Heart at­tack while on Repatha? Am­gen will give you your mon­ey back

Wash­ing­ton, DC —Am­gen has over­come one of the tough­est chal­lenges in car­dio re­search, out­lin­ing a clear health ben­e­fit for its PC­SK9 cho­les­terol drug Repatha. But be­fore pay­ers get a chance to gnaw at the num­bers be­ing put on dis­play to­day, look­ing for holes or find­ing fault with the lev­el of ben­e­fit, the phar­ma gi­ant wants to send them a sim­ple mes­sage: it’s ready to of­fer a ne­go­ti­at­ed truce to get them to drop their de­fens­es and pull out of the trench­es.

Af­ter find­ing ac­cess to Repatha blocked and locked by blan­ket pay­er re­jec­tions, cor­ralling this drug far from the main­stream, Am­gen $AMGN wants to par­lay.

If pay­ers will just con­sid­er the ben­e­fits Am­gen is demon­strat­ing to­day and take down their elab­o­rate bar­ri­ers, com­pa­ny ex­ecs say they are not on­ly will­ing to of­fer a re­fund when the drug fails, they’ll al­so ne­go­ti­ate an­nu­al pay­ment caps and risk shar­ing deals with in­sur­ers so pay­ers can be sure to keep con­trol of their bud­gets.

Sean Harp­er, EVP Re­search and De­vel­op­ment

Drug re­funds have be­gun to make their way in­to the sys­tem, but they’re still rare enough to make this a stand­out pro­pos­al for a man­u­fac­tur­er try­ing to es­tab­lish a big drug.

“We will work with pay­ers if they’re will­ing to just stop block­ing pa­tients from get­ting the drug,” Sean Harp­er, head of R&D at Am­gen, tells me.

Harp­er and his team showed up at Amer­i­can Col­lege of Car­di­ol­o­gy con­fer­ence in Wash­ing­ton DC on Fri­day to lay their case out with some pi­o­neer­ing da­ta. Study­ing this drug in 27,564 pa­tients over two years, re­searchers say, Repatha was able to low­er a com­pos­ite of car­dio risks by an av­er­age of 20%. And the im­prove­ment in­creased with time, grow­ing from a 16% risk ad­van­tage in year one to 25% af­ter 12 months.

That’s large enough to hit key end­points, but it’s al­so small enough to leave many an­a­lysts won­der­ing if this drug can ever make it to big block­buster sta­tus, which Am­gen is cer­tain it de­serves.

Break­ing down the da­ta, which every­one will do, re­searchers not­ed a 27% re­duc­tion in the risk of heart at­tacks, a 21% risk re­duc­tion for stroke and a 22% re­duc­tion on coro­nary revas­cu­lar­iza­tion. But sig­nif­i­cant­ly there was no im­pact on mor­tal­i­ty or un­sta­ble angi­na.

This was the first time that a tri­al has shown a clear car­dio ben­e­fit from PC­SK9 in­hi­bi­tion.

Sums up Harp­er: “This is huge that we can do this.”

In­vestors, though, were clear­ly not im­pressed. Am­gen’s shares were down 6% af­ter the head­lines hit. And this Tweet should give you a fla­vor for what’s dri­ving the skep­ti­cism:

Umer Raf­fat at Ever­cor­eISI not­ed that most of in­vestors were look­ing for a mor­tal­i­ty ben­e­fit and were clear­ly dis­ap­point­ed in not see­ing one. Am­gen’s bull­ish­ness on the da­ta ahead of the de­tails al­so in­flat­ed ex­pec­ta­tions. And the same bit­ter taste al­so ex­tend­ed to the rest of the play­ers in the field, in­clud­ing Re­gen­eron $REGN and Sanofi $SNY, which both got hit, as well as The Med­i­cines Com­pa­ny {$MD­CO -20%} which has a next-gen ther­a­py in the clin­ic it’s been see­ing suc­cess with.

Baird’s Bri­an Sko­r­ney called it a let down. He added:

The pri­ma­ry end­point just hit stat sig with a HR of 0.85 (be­low ex­pec­ta­tions), while the MACE sec­ondary end­point saw a 20% risk re­duc­tion (in-line). Even more dis­ap­point­ing, CV death failed to sep­a­rate from place­bo. Though we do think that to­day’s da­ta is ev­i­dence that PC­SK9 in­hi­bi­tion works, the ben­e­fit isn’t as pro­found as in­vestors were look­ing for and pay­ers are like­ly to lever­age this dis­ap­point­ment.

Am­gen has bet big on Repatha, bankrolling sev­er­al huge stud­ies to demon­strate the drug’s abil­i­ty to dra­mat­i­cal­ly slash LDL lev­els, which its in­ves­ti­ga­tors say is clear­ly a tox­in. Now it has a win on car­dio out­comes to make its point to physi­cians and a large po­ten­tial pa­tient pop­u­la­tion. But the tri­al suc­cess is not big enough by it­self to get pay­ers to stop re­ject­ing pre­scrip­tions “over and over and over again,” as Harp­er de­scribes the treat­ment to date.

Joshua J. Of­man, Am­gen

“The process on uti­liza­tion man­age­ment has been bro­ken,” says Am­gen val­ue man­age­ment chief Joshua J. Of­man. Ever since 2013’s in­tro­duc­tion of So­val­di pay­ers have been up­ping their game, fig­ur­ing out new ways to stop their mem­bers from get­ting ac­cess to new drugs like this. And in Repatha’s case, pay­ers are in over­drive, forc­ing physi­cians to go back and file over and over again.

The num­bers Am­gen is re­port­ing to­day are al­so be­ing pitched as far more con­ser­v­a­tive than what pa­tients see in the re­al world. All the pa­tients in the study got the best stan­dard of care, which is some­thing you won’t see in the re­al world. And Am­gen is hap­py to ne­go­ti­ate its next round of con­tracts based on re­al-world ex­pec­ta­tions.

So now Am­gen says they’ll guar­an­tee a low­er risk of heart at­tack and re­fund the cost of the drug for any pa­tient who has a heart at­tack. They’ll still come out well ahead if they can reach the at-risk pop­u­la­tion whose LDL lev­els can­not be con­trolled by cheap statins.

Am­gen’s full court press on Repatha has in­clud­ed a co­or­di­nat­ed at­tack on its big ri­val Pralu­ent from Re­gen­eron and Sanofi. At one point re­cent­ly a judge’s rul­ing threat­ened to push the com­pet­ing drug off the mar­ket as Am­gen — a ma­jor league lit­i­ga­tor — pressed its ar­gu­ment that Pralu­ent vi­o­lat­ed its PC­SK9 patents. But the part­ners man­aged to block that, for now.

Next up: Car­dio da­ta from Re­gen­eron and Sanofi. So far, these drugs have ap­peared very sim­i­lar, and it wouldn’t sur­prise many ob­servers if their com­peti­tor comes on around the same score. But every da­ta point will get care­ful scruti­ny as the gi­ants block and tack­le in search of every small ad­van­tage, while hop­ing to achieve a break­through on mar­ket­ing that can fi­nal­ly gen­er­ate some big num­bers.

So far, it’s not look­ing good.

Jake Van Naarden, Josh Bilenker, Nisha Nanda (Credit: Loxo, Aisling Capital)

Josh Bilenker and his Loxo crew are tak­ing the reins on on­col­o­gy R&D at Eli Lil­ly, culling the weak and map­ping a new path

Josh Bilenker, Jake Van Naarden and Nisha Nanda came out of Eli Lilly’s $8 billion Loxo Oncology buyout with a bundle of cash and plenty of choices on what they could do next. Start a new company, go public. Live on the beach in 5-star luxury. Contemplate the stars — in their own observatory.

So what are they doing?

They formed a new executive team that is taking over the management of Eli Lilly’s hundreds-strong oncology R&D group — essentially using Loxo as a base for a bold new experiment in Big Pharma R&D in an attempt to create a true biotech environment with the deep pockets of a top-15 industry player. They’ve recruited David Hyman from Memorial Sloan Kettering to join the team as chief medical officer. And the mandate includes culling out the oncology pipeline, highlighting their star prospects and going after new programs wherever they can find the best prospects.

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J&J team shows off 'break­through' BC­MA CAR-T da­ta, and that could cause a big headache at blue­bird and Bris­tol-My­ers

Just hours after J&J’s oncology team bragged about scoring a breakthrough therapy designation for their BCMA CAR-T drug, they pulled the wraps off of the multiple myeloma data for JNJ-4528 that impressed the FDA. And it’s easy to see why they may well be on a short path to a landmark approval — which may well be making the rival team at bluebird/Bristol-Myers more than a little nervous.

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J&J's Mathai Mammen at an Endpoints News event in Boston, June 2018 (Photo: Rob Tannenbaum for Endpoints News)

J&J fronts $750M cash to grab a failed can­cer drug that’s been re­pur­posed as a pow­er­ful an­ti-in­flam­ma­to­ry

J&J has stepped up with one of its blockbuster drug buys, agreeing to pay Austin-based XBiotech $XBIT $750 million in cash and up to $600 million more in milestones for their late stage-ready anti-inflammatory drug bermekimab — which some longtime biotech observers may recognize as a failed cancer therapy with a disaster-prone past.

The drug targets the IL-1a pathway. J&J $JNJ R&D chief Mathai Mammen is cutting a check for a drug that has produced positive mid-stage data in patients suffering from a skin condition called hidradenitis suppurativa with another mid-stage program underway for atopic dermatitis.

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One of Wall Street’s most high-pro­file hedge funds push­es Alex­ion's CEO to the auc­tion block — and he's not budg­ing

Fresh off buying Barnes & Noble and prodding AT&T with some heavy-handed criticism after picking up a $3.2 billion stake in the company, the activist — and supremely high profile — hedge fund Elliott Management has stepped up with some M&A advice for Alexion’s management team.
And the execs on the team $ALXN are giving them a polite — but very firm — stiff arm Friday morning.
In a release out early Friday, the big biotech said that the Elliott team had been in touch to encourage them to sell the company. But that’s not on the agenda.

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Un­lock the full End­points ex­pe­ri­ence for your com­pa­ny — and sup­port our mis­sion of in­de­pen­dent bio­phar­ma re­port­ing

I want to give readers a quick update on the most important part of our business model — premium subscriptions. We have some crucial financial goals we hope to achieve by the end of the year, and the team here in Lawrence is ready to ship some swag to kick off this limited December promotion.

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Jasper Ther­a­peu­tics launch­es out of Stan­ford with new ap­proach to stem cell treat­ment

The first girl in the trial came in with chronic diarrhea and the immune system of an untreated HIV patient. Born with a rare genetic disease that impeded her ability to make B and T cells, she had once been given a stem cell transplant but it didn’t take.  Back in the hospital, she was injected with a new experimental antibody and then given a new stem cell transplant. Soon, she gained weight. The diarrhea stopped.

Ex-Cel­gene ex­ec Ter­rie Cur­ran puts her Phath­om team in place; Car­away taps Mar­tin Williams as CEO

→ Gastrointestinal disease-focused Phathom Pharmaceuticals has shaken up its leadership team. The company has tapped former Celgene exec Terrie Curran as CEO, succeeding David Socks, who is transitioning to interim CFO. Curran was president of Celgene’s global inflammation and immunology franchise — helping with the sale of Otezla for $13.4 billion to Amgen — and has held a previous stint at Merck. In addition to Curran, the company also welcomed former Omeros CMO Eckhard Leifke as CMO, ex-Celgene exec Joseph Hand as chief administrative officer, and former general counsel for Cyclerion Therapeutics Larry Miller as general counsel. They also replaced Chris Slavinsky on the board with Takeda exec Asit Parikh.

UCB buffs up in block­buster pso­ri­a­sis race as bimek­izum­ab beats Hu­mi­ra in head-to-head

Just weeks after boasting head-to-head victories over first placebo and then J&J’s IL-23 contender Stelara in clearing psoriasis, the results are in for UCB’s last Phase III trial, in which bimekizumab went up against the world’s best-selling drug.

Only topline results are provided for today’s readout of the BE SURE study, so we won’t find out just how superior bimekizumab proved against Humira on the co-primary endpoints — standard scores known as PASI90 and IGA measuring the impact and severity of the disease — until a scientific conference in 2020.

With EMA re­view in progress, No­var­tis un­veils more pos­i­tive da­ta on asth­ma ther­a­py

Having made its marketing pitch to the EU regulator, Novartis on Thursday unveiled positive pivotal study data supporting the use of its inhaled asthma treatment.

The therapy, QMF149, consists of the long-acting beta-agonist, or LABA, called indacaterol acetate and the corticosteroid mometasone furoate. In the 2,216-patient, 52-week PALLADIUM study, asthma patients either received a medium or high dose of the Novartis therapy (150/160 μg; 150/320 μg) or mometasone furoate (MF) alone.