New drug price con­tro­ver­sy looms as Bio­gen stuns pay­ers with Spin­raza­'s $750K stick­er — an­a­lyst

Ge­of­frey Porges, Leerink

One promi­nent an­a­lyst be­lieves we may soon see a new drug price con­tro­ver­sy erupt, on­ly this one will have noth­ing to do with price goug­ing on an old ther­a­py.

The drug is Spin­raza, the new­ly ap­proved pi­o­neer­ing ther­a­py for rare cas­es of spinal mus­cu­lar at­ro­phy from Bio­gen and its part­ners at Io­n­is. Ear­li­er this week Bio­gen priced the drug at about $750,000 for the first year and half that for each year af­ter, or $1.5 mil­lion over three years.

And a pres­i­den­tial-lev­el Tweet storm may not be far be­hind, says Leerink’s Ge­of­frey Porges. He notes:

“The stick­er-shock pre­sent­ed in the me­dia could turn Spin­raza in­to the So­val­di of rare dis­ease drugs, or the straw that breaks the camel’s back in terms of the US mar­ket’s tol­er­ance for rare dis­ease drug pric­ing. At the very least, and im­plied in our up­dat­ed mod­el, the price is go­ing to force pay­ers to close­ly scru­ti­nize which pa­tients re­ceive ac­cess and lim­it the over­all ac­cess pro­vid­ed. To us it seems cer­tain that pa­tients who have the less se­vere Type III and IV forms of the dis­ease or who are old­er with rel­a­tive­ly milder symp­toms will find it dif­fi­cult to ob­tain treat­ment.”

The price is sub­stan­tial­ly above what Porges had fore­cast, but it isn’t nec­es­sar­i­ly way out of line, he notes. Oth­er rare dis­ease drugs have a built-in price es­ca­la­tion mod­el as pa­tients start on a drug as in­fants and then in­crease their dosage as they grow old­er. Bio­gen won’t be able to hide any price hike un­der its flat price, and over­all the Spin­raza price won’t be that far off from oth­er rare dis­eases.

In the mean­time, look for Bio­gen to ben­e­fit from a sud­den surge in rev­enue once the new drug be­comes avail­able.

Its in­ter­est­ing to note on our end that drug price con­tro­ver­sies come in sev­er­al mod­els. Spin­raza and So­val­di may be sub­ject to a pay­er back­lash as cer­tain new drugs com­mand jaw-drop­ping prices that can stun in­sur­ers. Rare dis­ease drugs, though, have gen­er­al­ly not at­tract­ed the kind of at­ten­tion that So­val­di gar­nered, with its fo­cus on a ma­jor dis­ease like he­pati­tis C.

Then there are the Tur­ings and Valeants of the world, which jacked up prices on old drugs and at­tract­ed the at­ten­tion of law­mak­ers who re­spond­ed to the on­line lynch mobs that formed to de­mand a re­sponse. But even with pub­lic hear­ings and reg­u­lar con­dem­na­tion, Tur­ing didn’t budge on its price for Dara­prim.

Fi­nal­ly, there’s the reg­u­lar price es­ca­la­tion that can add up to big mon­ey over the years, a busi­ness mod­el fol­lowed by most of the bio­phar­ma world. Now that strat­e­gy is al­so com­ing un­der pres­sure as in­dus­try in­sid­ers like Al­ler­gan CEO Brent Saun­ders chal­lenge the in­dus­try to self-reg­u­late prices, lim­it­ing an­nu­al price hikes to mod­est sin­gle-dig­it in­creas­es.

The ju­ry is still out on that one, but the in­dus­try is far from rush­ing in­to a whole­heart­ed em­brace of price dis­ci­pline, es­pe­cial­ly as R&D con­tin­ues to dis­ap­point most ma­jor man­u­fac­tur­ers.

Biotech Half­time Re­port: Af­ter a bumpy year, is biotech ready to re­bound?

The biotech sector has come down firmly from the highs of February as negative sentiment takes hold. The sector had a major boost of optimism from the success of the COVID-19 vaccines, making investors keenly aware of the potential of biopharma R&D engines. But from early this year, clinical trial, regulatory and access setbacks have reminded investors of the sector’s inherent risks.

RBC Capital Markets recently surveyed investors to take the temperature of the market, a mix of specialists/generalists and long-only/ long-short investment strategies. Heading into the second half of the year, investors mostly see the sector as undervalued (49%), a large change from the first half of the year when only 20% rated it as undervalued. Around 41% of investors now believe that biotech will underperform the S&P500 in the second half of 2021. Despite that view, 54% plan to maintain their position in the market and 41% still plan to increase their holdings.

Covid-19 vac­cine boost­ers earn big thumbs up, but Mod­er­na draws ire over world sup­ply; What's next for Mer­ck’s Covid pill?; The C-suite view on biotech; and more

Welcome back to Endpoints Weekly, your review of the week’s top biopharma headlines. Want this in your inbox every Saturday morning? Current Endpoints readers can visit their reader profile to add Endpoints Weekly. New to Endpoints? Sign up here.

You may remember that at the beginning of this year, Endpoints News set a goal to go broader and deeper. We are still working towards that, and are excited to share that Beth Snyder Bulik will be joining us on Monday to cover all things pharma marketing. You can sign up for her weekly Endpoints MarketingRx newsletter in your reader profile.

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No­var­tis de­vel­op­ment chief John Tsai: 'We go deep in the new plat­form­s'

During our recent European Biopharma Summit, I talked with Novartis development chief John Tsai about his experiences over the 3-plus years he’s been at the pharma giant. You can read the transcript below or listen to the exchange in the link above.

John Carroll: I followed your career for quite some time. You’ve had more than 20 years in big pharma R&D and you’ve obviously seen quite a lot. I really was curious about what it was like for you three and a half years ago when you took over as R&D chief at Novartis. Obviously a big move, a lot of changes. You went to work for the former R&D chief of Novartis, Vas Narasimhan, who had his own track record there. So what was the biggest adjustment when you went into this position?

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Roche's Tecen­triq cross­es the fin­ish line first in ad­ju­vant lung can­cer, po­ten­tial­ly kick­ing off gold rush

While falling behind the biggest PD-(L)1 drugs in terms of sales, Roche has looked to carve out a space for its Tecentriq with a growing expertise in lung cancer. The drug will now take an early lead in the sought-after adjuvant setting — but competitors are on the way.

The FDA on Friday approved Tecentriq as an adjuvant therapy for patients with Stage II-IIIA non small cell lung cancer with PD-(L)1 scores greater than or equal to 1, making it the first drug of its kind approved in an early setting that covers around 40% of all NSCLC patients.

Amit Etkin, Alto Neuroscience CEO (Alto via Vimeo)

A star Stan­ford pro­fes­sor leaves his lab for a start­up out to re­make psy­chi­a­try

About five years ago, Amit Etkin had a breakthrough.

The Stanford neurologist, a soft-spoken demi-prodigy who became a professor while still a resident, had been obsessed for a decade with how to better define psychiatric disorders. Drugs for depression or bipolar disorder didn’t work for many patients with the conditions, and he suspected the reason was how traditional diagnoses didn’t actually get at the heart of what was going on in a patient’s brain.

Susan Galbraith, Executive VP, Oncology R&D, AstraZeneca

As­traZeneca on­col­o­gy R&D chief Su­san Gal­braith: 'Y­ou're go­ing to need or­thog­o­nal com­bi­na­tion­s'

 

Earlier in the week we broadcast our 4th annual European Biopharma Summit with a great lineup of top execs. One of the one-on-one conversations I set up was with Susan Galbraith, the oncology research chief at AstraZeneca. In a wide-ranging discussion, Galbraith reviewed the cancer drug pipeline and key trends influencing development work at the pharma giant. You can watch the video, above, or stick with the script below. — JC

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Tillman Gerngross, Adagio CEO

Q&A: Till­man Gern­gross ex­plains why his Covid mAb will have an edge over an al­ready crowd­ed field

If anyone knows about monoclonal antibodies, it’s serial entrepreneur, Adimab CEO, and Dartmouth professor of bioengineering Tillman Gerngross.

Even the name of Gerngross’ new antibody startup Adagio Therapeutics is meant to reflect his vision behind the development of his Covid-19 mAb: slowly, he said, explaining that “everyone else, whether it’s Regeneron, Lilly, or AstraZeneca, Vir, they all valued speed over everything.”

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Susan Galbraith speaking at Endpoints News' virtual EUBIO21 summit

Imfinzi/treme­li­mum­ab com­bo scores As­traZeneca an­oth­er OS win — this time in liv­er can­cer

Is the tide turning on AstraZeneca’s battered PD-L1/CTLA4 combo?

A single priming dose of the experimental tremelimumab, followed by Imfinzi every four weeks, beat Nexavar (sorafenib) in helping a group of liver cancer patients live longer in a Phase III study, the company reported, meeting the primary endpoint.

Specifically, the two drugs extended overall survival for patients with unresectable hepatocellular carcinoma who had not received prior systemic therapy and were not eligible for localized treatment.

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Alex Gorsky, J&J CEO (Evan Vucci/AP Images)

As suits mount, J&J spins out talc li­a­bil­i­ties in­to Chap­ter 11 us­ing 'Texas two-step' ma­neu­ver

With lawsuits piling up alleging its talc baby powder products are unsafe, J&J has taken the controversial step of spinning out its related liabilities into a new company and filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, according to court papers filed late Thursday.

The procedures will now head to bankruptcy court in North Carolina, halting all lawsuits and their respective discovery processes. It’s a move that comes a few months after the Wall Street Journal and Reuters both reported J&J was exploring this option, and after a federal judge said the process could move forward in August.