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

Brian Kaspar. AveXis via Twitter

AveX­is sci­en­tif­ic founder fires back at No­var­tis CEO Vas Narasimhan, 'cat­e­gor­i­cal­ly de­nies any wrong­do­ing'

Brian Kaspar’s head was among the first to roll at Novartis after company execs became aware of the fact that manipulated data had been included in its application for Zolgensma, now the world’s most expensive therapy.

But in his first public response, the scientific founder at AveXis — acquired by Novartis for $8.7 billion — is firing back. And he says that not only was he not involved in any wrongdoing, he’s ready to defend his name as needed.

I reached out to Brian Kaspar after Novartis put out word that he and his brother Allen had been axed in mid-May, two months after the company became aware of the allegations related to manipulated data. His response came back through his attorneys.

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UP­DAT­ED: An em­bold­ened As­traZeneca splurges $95M on a pri­or­i­ty re­view vouch­er. Where do they need the FDA to hus­tle up?

AstraZeneca is in a hurry.

We learned this morning that the pharma giant — not known as a big spender, until recently — forked over $95 million to get its hands on a priority review voucher from Sobi, otherwise known as Swedish Orphan Biovitrum.

That marks another step down on price for a PRV, which allows the holder to slash 4 months off of any FDA review time.

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Martin Shkreli [via Getty]

Pris­on­er #87850-053 does not get to add drug de­vel­op­er to his list of cred­its

Just days after Retrophin shed its last ties to founder Martin Shkreli, the biotech is reporting that the lead drug he co-invented flopped in a pivotal trial. Fosmetpantotenate flunked both the primary and key secondary endpoints in a placebo-controlled trial for a rare disease called pantothenate kinase-associated neurodegeneration, or PKAN.

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We­bi­nar: Re­al World End­points — the brave new world com­ing in build­ing fran­chise ther­a­pies

Several biopharma companies have been working on expanding drug labels through the use of real world endpoints, combing through the data to find evidence of a drug’s efficacy for particular indications. But we’ve just begun. Real World Evidence is becoming an important part of every clinical development plan, in the soup-through-nuts approach used in building franchises.

I’ve recruited a panel of 3 top experts in the field — the first in a series of premium webinars — to look at the practical realities governing what can be done today, and where this is headed over the next few years, at the prodding of the FDA.

ZHEN SU — Merck Serono’s Senior Vice President and Global Head of Oncology
ELLIOTT LEVY — Amgen’s Senior Vice President of Global Development
CHRIS BOSHOFF — Pfizer Oncology’s Chief Development Officer

A premium subscription to Endpoints News is required to attend this webinar. Please upgrade to either an Insider or Enterprise plan for access. Already have Endpoints Premium? Please sign-in below. You can contact our Subscriptions team at help@endpointsnews.com with any issues.

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Am­gen, Al­ler­gan biosim­i­lar of Roche's block­buster Rit­ux­an clears an­oth­er US piv­otal study 

Novartis $NVS may have given up, but Amgen $AMGN and Allergan $AGN are plowing ahead with their knockoff of Roche’s blockbuster biologic Rituxan in the United States.

Their copycat, ABP 798, was found to have a clinically equivalent impact as Rituxan — meeting the main goal of the study involving CD20-positive B-cell non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma patients. This is the second trial supporting the profile of the biosimilar. In January, it came through with positive PK results in patients with rheumatoid arthritis.

BeiGene and Mus­tang nail down spe­cial FDA sta­tus for top drugs; Roche bags added cov­er­age for Hem­li­bra

→ BeiGene $BGNE is getting a boost in its drive to field a rival to Imbruvica. The FDA has offered an accelerated review to zanubrutinib, a BTK inhibitor that has posted positive results for mantle cell lymphoma. The PDUFA date lands on February 27, 2020. The drug scored breakthrough status at the beginning of the year.

→ BeiGene isn’t the only biopharma company to gain special regulatory status today. Mustang Bio $MBIO and St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital announced that MB-107, a lentiviral gene therapy for the treatment of X-linked severe combined immunodeficiency, also known as bubble boy disease, has been granted Regenerative Medicine Advanced Therapy status.

Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion re­vives bid to get drug list prices on TV ads

The Trump administration is not giving up just yet. On Wednesday, the HHS filed an appeal against a judge’s decision in July to overturn a ruling obligating drug manufacturers to disclose the list price of their therapies in television adverts — hours before it was stipulated to go into effect.

In May, the HHS published a final ruling requiring drugmakers to divulge the wholesale acquisition cost— of a 30-day supply of the drug — in tv ads in a bid to enhance price transparency in the United States. The pharmaceutical industry has vehemently opposed the rule, asserting that list prices are not what a typical patient in the United States pays for treatment — that number is typically determined by the type of (or lack thereof) insurance coverage, deductibles and out-of-pocket costs. Although there is truth to that claim, the move was considered symbolic in the Trump administration’s healthcare agenda to hold drugmakers accountable in a climate where skyrocketing drug prices have incensed Americans on both sides of the aisle.

Ver­sant-backed Chi­nook gets a $65M launch round for its dis­cov­ery quest in a resur­gent kid­ney field

Versant is once again stepping off the beaten track in biotech to see if they can blaze a trail of their own in a field that has looked too thorny to many investors for years.

The venture group and their partners at Apple Tree are bringing their latest creation out of stealth mode today. Born in Versant’s Inception Sciences’ Chinook Therapeutics is betting that its preclinical take on kidney disease can get an early lead among the companies starting up in the field.

Sir An­drew Dil­lon, NICE's first — and on­ly — chief ex­ec­u­tive to step down next year

Using a laptop borrowed from his former employer, South London’s St George’s Hospital, Sir Andrew Dillon set about establishing NICE — launched by the then health secretary Frank Dobson — in 1999.  On Thursday, the UK cost-effectiveness watchdog said its first and only chief executive — Dillon — is stepping down in March 2020.

Back in the day, decisions about which drugs and interventions were funded by the National Health Service (NHS) were made at the local level, but this ‘postcode prescribing’ system was fraught with skewed healthcare deployment making the structure unsustainable. A national system was deemed necessary — and NICE was formed to bridge that gap.