Gilead boasts of pos­i­tive remde­sivir da­ta on mor­tal­i­ty — but their analy­sis pro­vokes the skep­tics

Gilead is surg­ing again off da­ta that sug­gest its an­tivi­ral remde­sivir might im­prove sur­vival.

The new da­ta come from an analy­sis Gilead con­duct­ed com­par­ing the death rate and re­cov­ery time of pa­tients in one of its remde­sivir tri­als to a group of 800 pa­tients “with sim­i­lar base­line char­ac­ter­is­tics and dis­ease sever­i­ty” who re­ceived on­ly stan­dard-of-care around the same time. The re­sult, they said, sug­gest­ed that pa­tients who re­ceived remde­sivir had a 62% bet­ter chance at sur­viv­ing than those who did not.

Ret­ro­spec­tive looks are more sus­pect than place­bo-con­trolled tri­als, so the da­ta are far from con­clu­sive. But it does add new ev­i­dence to the ques­tion of whether remde­sivir can im­prove mor­tal­i­ty. The NIH tri­al that led the FDA to au­tho­rize remde­sivir for use in Covid-19 pa­tients on­ly showed that remde­sivir could help pa­tients re­cov­er faster. Few­er pa­tients on remde­sivir died in that tri­al than on stan­dard-of-care — 8% vs 11% — but the re­sults were not sig­nif­i­cant.

For­mer FDA chief sci­en­tist Lu­ciana Bo­rio said that da­ta from ob­ser­va­tion­al stud­ies are dif­fi­cult to in­ter­pret, but that the bulk of ev­i­dence points to remde­sivir help­ing pa­tients sur­vive Covid-19. “It is very like­ly that Remde­sivir does in­deed af­ford pa­tients a mor­tal­i­ty ben­e­fit,” she said in an email. “The gold stan­dard RCT con­duct­ed by the NIH demon­strat­ing the clin­i­cal ben­e­fit of Remde­sivir in im­prov­ing time to re­cov­er wasn’t pow­ered to de­tect a dif­fer­ence in mor­tal­i­ty. It doesn’t mean that there wasn’t one”

In a tweet, for­mer FDA chief Scott Got­tlieb called the re­sults “en­cour­ag­ing” but urged that it need­ed to be con­firmed. The com­pa­ny ac­knowl­edged in their press re­lease that a prospec­tive study was need­ed.

Gilead was up 2% pre-mar­ket on the news, from $74.71 to $76.18.

Oth­er an­a­lysts and ex­perts, though, were more skep­ti­cal and in some cas­es en­tire­ly dis­mis­sive. Pe­ter Bach, the di­rec­tor for the cen­ter for health pol­i­cy and out­comes at Memo­r­i­al Sloan Ket­ter­ing Can­cer Cen­ter, said on Twit­ter that com­par­ing tri­al par­tic­i­pants to re­al-world pa­tients on­ly works when doc­tors have a good un­der­stand­ing of the dis­ease, some­thing that isn’t the case with Covid-19.

Baird an­a­lyst Bri­an Sko­r­ney com­pared the study to work from Di­di­er Raoult, the French physi­cian who pub­lished in Feb­ru­ary one of the first tri­als on hy­drox­y­chloro­quine in Covid-19. That study, de­spite gin­ning up sig­nif­i­cant in­ter­est in the drug, was seen as rife with is­sues, in­clud­ing in “los­ing” 6 of the tri­al’s 26 pa­tients “in fol­low-up,” 4 of whom died.

In the study, 312 pa­tients from Gilead’s open-la­bel SIM­PLE tri­al were com­pared to 818 re­al-world pa­tients who had sim­i­lar char­ac­ter­is­tics. Pa­tients who re­ceived remde­sivir had a 7.6% chance of dy­ing, com­pared to 12.6% for those who re­ceived stan­dard-of-care. That trans­lates to 62% im­proved odds of sur­vival — or slight­ly more than dou­ble the 30% im­proved odds the NIH tri­al’s raw num­bers sug­gest­ed.

Sun­Trust an­a­lyst Robyn Kar­nauskas said the sur­vival rates in each tri­al were “com­pa­ra­ble,” while ac­knowl­edg­ing the study was “not an ap­ples-to-ap­ples com­par­i­son.”

The remde­sivir pa­tients in the analy­sis al­so had a 74.4% chance of re­cov­er­ing by day 14, ver­sus 59.9% for stan­dard-of-care.

Not every tri­al, though, has found remde­sivir has a ben­e­fit. On the same day as the NIH read­out, The Lancet pub­lished a study from Chi­na that found remde­sivir im­proved nei­ther mor­tal­i­ty nor oth­er pa­tient met­rics. That study, though, was end­ed ear­ly af­ter the first out­break in Chi­na end­ed.

For hos­pi­tals that can get their hands on it, remde­sivir so far has been one of on­ly two proven treat­ments for Covid-19, along with a gener­ic steroid called dex­am­etha­sone. More an­tivi­rals and neu­tral­iz­ing an­ti­bod­ies, though, are now be­ing stud­ied, hav­ing be­come a grow­ing fo­cus of the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion. If more ther­a­pies prove ef­fec­tive, the new Gilead da­ta could help physi­cians choose the best op­tion.

“While not as vig­or­ous as a ran­dom­ized con­trolled tri­al, this analy­sis im­por­tant­ly draws from a re­al-world set­ting and serves as an im­por­tant ad­junct to clin­i­cal tri­al da­ta, adding to our col­lec­tive un­der­stand­ing of this virus and re­flect­ing the ex­tra­or­di­nary pace of the on­go­ing pan­dem­ic,” in­ves­ti­ga­tor Su­san Olen­der of Co­lum­bia Uni­ver­si­ty Irv­ing Med­ical Cen­ter said in a state­ment.

So­cial: AP Im­ages

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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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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.

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

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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.

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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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RBC's Bri­an Abra­hams holds a mock ad­comm on Bio­gen's iffy ad­u­canum­ab da­ta — and most of these ex­perts don't see a path to an ap­proval

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UP­DAT­ED: Brazil­ian vol­un­teer in As­traZeneca Covid-19 vac­cine tri­al has died in the place­bo arm — re­ports

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David Hung (file photo)

Mas­ter deal­mak­er David Hung re­tools a SPAC sedan in­to a fi­nanc­ing mus­cle ve­hi­cle that leaves his can­cer start­up with $850M and a place on Wall Street

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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

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