No­var­tis lays out block­buster launch­es for 2018-2020, with sur­pris­ing in­clu­sion of Kym­ri­ah

As No­var­tis shakes off its Al­con eye busi­ness and the loss of two high-pro­file ex­ec­u­tives, chief Vas Narasimhan has out­lined the Swiss drug­mak­er’s ros­ter of 14 block­buster launch­es, a bulk of which are ex­pect­ed to win ap­proval be­tween this year and 2020. The drugs in­clud­ed in the list are large­ly fa­mil­iar, but the in­clu­sion of the com­pa­ny’s pi­o­neer­ing CAR-T ther­a­py Kym­ri­ah, whose adop­tion has been wob­bly due to man­u­fac­tur­ing woes, will raise some eye­brows.

In 2017, No­var­tis spent a hefty $9 bil­lion on R&D, mak­ing it one of the top spenders in glob­al bio­phar­ma. In­vestors ex­pect to see the com­pa­ny to now get bang for its buck. Last No­vem­ber, the com­pa­ny used it R&D re­view to high­light 26 block­buster con­tenders in its ar­se­nal and of­fer a rosy pic­ture of things to come af­ter suf­fer­ing a few knocks — the FDA re­ject­ing its heart drug, and the com­pa­ny aban­don­ing its at­tempt at a Rit­ux­an copy­cat.

Since then, the com­pa­ny has seen good days and bad. On the pos­i­tive front, its gene ther­a­py for SMA se­cured the FDA’s pri­or­i­ty re­view, and its sick­le cell drug won break­through ther­a­py sta­tus. The drug­mak­er al­so swal­lowed a cell and gene ther­a­py man­u­fac­tur­er in an at­tempt to un­clog the com­mer­cial roll­out for Kym­ri­ah. In a first for a multi­na­tion­al phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal com­pa­ny, No­var­tis’ San­doz unit tied up with Cana­di­an med­ical cannabis pro­duc­er Tilray, a land­mark en­dorse­ment of the con­tro­ver­sial plant. On Wednes­day, as part of its full-year 2018 re­sults, the drug­mak­er said four new­er prod­ucts — in­clud­ing Cosen­tyx and En­tresto — in its ros­ter of med­i­cines achieved block­buster sta­tus in 2018.

On the oth­er end of the scale, No­var­tis has al­so suf­fered a num­ber of set­backs in the last quar­ter of 2018. For in­stance, its mi­graine drug Aimovig — billed as a block­buster and part­nered with Am­gen — was re­fused en­dorse­ment by the UK’s NICE, months af­ter the agency de­clined to give the nod for Kym­ri­ah. Two top ex­ec­u­tives — CAR-T chief David Leb­wohl and on­col­o­gy head Liz Bar­rett — al­so left the drug­mak­er to take top po­si­tions in small biotechs. And J&J dealt No­var­tis a blow when its pso­ri­a­sis drug Trem­fya beat the dom­i­nant Cosen­tyx in a head-to-head study.

2018

  • AIMOVIG — The mi­graine drug forms part of a new crop of bi­o­log­ics tar­get­ing the CGRP pro­tein that trans­mits pain sig­nals in­to the brain. The drug was the first to win ap­proval in 2018, and with­in months ri­val treat­ments from Lil­ly and Te­va were al­so giv­en reg­u­la­to­ry nods. All three have demon­strat­ed sim­i­lar ef­fi­ca­cy and safe­ty in tri­als. Like its ri­vals, the drug is priced at $575 per month and has been pegged as a po­ten­tial block­buster. Fol­low­ing the NICE set­back, re­ports sug­gest­ed Aimovig was ex­clud­ed from phar­ma­cy ben­e­fits man­ag­er CVS’ for­mu­la­ry in the Unit­ed States. This will be a blow, but there are oth­er PBMs on the block.
  • KYM­RI­AH — The pi­o­neer­ing CAR-T drug was FDA ap­proved amidst great fan­fare in 2017, and since then the FDA has ex­pand­ed its use in the Unit­ed States and the EC al­so ap­proved the drug last Au­gust. NICE re­fused to en­dorse the pricey drug. Mean­while, ri­vals such as Gilead’s Yescar­ta have emerged, and Kym­ri­ah sales have suf­fered due to man­u­fac­tur­ing is­sues. In the fourth quar­ter, the drug gen­er­at­ed a pal­try $28 mil­lion. How­ev­er, No­var­tis is do­ing its best to shore up man­u­fac­tur­ing, hav­ing bought cell and gene ther­a­py man­u­fac­tur­er Cell­for­Cure.
  • LU­TATHERA — The can­cer drug, which came with No­var­tis’ $4 bil­lion ac­qui­si­tion of Ad­vanced Ac­cel­er­a­tor Ap­pli­ca­tions in 2017, paid off hand­some­ly in ear­ly 2018 af­ter the FDA gave it a quick OK. No­var­tis re­port­ed an 11% jump in on­col­o­gy rev­enue in the fourth quar­ter, dri­ven part­ly by Lu­tathera sales of $81 mil­lion.

2019

  • BYL719 — Oth­er­wise known as alpelis­ib, the PI3K in­hibitor near­ly dou­bled pro­gres­sion-free sur­vival in a third of pa­tients with a hard-to treat form of breast can­cer last Oc­to­ber. Oth­er drugs in this class, in­clud­ing Roche’s taselis­ib, have large­ly crashed and burned due to safe­ty con­cerns.
  • MAYZENT — Ex­pect­ed to launch this year, the MS drug al­so known as sipon­i­mod is crit­i­cal for the com­pa­ny as one of its top sell­ers Gilenya has gener­ic com­pe­ti­tion loom­ing. Com­pa­ny of­fi­cials have pre­vi­ous­ly de­scribed the drug’s da­ta in glow­ing terms, and an­a­lysts have con­curred, of­fer­ing a $3 bil­lion peak sales pro­jec­tion for the treat­ment.
  • RTH258 — The eye drug has been built up as a ri­val to Re­gen­eron’s flag­ship block­buster in­jec­tion Eylea and CEO Narasimhan has gone so far as to say RTH258 is “con­sis­tent­ly su­pe­ri­or” to Eylea, af­ter con­duct­ing ret­ro­spec­tive analy­ses of late-stage da­ta last year. Eylea has been un­touch­able for more than a decade, so it is up to No­var­tis to prove oth­er­wise.
  • ZOL­GENS­MA — The gene ther­a­py is cur­rent­ly un­der FDA re­view and the agency is ex­pect­ed to an­nounce its de­ci­sion in May. In its re­view post­ed in De­cem­ber, ICER sug­gest­ed the Zol­gens­ma — with a list price of $2 mil­lion — would of­fer more cost-ef­fec­tive ben­e­fit in the long run ver­sus ri­val Bio­gen’s Spin­raza. How­ev­er, the Swiss drug­mak­er has sug­gest­ed a price of $4 mil­lion for the cu­ra­tive ther­a­py, which it ac­quired via a $8.7 bil­lion takeover of AveX­is, may be jus­ti­fied.

2020

  • COSEN­TYX — The pso­ri­a­sis drug that be­came a block­buster in 2016 is one of No­var­tis’ key drugs, and the drug­mak­er is work­ing on ex­pand­ing the IL-17A in­hibitor’s mar­ket by in­clud­ing pa­tients with pso­ri­at­ic arthri­tis, anky­los­ing spondyli­tis and non-ra­di­ograph­ic ax­i­al spondy­larthri­tis (nrAxS­pA). Piv­otal da­ta are ex­pect­ed lat­er this year and, if pos­i­tive, will be fol­lowed by a mar­ket­ing ap­pli­ca­tion be­fore the end of this year.
  • EN­TRESTO — The med­i­cine is an­oth­er top sell­er for No­var­tis and is cur­rent­ly ap­proved for HFrEF (for­mer­ly known as sys­tolic heart fail­ure) — in these pa­tients the heart mus­cle does not con­tract ef­fec­tive­ly, re­duc­ing the lev­el of oxy­gen-rich blood pumped in­to to the body. Ini­tial­ly a slow mov­ing prod­uct ham­pered by physi­cians re­luc­tant to adopt a new ther­a­py and in­sur­ers who balked at its price, En­tresto is now com­fort­ably a block­buster prod­uct. The drug is now un­der eval­u­a­tion for HF­pEF (al­so re­ferred to as di­as­tolic heart fail­ure) — a now larg­er group of pa­tients whose heart mus­cle con­tract nor­mal­ly but ven­tri­cles do not re­lax as they should dur­ing ven­tric­u­lar fill­ing. Da­ta from the tri­al PARAGON-HF are ex­pect­ed in the third quar­ter of 2019.
  • INC280 — Oth­er­wise known as cap­ma­tinib, the MET in­hibitor was li­censed to No­var­tis from In­cyte in 2009. Mid-stage da­ta on the drug in cer­tain pa­tients with the most com­mon form of lung can­cer (NSCLC), pre­sent­ed last Oc­to­ber, showed INC280 in­duced an ORR of 72% in treat­ment-naive pa­tients and about 39% in pre­vi­ous­ly treat­ed pa­tients. No­var­tis is ex­pect­ed to sub­mit a mar­ket­ing ap­pli­ca­tion lat­er this year.
  • OMB157 — Oth­er than the ap­proved Gilenya and Mayzent — which is cur­rent­ly un­der re­view — ofa­tu­mum­ab (OMB157) is an­oth­er drug No­var­tis is hop­ing to use in MS. The drug, al­ready sold as Arz­er­ra, has caused a num­ber of prob­lems for No­var­tis as a treat­ment for leukemia — the drug­mak­er was forced to pull it off the mar­ket out­side the US as com­pe­ti­tion heat­ed up. No­var­tis thinks it can re­pur­pose the drug for MS, an in­di­ca­tion for which it is cur­rent­ly be­ing in­ves­ti­gat­ed in two Phase III stud­ies.
  • PDR001 COM­BO — PDR001, al­so called spar­tal­izum­ab, is No­var­tis’ PD-1 in­hibitor and is be­ing test­ed in a num­ber of can­cers. A late-stage study test­ing the drug in com­bi­na­tion with No­var­tis’ ap­proved can­cer drugs — Tafin­lar and Mekin­ist — in pa­tients with metasta­t­ic melanoma is on­go­ing.
  • QVM149 — The asth­ma drug is cur­rent­ly be­ing test­ed against stan­dard triple com­bi­na­tion ther­a­py in a late-stage study in un­con­trolled asth­mat­ics — the tri­al is ex­pect­ed to be com­plet­ed this year.
  • SEG101 — Ex­pect­ed to launch in 2020, the sick­le cell dis­ease drug has se­cured the FDA’s break­through ther­a­py des­ig­na­tion ear­li­er this month. Af­ter a de­lay in 2018, a mar­ket­ing ap­pli­ca­tion for the drug is ex­pect­ed this year.

Im­age: NO­VAR­TIS

UP­DAT­ED: Clay Sie­gall’s $614M wa­ger on tu­ca­tinib pays off with solid­ly pos­i­tive piv­otal da­ta and a date with the FDA

Back at the beginning of 2018, Clay Siegall snagged a cancer drug called tucatinib with a $614 million cash deal to buy Cascadian. It paid off today with a solid set of mid-stage data for HER2 positive breast cancer that will in turn serve as the pivotal win Siegall needs to seek an accelerated approval in the push for a new triplet therapy.

And if all the cards keep falling in its favor, they’ll move from 1 drug on the market to 3 in 2020, which is shaping up as a landmark year as Seattle Genetics prepares for its 23rd anniversary on July 15.

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J&J's block­buster Ste­lara wins US ap­proval for ul­cer­a­tive col­i­tis

J&J’s Stelara, which is set to be in the top ten list of blockbusters come 2025, is now cleared by the FDA for use in ulcerative colitis (UC), an inflammatory disease of the large intestine.

The biologic targets interleukin (IL)-12 and IL-23 cytokines, which are known to play a key role in inflammatory and immune responses. Stelara, which generated about $4.7 billion in the first nine months of 2019, is a key player in the crowded marketplace of drugs to treat autoimmune disorders such as psoriasis, rheumatoid arthritis and Crohn’s disease. AbbVie’s star therapy, Humira, continues to dominate, despite its looming patent cliff in the United States, while others including J&J’s $JNJ own anti-IL23 Tremfya, Lilly’s $LLY anti-IL-17 Taltz and AbbVie’s $ABBV recently approved anti-IL-23 antibody Skyrizi carve out a slice of market share.

Drug com­pa­nies reach $260M set­tle­ment just ahead of opi­oid tri­al; Oys­ter Point set terms for $85M IPO

→ Hours before the first federal opioid trial was set to begin, three drug distributors and an opioid manufacturer agreed to a $260 million agreement settlement, the Wall Street Journal was the first to report. The deal — which will see McKesson, Cardinal Health and AmerisourceBergen pay $215 million to Summit and Cuyahoga counties, and Teva deal out $35 million in cash and addiction treatments — does not resolve the pending, nationwide litigation that may result in a settlement worth upwards of $40 billion. Negotiators in that case, brought by 2,300 tribes, counties and cities nationwide and led by several states’ attorneys general, worked through much of Friday without success. Josh Stein, the attorney general for North Carolina, said they were trying to put together a $48 billion deal.

IM­brave150: Roche’s reg­u­la­to­ry crew plans a glob­al roll­out of Tecen­triq com­bo for liv­er can­cer as PhI­II scores a hit

Just weeks after Bristol-Myers Squibb defended its failed pivotal study pitting Opdivo against Nexavar in liver cancer, Roche says it’s beat the frontline challenge with a combination of their PD-L1 Tecentriq with Avastin. And now they’re rolling their regulatory teams in the US, Europe and China in search of a new approval — badly needed to boost a trailing franchise effort.
Given their breakthrough and Big Pharma status as well as the use of two approved drugs, FDA approval may well prove to be something of a formality. And the Chinese have been clear that they want new drugs for liver cancer, where lethal disease rates are particularly high.
Researchers at their big biotech sub, Genentech, say that the combo beat Bayer’s Nexavar on both progression-free survival as well as overall survival — the first advance in this field in more than a decade. We won’t get the breakdown in months of life gained, but it’s a big win for Roche, which has lagged far, far behind Keytruda and Opdivo, the dominant PD-1s that have captured the bulk of the checkpoint market so far.
Researchers recruited hepatocellular carcinoma — the most common form of liver cancer — patients for the IMbrave150 study who weren’t eligible for surgery ahead of any systemic treatment of the disease.
Roche has a fairly low bar to beat, with modest survival benefit for Nexavar, approved for this indication 12 years ago. But they also plan to offer a combo therapy that could have significantly less toxicity, offering patients a much easier treatment regimen.
Cowen’s Steven Scala recently sized up the importance of IMbrave150, noting:

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GSK of­floads two vac­cines in $1.1B deal as it works to re­vive the pipeline

GlaxoSmithKline is leaving the deep dark woods and its viruses behind.

GSK has agreed to divest its vaccines for rabies, RabAvert, and tick-born encephalitis vaccine, Encepur, to Bavarian Nordic, part of the company’s broader efforts to narrow its pipeline and focus on oncology and immunology.

The deal is worth up to nearly $1.1 billion, with a $336 million upfront payment. GSK acquired the vaccines from Novartis as part of an exchange for their late-stage oncology programs in 2015 under former chief Sir Andrew Witty.

Pfiz­er gets some en­cour­ag­ing PhI­II news on a fran­chise sav­ior, but is a dos­ing ad­van­tage worth the $295M up­front?

Close to 3 years after Opko tried to defend itself as shares tumbled on the news that its long-acting growth hormone had failed to outperform a placebo, the Pfizer partner $PFE is back. And this time they’re pitching Phase III data that demonstrate their drug is non-inferior — or maybe a tad better — than their well-known but fading standard in the field.
The comparator drug here is Genotropin, which earned a marginal $142 million for Pfizer last year — down 9% from the year before. Approved 24 years ago, biosimilars are now in development that Pfizer would like to stay out in front of. The market leader here is Norditropin, a growth hormone from Novo Nordisk that uses the same basic ingredient as Genotropin, which the Danish company sells with a kid-friendly self-injectable pen. That would also present some big competition if the new therapy from Opko/Pfizer makes it to the market.
The new data, says researchers, underscore that a weekly injection of somatrogon performed as well or slightly better than Genotropin (somatropin) in young children with growth hormone deficiency. Investigators tracked height velocity at 10.12 cm/year, edging out the older drug’s 9.78 cm/year. That 0.33 difference may not prove compelling to payers, though, who have been known to overlook dosing advantages in favor of lower costs.
That message may have weighed on the stock reaction this morning, with a 30%-plus hike $OPK giving way to more marginal gains.
Back in late 2016, Opko had to defend itself against a devastating Phase III setback as their initial late-stage trial failed against a sugar pill. Opko later blamed that setback on outliers in the study, though it wasn’t able to expunge the failure.

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As­traZeneca's Farx­i­ga scores FDA nod to cut risk of hos­pi­tal­iza­tion for heart fail­ure in di­a­bet­ics

While the FDA recently spurned an application to allow AstraZeneca’s blockbuster drug Farxiga for type 1 diabetes that cannot be controlled by insulin, citing safety concerns — the US regulator has endorsed the use of the SGLT2 treatment to reduce the risk of hospitalisation for heart failure in patients with type-2 diabetes and established cardiovascular disease or multiple CV risk factors.

Alex­ion clinch­es aHUS ap­proval for Ul­tomiris as the clock ticks on Soliris con­ver­sion

Alexion has racked up a second approval for Ultomiris, the successor therapy to Soliris, as its mainstay blockbuster therapy faces a patent review process that could drastically shorten its patent exclusivity.

The FDA OK for atypical hemolytic uremic syndrome (aHUS) on Friday was widely expected after Alexion posted a full slate of positive Phase III data in January. But regulators also flagged concerns about serious meningococcal infections, slapping a black box warning on the label and mandating a REMS.

FDA ap­proval lets Foamix set its maid­en ac­ne ther­a­py on course for US mar­ket launch

Months ago, Foamix leaned on its biggest shareholders — Perceptive Advisors and OrbiMed — to financially grease its wheels, ahead of the FDA decision date for its acne therapy. On Friday, that approval came in — and the topical formulation of the antibiotic minocycline is set for a January launch.

The therapy, Amzeeq (formerly known as FMX101), was approved to treat inflammatory lesions of non-nodular moderate-to-severe acne vulgaris in patients aged 9 and older.