No­var­tis wants to be a leader in a new gen­er­a­tion of pre­scrip­tion dig­i­tal med pro­grams, pairs with Pear

The new­ly emerg­ing field of pre­scrip­tion dig­i­tal med­i­cine is tak­ing a big step for­ward to­day.

Phar­ma gi­ant No­var­tis $NVS is pair­ing up with Pear Ther­a­peu­tics, one of the lead­ing pi­o­neers in the are­na, to de­vel­op new mo­bile apps for pa­tients with schiz­o­phre­nia and mul­ti­ple scle­ro­sis.

Joris van Dam

You may re­call that Pear broke new ground a few months ago by gain­ing an FDA ap­proval for an app de­signed to help pa­tients with sub­stance abuse dis­or­der. Now the Boston/Bay Area-based biotech will work with Joris van Dam, the ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor for dig­i­tal ther­a­peu­tics at the No­var­tis In­sti­tutes for Bio­Med­ical Re­search, on in­ter­ac­tive dig­i­tal pro­grams for schiz­o­phre­nia and mul­ti­ple scle­ro­sis.

Get­ting a heavy­weight play­er in the bio­phar­ma in­dus­try to col­lab­o­rate with 5-year-old Pear is a big plus for dig­i­tal med­i­cine, where cog­ni­tive be­hav­ioral pro­grams are be­ing de­vel­oped to help pa­tients with chron­ic dis­or­ders. And the FDA is play­ing a key as­sist in the field, with new guide­lines in the works on how these pro­grams can prove them­selves to of­fer proof of ef­fi­ca­cy and safe­ty.

These aren’t the av­er­age kind of apps you may be fa­mil­iar with on your phone.

“These are ther­a­peu­tic treat­ments pre­scribed by doc­tors and used by pa­tients,” says van Dam. “You should treat it like a drug ther­a­py, ex­cept it’s be­ing pre­scribed and ful­filled by the cloud and not by the phar­ma­cy.”

No­var­tis and Pear are plan­ning on set­ting up clin­i­cal tri­als that can, for ex­am­ple, test how these in­ter­ac­tive pro­grams work on con­trol­ling the pos­i­tive and neg­a­tive symp­toms as­so­ci­at­ed with schiz­o­phre­nia — in­clud­ing how you re­spond to hear­ing voic­es.

And No­var­tis sees some ready ben­e­fits in keep­ing a cog­ni­tive be­hav­ioral pro­gram in your pock­et. Un­like a ther­a­pist, says v

an Dam, you can run through a 15-minute pro­gram at your con­ve­nience, with­out jour­ney­ing to a ses­sion. And they’ll have clin­i­cians gath­er the da­ta need­ed to meet the re­quired end­points, stan­dards which are cur­rent­ly un­der re­view in a pi­lot pro­gram that in­cludes Pear.

So how long will this process take?

Van Dam says that’s un­cer­tain, but he feels that there’s a lot of po­ten­tial for a full slate of these dig­i­tal meds.

There’s no word on the ex­act terms, but No­var­tis is of­fer­ing a fa­mil­iar slate of up­front, re­search sup­port, mile­stones and roy­al­ties.

The Price of Re­lief: Ex­plor­ing So­lu­tions to the Ris­ing Costs of On­col­o­gy Drugs

In 2020, The National Cancer Institute estimated about 1.8 million new cases of cancer diagnosed in the United States, while the costs associated with treatment therapies continued to escalate. Given the current legislative climate on drug pricing, it’s never been more important to look at the evolution of drug pricing globally and control concerns of sustainable and affordable treatments in oncology.

Lat­est news on Pfiz­er's $3B+ JAK1 win; Pacts over M&A at #JPM22; 2021 by the num­bers; Bio­gen's Aduhelm reck­on­ing; The sto­ry of sotro­vimab; 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.

For those of you who attended #JPM22 in any shape or form, we hope you had a fruitful time. Regardless of how you spent the past hectic week, may your weekend be just what you need it to be.

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A $3B+ peak sales win? Pfiz­er thinks so, as FDA of­fers a tardy green light to its JAK1 drug abroc­i­tinib

Back in the fall of 2020, newly crowned Pfizer chief Albert Bourla confidently put their JAK1 inhibitor abrocitinib at the top of the list of blockbuster drugs in the late-stage pipeline with a $3 billion-plus peak sales estimate.

Since then it’s been subjected to serious criticism for the safety warnings associated with the class, held back by a cautious FDA and questioned when researchers rolled out a top-line boast that their heavyweight contender had beaten the champ in the field of atopic dermatitis — Dupixent — in a head-to-head study.

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Michel Vounatsos, Biogen CEO (World Economic Forum/Ciaran McCrickard)

Bio­gen vows to fight CM­S' draft cov­er­age de­ci­sion for Aduhelm be­fore April fi­nal­iza­tion

Biogen executives made clear in an investor call Thursday they are not preparing to run a new CMS-approved clinical trial for their controversial Alzheimer’s drug anytime soon.

As requested in a draft national coverage decision from CMS earlier this week, Biogen and other anti-amyloid drugs will need to show “a meaningful improvement in health outcomes” for Alzheimer’s patients in a randomized, placebo-controlled trial to get paid for their drugs, rather than just the reduction in amyloid plaques that won Aduhelm its accelerated approval in June.

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Susan Galbraith, AstraZeneca EVP, Oncology R&D

Can­cer pow­er­house As­traZeneca rolls the dice on a $75M cash bet on a buzzy up­start in the on­col­o­gy field

After establishing itself in the front ranks of cancer drug developers and marketers, AstraZeneca is putting its scientific shoulder — and a significant amount of cash — behind the wheel of a brash new upstart in the biotech world.

The pharma giant trumpeted news this morning that it is handing over $75 million upfront to ally itself with Scorpion Therapeutics, one of those biotechs that was newly birthed by some top scientific, venture and executive talent and bequeathed with a fortune by way of a bankroll to advance an only hazily explained drug platform. And they are still very much in the discovery and preclinical phase.

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‘Skin­ny la­bels’ on gener­ics can save pa­tients mon­ey, re­search shows, but re­cent court de­ci­sions cloud fu­ture

New research shows how generic drug companies can successfully market a limited number of approved indications for a brand name drug, prior to coming to market for all of the indications. But several recent court decisions have created a layer of uncertainty around these so-called “skinny” labels.

While courts have generally allowed generic manufacturers to use their statutorily permitted skinny-label approvals, last summer, a federal circuit court found that Teva Pharmaceuticals was liable for inducing prescribers and patients to infringe GlaxoSmithKline’s patents through advertising and marketing practices that suggested Teva’s generic, with its skinny label, could be employed for the patented uses.

Robert Califf, FDA commissioner nominee (Graeme Sloan/Sipa USA/Sipa via AP Images)

Rob Califf ad­vances as Biden's FDA nom­i­nee, with a close com­mit­tee vote

Rob Califf’s second confirmation process as FDA commissioner is already much more difficult than his near unanimous confirmation under the Obama administration.

The Senate Health Committee on Thursday voted 13-8 in favor of advancing Califf’s nomination to a full Senate vote. Several Democrats voted against Califf, including Sen. Bernie Sanders and Sen. Maggie Hassan. Several other Democrats who aren’t on the committee, like West Virginia’s Joe Manchin and Ed Markey of Massachusetts, also said Thursday that they would not vote for Califf. Markey, Hassan and Manchin all previously expressed reservations about the prospect of Janet Woodcock as an FDA commissioner nominee too.

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UP­DAT­ED: CMS to re­strict cov­er­age of Bio­gen's con­tro­ver­sial Alzheimer's drug to on­ly clin­i­cal tri­als

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services on Tuesday said it will only pay for Biogen’s Aduhelm and other FDA-approved anti-amyloid monoclonal antibodies for Alzheimer’s disease under CMS-approved randomized controlled trials.

The draft national coverage decision, which insurers nationwide are likely to follow, makes clear that CMS will be looking for randomized controlled trials that “demonstrate a clinically meaningful benefit in cognition and function.” That will be a tough task for Biogen, which previously showed conflicting benefits from past Aduhelm trials that were initially cut short due to futility and then resurrected for the accelerated approval.

CRO own­er pleads guilty to ob­struct­ing FDA in­ves­ti­ga­tion in­to fal­si­fied clin­i­cal tri­al da­ta

The co-owner of a Florida-based clinical research site pleaded guilty to lying to an FDA investigator during a 2017 inspection, revealing that she falsely portrayed part of a GlaxoSmithKline pediatric asthma study as legitimate, when in fact she knew that certain data had been falsified, the Department of Justice said Wednesday.

Three other employees — Yvelice Villaman Bencosme, Lisett Raventos and Maytee Lledo — previously pleaded guilty and were sentenced in connection with falsifying data associated with the trial at the CRO Unlimited Medical Research.