Five US states agree to sus­pend lit­i­ga­tion against bank­rupt opi­oid mak­er In­sys — re­port

While fil­ing for bank­rupt­cy last month, con­tro­ver­sial drug­mak­er In­sys sought an in­junc­tion against law­suits al­leg­ing the com­pa­ny stoked the opi­oid cri­sis. Five states have now re­port­ed­ly dropped their ob­jec­tions to that re­quest, and agreed to fa­cil­i­tate set­tle­ment talks.

John Kapoor In­sys

In­sys’ $IN­SY bank­rupt­cy fil­ing came days af­ter the com­pa­ny agreed to pay $225 mil­lion to set­tle the US gov­ern­ment’s sep­a­rate crim­i­nal and civ­il in­ves­ti­ga­tions re­lat­ed to its 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.

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.”

Al­though fil­ing for Chap­ter 11 typ­i­cal­ly freezes ac­tive lit­i­ga­tion against a firm while it re­or­ga­nizes, a caveat al­lows law­suits to pro­ceed in cer­tain cas­es. Ac­cord­ing to a re­port by Reuters, Mary­land, Min­neso­ta, New York, New Jer­sey and Ari­zona coun­tered In­sys’ bid on the ba­sis of that ex­cep­tion.

Kevin Gross Fed­er­al Bar As­so­ci­a­tion

How­ev­er, at a hear­ing on Tues­day a lawyer for In­sys told the US Bank­rupt­cy Judge, Kevin Gross, that the five states, in ad­di­tion to North Car­oli­na, had “agreed to stay their cas­es in or­der to sup­port a set­tle­ment ne­go­ti­a­tion pro­to­col,” Reuters re­port­ed.

“(T)he States un­der­stand that they are on­ly go­ing to be paid in lit­tle bank­rupt­cy dol­lars. For this rea­son they are will­ing to agree to a fix the claim and not waste time and re­sources to fight for a claim of which they will on­ly re­ceive a small per­cent­age pay­ment,” Er­ic Sny­der of NYC-based law firm Wilk Aus­lan­der told End­points News.

Oth­er cities and coun­ties pur­su­ing sim­i­lar cas­es against In­sys are not part of the deal, nor are sev­er­al states that had al­ready agreed to put their law­suits on hold, the re­port added.

Er­ic Sny­der Wilk Aus­lan­der

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.

The In­sys mo­tion could have in­flu­enced whether Pur­due — which it­self is fac­ing thou­sands of law­suits — de­cides to file for bank­rupt­cy pro­tec­tion, Reuters said, cit­ing a source and le­gal ex­perts.

If these types of ne­go­ti­a­tions are suc­cess­ful, there is lit­tle doubt Pur­due will file bank­rupt­cy and take the same route, said Sny­der, who serves as chair­man of his firm’s bank­rupt­cy de­part­ment. “(T)he sit­u­a­tion is daunt­ing with thou­sands of law­suits on the fed­er­al, state and pri­vate lev­el. So, the process of even iden­ti­fy­ing and fix­ing the claims will take years.”

So­cial im­age: John Kapoor. Steven Senne, AP

It’s fi­nal­ly over: Bio­gen, Ei­sai scrap big Alzheimer’s PhI­I­Is af­ter a pre­dictable BACE cat­a­stro­phe rais­es safe­ty fears

Months after analysts and investors called on Biogen and Eisai to scrap their BACE drug for Alzheimer’s and move on in the wake of a string of late-stage failures and rising safety fears, the partners have called it quits. And they said they were dropping the drug — elenbecestat — after the independent monitoring board raised concerns about…safety.

We don’t know exactly what researchers found in this latest catastrophe, but the companies noted in their release that investigators had determined that the drug was flunking the risk/benefit analysis.

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Lisa M. DeAngelis, MSKCC

MSK picks brain can­cer ex­pert Lisa DeAn­ge­lis as its next CMO — fol­low­ing José Basel­ga’s con­tro­ver­sial ex­it

It’s official. Memorial Sloan Kettering has picked a brain cancer expert as its new physician-in-chief and CMO, replacing José Baselga, who left under a cloud after being singled out by The New York Times and ProPublica for failing to properly air his lucrative industry ties.

His replacement, who now will be in charge of MSK’s cutting-edge research work as well as the cancer care delivered by hundreds of practitioners, is Lisa M. DeAngelis. DeAngelis had been chair of the neurology department and co-founder of MSK’s brain tumor center and was moved in to the acting CMO role in the wake of Baselga’s departure.

Penn team adapts CAR-T tech, reengi­neer­ing mouse cells to treat car­diac fi­bro­sis

After establishing itself as one of the pioneer research centers in the world for CAR-T cancer therapies, creating new attack vehicles to eradicate cancer cells, a team at Penn Medicine has begun the tricky transition of using the basic technology for heart repair work.

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Tal Zaks. Moderna

The mR­NA uni­corn Mod­er­na has more ear­ly-stage hu­man da­ta it wants to show off — reach­ing new peaks in prov­ing the po­ten­tial

The whole messenger RNA field has attracted billions of dollars in public and private investor cash gambled on the prospect of getting in on the ground floor. And this morning Boston-based Moderna, one of the leaders in the field, wants to show off a few more of the cards it has to play to prove to you that they’re really in the game.

The whole hand, of course, has yet to be dealt. And there’s no telling who gets to walk with a share of the pot. But any cards on display at this point — especially after being accused of keeping its deck under lock and key — will attract plenty of attention from some very wary, and wired, observers.

“In terms of the complexity and unmet need,” says Tal Zaks, the chief medical officer, “this is peak for what we’ve accomplished.”

Moderna has two Phase I studies it wants to talk about now.

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It's not per­fect, but it's a good start: FDA pan­elists large­ly en­dorse Aim­mune's peanut al­ler­gy ther­a­py

Two days after a fairly benign review from FDA staff, an independent panel of experts largely endorsed the efficacy and safety of Aimmune’s peanut allergy therapy, laying the groundwork for approval with a risk evaluation and mitigation strategy (REMS).

Traditionally, peanut allergies are managed by avoidance, but the threat of accidental exposure cannot be nullified. Some allergists have devised a way to dose patients off-label with peanut protein derived from supermarket products to wean them off their allergies. But the idea behind Aimmune’s product was to standardize the peanut protein, and track the process of desensitization — so when accidental exposure in the real world invariably occurs, patients are less likely to experience a life-threatening allergic reaction.

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Rit­ter bombs fi­nal PhI­II for sole lac­tose in­tol­er­ance drug — shares plum­met

More than two years ago Ritter Pharmaceuticals managed to find enough silver lining in its Phase IIb/III study — after missing the top-line mark — to propel its lactose intolerance toward a confirmatory trial. But as it turned out, the enthusiasm only set the biotech and its investors up to be sorely disappointed.

This time around there’s little left to salvage. Not only did RP-G28 fail to beat placebo in reducing lactose intolerance symptoms, patients in the treatment group actually averaged a smaller improvement. On a composite score measuring symptoms like abdominal pain, cramping, bloating and gas, patients given the drug had a mean reduction of 3.159 while the placebo cohort saw a 3.420 drop on average (one-sided p-value = 0.0106).

Ear­ly snap­shot of Ad­verum's eye gene ther­a­py sparks con­cern about vi­sion loss

An early-stage update on Adverum Biotechnologies’ intravitreal gene therapy has triggered investor concern, after patients with wet age-related macular degeneration (AMD) saw their vision deteriorate, despite signs that the treatment is improving retinal anatomy.

Adverum, on Wednesday, unveiled 24-week data from the OPTIC trial of its experimental therapy, ADVM-022, in six patients who have been administered with one dose of the therapy. On average, patients in the trial had severe disease with an average of 6.2 anti-VEGF injections in the eight months prior to screening and an average annualized injection frequency of 9.3 injections.

Alex Ar­faei trades his an­a­lyst's post for a new role as biotech VC; Sanofi vet heads to Vi­for

Too often, Alex Arfaei arrived too late. 

An analyst at BMO Capital Markets, he’d meet with biotech or pharmaceutical heads for their IPO or secondary funding and his brain, trained on a biology degree and six years at Merck and Endo, would spring with questions: Why this biomarker? Why this design? Why not this endpoint? Not that he could do anything about it. These execs were coming for clinical money; their decisions had been made and finalized long ago.

Arde­lyx bags its first FDA OK for IBS, set­ting up a show­down with Al­ler­gan, Iron­wood

In the first of what it hopes will be a couple of major regulatory milestones for its new drug, Ardelyx has bagged an FDA approval to market Ibsrela (tenapanor) for irritable bowel syndrome.

The drug’s first application will be for IBS with constipation (IBS-C), inhibiting sodium-hydrogen exchanger NHE3 in the GI tract in such a way as to increase bowel movements and decrease abdominal pain. This comes on the heels of two successful Phase III trials.