci­sive ad­comm sup­port­ing its crit­i­cisms, the FDA has shown Keytru­da the door in that in­di­ca­tion.

The FDA slapped Keytru­da with a CRL in high-risk triple-neg­a­tive breast can­cer af­ter the agency’s On­co­log­ic Drugs Ad­vi­so­ry Com­mit­tee hand­ed out a rather gen­tle slap­down on the I/O drug’s ap­pli­ca­tion last month, Mer­ck said Mon­day.

Keytru­da’s chances as monother­a­py af­ter a reg­i­men of Keytru­da and chemo and surgery in triple-neg­a­tive breast can­cer were al­ways a long­shot af­ter the FDA of­fered a sting­ing re­buke of the drug’s piv­otal dataset, which it called “ques­tion­able” giv­en im­ma­ture OS da­ta and some wishy-washy ef­fi­ca­cy num­bers, ac­cord­ing to ODAC brief­ing doc­u­ments at the time.

What re­al­ly riled up the agency, how­ev­er, was that they ex­plic­it­ly asked Mer­ck not to sub­mit for ap­proval af­ter ex­press­ing their con­cerns with the ma­tu­ri­ty of the dataset af­ter mul­ti­ple meet­ings. The CRL doesn’t af­fect Keytru­da’s ap­proval as a com­bi­na­tion ther­a­py with chemo in lo­cal­ly ad­vanced, PD-1 ex­press­ing TNBC tu­mors that are metasta­t­ic or can­not be sur­gi­cal­ly re­moved.

The ba­sis for Mer­ck’s sub­mis­sion was KEYNOTE-522, which test­ed Keytru­da as a post-sur­gi­cal monother­a­py fol­low­ing a com­bo of Keytru­da and plat­inum-based chemother­a­py. The study’s event-free sur­vival pri­ma­ry end­point over place­bo was too im­ma­ture to judge — a quick red flag — as re­searchers hadn’t watched pa­tients long enough af­ter treat­ment to de­ter­mine EFS and OS. At the time of third check-in, just 53% of tar­get­ed EFS events had oc­curred and 32% of OS events.

The agency al­so pushed back on the study’s pCR co-pri­ma­ry end­point, which Keytru­da hit, call­ing ef­fi­ca­cy over place­bo “small.”

The 10-0 ODAC vote, how­ev­er, wasn’t a nail in the cof­fin. The ad­vi­so­ry com­mit­tee ad­vo­cat­ed wait­ing out fi­nal safe­ty fig­ures, and Mer­ck said an­oth­er in­ter­im look-in on the KEYNOTE-522 da­ta was com­ing up in the third quar­ter.

Does any of that “wait-and-see” men­tal­i­ty mean the FDA will change its mind and wel­come Keytru­da back in these pa­tients? That’s un­clear. But a win on EFS and OS could be enough to swing a vote giv­en the FDA’s re­cent his­to­ry of re­ward­ing drugs that don’t hit the pri­ma­ry end­point in piv­otal stud­ies. Call­ing an ad­comm on da­ta it seemed nev­er like­ly to ap­prove, how­ev­er, looked a lot like the FDA and OCE di­rec­tor Richard Paz­dur pub­licly putting an overzeal­ous drug­mak­er in the penal­ty box.

Mer­ck, for its part, found the drug’s in­ter­im sur­vival da­ta to show a “strong and durable” trend, the drug­mak­er said in Feb­ru­ary.

Ed­i­tor’s Note: This sto­ry has been up­dat­ed to clar­i­fy de­tails of KEYNOTE-522’s de­sign.

Has the mo­ment fi­nal­ly ar­rived for val­ue-based health­care?

RBC Capital Markets’ Healthcare Technology Analyst, Sean Dodge, spotlights a new breed of tech-enabled providers who are rapidly transforming the way clinicians deliver healthcare, and explores the key question: can this accelerating revolution overturn the US healthcare system?

Key points

Tech-enabled healthcare providers are poised to help the US transition to value, not volume, as the basis for reward.
The move to value-based care has policy momentum, but is risky and complex for clinicians.
Outsourced tech specialists are emerging to provide the required expertise, while healthcare and tech are also converging through M&A.
Value-based care remains in its early stages, but the transition is accelerating and represents a huge addressable market.

No­vo Nordisk re­mains un­der UK scruti­ny as MHRA con­ducts its own re­view in 'in­cred­i­bly rare' case

The UK’s Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency is now reviewing Novo Nordisk’s marketing violation that resulted in its loss of UK trade group membership last week. Novo Nordisk was suspended on Thursday from the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry (ABPI) for two years after an investigation by its regulatory arm found the pharma broke its conduct rules.

MHRA said on Tuesday that its review of the Prescription Medicines Code of Practice Authority (PMCPA) investigation is standard practice. An MHRA spokesperson emphasized in an email to Endpoints News that the situation with Novo Nordisk is “incredibly rare” while also noting ABPI took “swift and proportionate action.”

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FDA warns Proc­ter & Gam­ble over NyQuil la­bel's in­gre­di­ent list­ings

The FDA on Tuesday released a warning letter sent earlier this month to the Mason, OH-based site of Procter & Gamble Manufactura, raising questions about the list of ingredients on the label and in the electronic filing.

The warning says that for P&G’s over-the-counter Vicks Nyquil Severe Hot Remedy Cold and Flu Plus Congestion, there’s a “mismatched” list of active ingredients between the labeling and the electronic listing file. The listing file for the active ingredients did not match the active ingredients in the electronic file.

FTC says patent bat­tle over Parkin­son's drug could have 'sig­nif­i­cant im­pli­ca­tion­s' for pa­tients

The Federal Trade Commission has gotten involved in a patent feud over Supernus’ Parkinson’s drug Apokyn, a case the agency said may have ‘‘significant implications” for patients who rely on the drug.

Sage Chemical won the first generic approval for its Apokyn formulation (also known as apomorphine hydrochloride injection) back in 2022. The non-ergoline dopamine agonist is approved to treat Parkinson’s symptoms during “off episodes,” such as difficulty moving, tremors and intense cramping. However, regulators specified that the approval pertained to the generic drug cartridges only, not the injector pen required for administration.

FDA in­di­cates will­ing­ness to ap­prove Bio­gen ALS drug de­spite failed PhI­II study

Ahead of Wednesday’s advisory committee hearing to discuss Biogen’s ALS drug tofersen, the FDA appeared open to approving the drug, newly released briefing documents show.

Citing the need for flexibility in a devastating disease like ALS, regulators signaled a willingness to consider greenlighting tofersen based on its effect on a certain protein associated with ALS despite a failed pivotal trial. The documents come after regulatory flexibility was part of the same rationale the agency expressed when approving an ALS drug last September from Amylyx Pharmaceuticals, indicating the FDA’s openness to approving new treatments for the disease.

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Growth hor­mone from No­vo Nordisk is in short­age over man­u­fac­tur­ing de­lays

Novo Nordisk’s growth hormone Norditropin is in shortage because of manufacturing delays, according to an FDA site that tracks drug shortages as well as the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists’ shortages list.

The FDA has shortages of the drug listed for its 5, 10, 15 and 30 mg doses, while the pharmacists’ group, also known as ASHP, reported shortages of the same doses, except for the 15 mg version.

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PhRMA calls for more di­verse in­fra­struc­ture up­grades to US emer­gency tri­als frame­work

The White House’s Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) last year sought to find ways to better coordinate large-scale clinical trials in the US — as the UK lead by example during the pandemic — especially for these emergency clinical trials.

The lobbying group PhRMA Tuesday called for more clinical trial diversity in underserved areas, including by making participation less of a burden, and expanding eligibility criteria when appropriate.

Mar­ket­ingRx roundup: What could a US Tik­Tok ban mean for phar­ma? Pfiz­er, Lil­ly lead phar­ma March Mad­ness ad­ver­tis­ers

Just as pharma marketers finally make moves into TikTok, the threat of a US ban on the social media channel is now looming. Already banned on federal employee phones by an initial Congressional act, more bills and maybe bans are on the way. With rare bipartisan agreement, lawmakers have introduced legislation that would give the US president the power to ban TikTok (although not mentioned by name) and other foreign-owned technology platforms that represent a security threat to the US.

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Chat­G­PT with phar­ma da­ta de­buts for med­ical meet­ings, be­gin­ning with AACR

What do you get when you combine ChatGPT generative AI technology with specific pharma and clinical datasets? A time-saving tool that can answer questions about medical conference abstracts and clinical findings in seconds in one new application from ZoomRx called FermaGPT.

ZoomRx is debuting a public version of its generative AI product specifically for medical conferences beginning this week for the upcoming American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) annual meeting that runs April 14-19.

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