In a stun­ning set­back, FDA spurns Eli Lil­ly’s mar­ket­ing ap­pli­ca­tion for baric­i­tinib, de­mands more da­ta


The FDA has re­ject­ed Eli Lil­ly’s block­buster con­tender baric­i­tinib, say­ing that the phar­ma gi­ant will need to gath­er sig­nif­i­cant­ly more da­ta be­fore reg­u­la­tors will re­con­sid­er their de­ci­sion.

Ac­cord­ing to a state­ment from Lil­ly, the phar­ma gi­ant will not on­ly need to pro­vide more clin­i­cal da­ta on the ap­pro­pri­ate dos­es to be used for rheuma­toid arthri­tis, reg­u­la­tors are al­so de­mand­ing more safe­ty da­ta, which could sig­nif­i­cant­ly de­lay any re­sponse to the CRL. Lil­ly says it dis­agreed with the FDA’s con­clu­sion and the re­jec­tion.

The kick­back marks a stun­ning set­back for Eli Lil­ly $LLY CEO Dave Ricks, who owes in­vestors a string of promised ap­provals fol­low­ing a long drought in the clin­ic. The phar­ma gi­ant is known for its care­ful, if slow, ap­proach to late-stage de­vel­op­ment. Baric­i­tinib has been tagged as one of the top block­busters in late-stage de­vel­op­ment and an im­por­tant new drug for Lil­ly.

Hervé Hop­penot, In­cyte CEO

The re­jec­tion is al­so a set­back for its biotech part­ner, In­cyte $IN­CY, which li­censed out the drug to Lil­ly 8 years ago for $90 mil­lion up­front. An­a­lysts have pegged this as a po­ten­tial block­buster ca­pa­ble of earn­ing up to $2 bil­lion in peak an­nu­al sales, but that’s an­oth­er num­ber that is like­ly to get a se­ri­ous re­view.

Ever­cor­eISI’s Umer Raf­fat be­lieves this could in­di­cate that the FDA may ul­ti­mate­ly ap­prove a low dose of the drug, which could be­dev­il the de­vel­op­ers’ plans. He not­ed:

We’re wait­ing to hear back from com­pa­ny … but my sum­ma­ry thoughts are along the lines of:  there is a clear de­lay here, but I think they should get ap­proved ul­ti­mate­ly (keep in mind baric­i­tinib ap­proved in Eu­rope now).  How­ev­er, if FDA is re­al­ly fo­cused so much on “ap­pro­pri­ate dose”, I won­der if 2 mg is ul­ti­mate­ly the best dose … and if that’s the case, then it’s not so clear that 2 mg is su­pe­ri­or to Hu­mi­ra (re­call the head to head su­pe­ri­or­i­ty of baric­it­nib vs Hu­mi­ra was us­ing 4 mg dose … and plen­ty of da­ta from oth­er tri­als sug­gest­ing 2 mg has low­er ra­di­ograph­ic pro­gres­sion than 4 mg).

Lil­ly chose to re­lease the news on the morn­ing of Good Fri­day, a bank hol­i­day, de­lay­ing the beat­ing these two com­pa­nies faced. In­vestors, though, weren’t in a bet­ter mood Mon­day morn­ing. Lil­ly’s shares dropped 5.6% while In­cyte’s shares slid 13%.

Lil­ly’s John Lech­leit­er – now chair­man of the board – ini­tial­ly promised in­vestors at least two new drug ap­provals per year be­gin­ning in 2013, but had to de­lay on de­liv­er­ing un­til 2014. The com­pa­ny has al­so had three straight late-stage fail­ures for solanezum­ab in Alzheimer’s dis­ease. But new drugs have been kick­ing in, help­ing Lil­ly to start to grow its num­bers af­ter be­ing pum­meled by gener­ics for years.

I queried a com­pa­ny spokesper­son on whether Lil­ly now ex­pects to keep its promise on sev­er­al new drug ap­provals in 2017. She fol­lowed up by point­ing out that Lil­ly most re­cent­ly promised 20 new ap­provals be­tween 2014 and 2023, and that’s ev­i­dent­ly not re­strict­ed to FDA OKs. Baric­i­tinib al­so gets to count, as it was ap­proved in Eu­rope — as Olu­mi­ant — where it will be sub­ject­ed to a sin­gle-pay­er re­view and sig­nif­i­cant­ly low­er re­im­burse­ments.

That log­ic isn’t like­ly to help with dis­ap­point­ed an­a­lysts.

The re­jec­tion pro­vides Re­gen­eron and its part­ners at Sanofi a chance to over­come its re­cent re­jec­tion on sar­ilum­ab — for man­u­fac­tur­ing rea­sons — and push ahead with a ri­val ther­a­py that many an­a­lysts be­lieve is the odds-on fa­vorite. It al­so marks an­oth­er ad­van­tage for Ab­b­Vie, which has been cir­cling the wag­ons around Hu­mi­ra as it mounts a de­fense against new ther­a­pies bit­ing off pieces of its multi­bil­lion dol­lar fran­chise ther­a­py.

A new re­port from ICER took is­sue with the price for Hu­mi­ra, which it post­ed as a net of $40,415 a year. And ICER pro­vid­ed a thumbs up for baric­i­tinib and sar­ilum­ab. ICER clear­ly prefers sar­ilum­ab on ef­fi­ca­cy — though we don’t know the price — giv­ing on­ly a mar­gin­al stamp of ap­proval to baric­i­tinib.


“We are dis­ap­point­ed with this ac­tion. We re­main con­fi­dent in the ben­e­fit/risk of baric­i­tinib as a new treat­ment op­tion for adults with mod­er­ate-to-se­vere RA,” said Christi Shaw, pres­i­dent of Lil­ly Bio-Med­i­cines. “We will con­tin­ue to work with the FDA to de­ter­mine a path for­ward and ul­ti­mate­ly bring baric­i­tinib to pa­tients in the U.S.”

2023 Spot­light on the Fu­ture of Drug De­vel­op­ment for Small and Mid-Sized Biotechs

In the context of today’s global economic environment, there is an increasing need to work smarter, faster and leaner across all facets of the life sciences industry.  This is particularly true for small and mid-sized biotech companies, many of which are facing declining valuations and competing for increasingly limited funding to propel their science forward.  It is important to recognize that within this framework, many of these smaller companies already find themselves resource-challenged to design and manage clinical studies themselves because they don’t have large teams or in-house experts in navigating the various aspects of the drug development journey. This can be particularly challenging for the most complex and difficult to treat diseases where no previous pathway exists and patients are urgently awaiting breakthroughs.

Albert Bourla, Pfizer CEO (Efren Landaos/Sipa USA/Sipa via AP Images)

Pfiz­er makes an­oth­er bil­lion-dol­lar in­vest­ment in Eu­rope and ex­pands again in Michi­gan

Pfizer is continuing its run of manufacturing site expansions with two new large investments in the US and Europe.

The New York-based pharma giant’s site in Kalamazoo, MI, has seen a lot of attention over the past year. As a major piece of the manufacturing network for Covid-19 vaccines and antivirals, Pfizer is gearing up to place more money into the site. Pfizer announced it will place $750 million into the facility, mainly to establish “modular aseptic processing” (MAP) production and create around 300 jobs at the site.

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Vas Narasimhan, Novartis CEO (Thibault Camus/AP Images, Pool)

No­var­tis bol­sters Plu­vic­to's case in prostate can­cer with PhI­II re­sults

The prognosis is poor for metastatic castration-resistant prostate cancer (mCRPC) patients. Novartis wants to change that by making its recently approved Pluvicto available to patients earlier in their course of treatment.

The Swiss pharma giant unveiled Phase III results Monday suggesting that Pluvicto was able to halt disease progression in certain prostate cancer patients when administered after androgen-receptor pathway inhibitor (ARPI) therapy, but without prior taxane-based chemotherapy. The drug is currently approved for patients after they’ve received both ARPI and chemo.

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Up­dat­ed: FDA re­mains silent on or­phan drug ex­clu­siv­i­ty af­ter last year's court loss

Since losing a controversial court case over orphan drug exclusivity last year, the FDA’s Office of Orphan Products Development has remained entirely silent on orphan exclusivity for any product approved since last November, leaving many sponsors in limbo on what to expect.

That silence means that for more than 70 orphan-designated indications for more than 60 products, OOPD has issued no public determination on the seven-year orphan exclusivity in the Orange Book, and no new listings of orphan exclusivity appear in OOPD’s searchable database, as highlighted recently by George O’Brien, a partner in Mayer Brown’s Washington, DC office.

Yuling Li, Innoforce CEO

In­no­force opens new man­u­fac­tur­ing site in Chi­na

Innoforce is off to the races at its new site in the city of Hangzhou, China.

The Chinese CDMO announced last week that it has started manufacturing at the new facility, which was built to offer process development and manufacturing operations for RNA, plasmid DNA, viral vectors and other cell therapeutics. It will also serve as Innoforce’s corporate HQ.

The company said it’s investing more than $200 million in the 550,000-square-foot manufacturing base for advanced therapies. The GMP manufacturing facility features space for producing plasmids with three 30-liter bioreactors. For viral vector manufacturing, Innoforce also has 200- and 500-liter bioreactors at its disposal, along with eight suites to make cell therapies. The site also includes several labs and warehouse spaces.

FDA grants or­phan drug des­ig­na­tion to Al­ger­non's ifen­prodil, while ex­clu­siv­i­ty re­mains un­clear

As the FDA remains silent on orphan drug exclusivity in the wake of a controversial court case, the agency continues to hand out new designations. The latest: Algernon Pharmaceuticals’ experimental lung disease drug ifenprodil.

The Vancouver-based company announced on Monday that ifenprodil received orphan designation in idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF), a chronic lung condition that results in scarring of the lungs.  Most IPF patients suffer with a dry cough, and breathing can become difficult.

‘Catchy’ de­sign tops big ad buys on­line for grab­bing on­col­o­gists’ at­ten­tion — sur­vey

The cancer drug ads that get oncologists’ attention online are informative and use clear, eye-catching designs. That’s ZoomRx’s assessment in its most recent tracking survey, and while not necessarily surprising, the details in the research do break a few common misconceptions.

One of those is frequency, also known as the number of impressions an ad gets. No matter how many times oncologists saw a particular cancer drug ad, effectiveness prevailed in the survey across five drug brands. ZoomRx measured effectiveness as a combination of most attention-getting, relevant information and improved perception as reported by the doctors.

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Tim Walbert, Horizon Therapeutics CEO (via YouTube)

And then there were two: Janssen bows out of Hori­zon takeover ne­go­ti­a­tions

Horizon Therapeutics announced last week that it was in talks with three pharmaceutical giants that could take over the company. You can now remove one of them from the equation.

J&J’s Janssen, after Horizon reported its initial involvement in early discussions to acquire the rare disease biotech, issued a statement Saturday that said Janssen “does not intend to make an offer for Horizon,” and that Janssen is bound by restrictions set in Rule 2.8 of the Irish Takeover Rules. These rules are in place for any company interested in taking over Irish companies, with Horizon Therapeutics currently based in Dublin.

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Rick Modi, Affinia Therapeutics CEO

Ver­tex-part­nered gene ther­a­py biotech Affinia scraps IPO plans

Affinia Therapeutics has ditched its plans to go public in a relatively closed-door market that has not favored Nasdaq debuts for the drug development industry most of this year. A pandemic surge in 2020 and 2021 opened the doors for many preclinical startups, which caught Affinia’s attention and gave the gene therapy biotech confidence in the beginning days of 2022 to send in its S-1.

But on Friday, Affinia threw in the S-1 towel and concluded now is not the time to step onto Wall Street. The biotech has put out few public announcements since the spring of this year. Endpoints News picked the startup as one of its 11 biotechs to watch last year.

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