On the heels of a set­back, Sage re­ports PhI­II suc­cess in post­par­tum de­pres­sion -- but ques­tions linger

Two months af­ter get­ting ham­mered on the fail­ure of its lead late-stage study for a rare type of seizures, Sage Ther­a­peu­tics is claim­ing a vic­to­ry in a pair of Phase III stud­ies for the same drug in post­par­tum de­pres­sion.

Sage re­port­ed this morn­ing that both of its late-stage stud­ies for brex­anolone (SAGE-547) for ma­jor post­par­tum de­pres­sion suc­cess­ful­ly edged out a place­bo — but failed to reg­is­ter the big im­prove­ment over a sug­ar pill that was seen in Phase II. And the biotech $SAGE says that it will use the da­ta to back an FDA sub­mis­sion for their drug — which re­quires a 60-hour in­fu­sion — next year.

Sage’s shares spiked in pre-mar­ket trad­ing on Thurs­day and then waf­fled for a but. By mid-day, though, the stock was up 51% as in­vestors bought in­to the up­beat tone.

Jeff Jonas

The biotech re­cruit­ed 226 pa­tients for these two stud­ies for an ail­ment that af­flicts huge num­bers of women each year. Typ­i­cal­ly a dis­ease like PPD would in­volve large num­bers of pa­tients in search of two pos­i­tive out­comes, but Sage be­lieves it’s right on track to break new ground and score a ma­jor OK.

The main goal of both stud­ies was a sig­nif­i­cant re­duc­tion in de­pres­sion scores 60 hours af­ter treat­ment. And on that lev­el the drug scored a 17.7-point mean re­duc­tion for the high dose and a 19.9-point im­prove­ment for the low dose in the first study for se­vere PPD com­pared to 14 points in the place­bo arm. In study two there was a 14.2-point vs 12-point dif­fer­ence in the mod­er­ate PPD group.

In Phase II, re­searchers re­port­ed a 12.2-point spread be­tween the drug and the place­bo, leav­ing Sage de­fend­ing a sig­nif­i­cant­ly re­duced mar­gin of im­prove­ment.

Re­searchers al­so not­ed that the drug ef­fect last­ed through 30 days in the first study, but did not mark a sta­tis­ti­cal­ly sig­nif­i­cant im­pact af­ter a month in the sec­ond study for mod­er­ate PPD, which could raise a red flag on dura­bil­i­ty.

That Phase II com­par­i­son may be a bit of a let­down, con­cedes Leerink’s Paul Mat­teis, but a win in Phase III is a ma­jor plus for Sage, which he be­lieves is head­ed for an ap­proval. Get­ting an oral ver­sion, he adds, would be a tremen­dous boost.

Nonethe­less, the pos­i­tive phase III PPD re­sults are a tech­nol­o­gy val­i­dat­ing event for SAGE who is seek­ing to re­ca­pit­u­late the mech­a­nism of bre­nax­olone in an oral for­mu­la­tion (SAGE-217) across an ar­ray of CNS dis­or­der. In the back­drop of a planned NDA fil­ing for bre­nax­olone, oral da­ta in ma­jor de­pres­sive dis­or­der rep­re­sent the next ma­jor event in 4Q.

There was at least one se­ri­ous ad­verse event as­so­ci­at­ed with the drug, which was not ex­plained in the com­pa­ny’s state­ment. But Sage says the safe­ty pro­file over­all was com­pa­ra­ble to the place­bo arm. More da­ta will be re­leased at an sci­en­tif­ic con­fer­ence.

Sage has mus­tered fierce sup­port as well as plen­ty of crit­ics for its R&D strat­e­gy, us­ing small stud­ies to high­light the po­ten­tial of a drug. And in this case, PPD rep­re­sents the kind of ma­jor mar­ket op­por­tu­ni­ty like­ly to re­quire a sig­nif­i­cant amount of da­ta to win over reg­u­la­tors.

Last Sep­tem­ber the biotech re­port­ed that the drug did no bet­ter than a sug­ar pill in treat­ing su­per-re­frac­to­ry sta­tus epilep­ti­cus.

Now we’ll see how the FDA feels about all of this.

Sage CEO Jeff Jonas tout­ed the re­sults as a game chang­er:

We be­lieve the da­ta rep­re­sent an un­prece­dent­ed op­por­tu­ni­ty in the de­vel­op­ment of treat­ments for PPD, and may serve as the cat­a­lyst for a par­a­digm shift in how the dis­ease is ap­proached and, if ap­proved, may change how PPD is treat­ed.

Has the mo­ment fi­nal­ly ar­rived for val­ue-based health­care?

RBC Capital Markets’ Healthcare Technology Analyst, Sean Dodge, spotlights a new breed of tech-enabled providers who are rapidly transforming the way clinicians deliver healthcare, and explores the key question: can this accelerating revolution overturn the US healthcare system?

Key points

Tech-enabled healthcare providers are poised to help the US transition to value, not volume, as the basis for reward.
The move to value-based care has policy momentum, but is risky and complex for clinicians.
Outsourced tech specialists are emerging to provide the required expertise, while healthcare and tech are also converging through M&A.
Value-based care remains in its early stages, but the transition is accelerating and represents a huge addressable market.

Andy Plump, Takeda R&D chief (Jeff Rumans for Endpoints News)

What kind of PhI­Ib da­ta is worth $4B cash? Take­da’s Andy Plump has some thoughts on that

A few months back, when Takeda caused jaws to drop with its eye-watering $4 billion cash upfront for a mid-stage TYK2 drug from Nimbus, it had already taken a deep dive on the solid Phase IIb data Nimbus had assembled from its dose-ranging study in psoriasis.

Now, it’s rolling that data out, eager to demonstrate what inspired the global biopharma to go long in a neighboring, but new, disease arena for the pipeline. And the most avid students of the numbers will likely be at Bristol Myers Squibb, who will have a multi-year head start on pioneering the TYK2 space with Sotyktu (deucravacitinib) as Takeda makes its lunge for best-in-class status.

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FDA in­di­cates will­ing­ness to ap­prove Bio­gen ALS drug de­spite failed PhI­II study

Ahead of Wednesday’s advisory committee hearing to discuss Biogen’s ALS drug tofersen, the FDA appeared open to approving the drug, newly released briefing documents show.

Citing the need for flexibility in a devastating disease like ALS, regulators signaled a willingness to consider greenlighting tofersen based on its effect on a certain protein associated with ALS despite a failed pivotal trial. The documents come after regulatory flexibility was part of the same rationale the agency expressed when approving an ALS drug last September from Amylyx Pharmaceuticals, indicating the FDA’s openness to approving new treatments for the disease.

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No­vo Nordisk re­mains un­der UK scruti­ny as MHRA con­ducts its own re­view in 'in­cred­i­bly rare' case

The UK’s Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency is now reviewing Novo Nordisk’s marketing violation that resulted in its loss of UK trade group membership last week. Novo Nordisk was suspended on Thursday from the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry (ABPI) for two years after an investigation by its regulatory arm found the pharma broke its conduct rules.

MHRA said on Tuesday that its review of the Prescription Medicines Code of Practice Authority (PMCPA) investigation is standard practice. An MHRA spokesperson emphasized in an email to Endpoints News that the situation with Novo Nordisk is “incredibly rare” while also noting ABPI took “swift and proportionate action.”

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Vipin Garg, Altimmune CEO

Al­tim­mune’s shares halved af­ter in­ter­im look at PhII weight loss drug da­ta

Altimmune’s attempt to catch up to Novo Nordisk and Eli Lilly’s GLP-1 drugs hit an investor snag Tuesday after the biotech shared interim Phase II weight loss data.

The Maryland biotech’s pemvidutide is a GLP-1/glucagon dual receptor agonist meant to activate GLP-1 receptors to squash appetite and glucagon to ramp up energy use. The 2.4 mg dose showed a placebo-adjusted weight loss of 9.7% at week 24 of 48, which Jefferies analysts said would be comparable to Novo Nordisk’s semaglutide (Wegovy) and Eli Lilly’s tirzepatide (Mounjaro).

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FDA warns Proc­ter & Gam­ble over NyQuil la­bel's in­gre­di­ent list­ings

The FDA on Tuesday released a warning letter sent earlier this month to the Mason, OH-based site of Procter & Gamble Manufactura, raising questions about the list of ingredients on the label and in the electronic filing.

The warning says that for P&G’s over-the-counter Vicks Nyquil Severe Hot Remedy Cold and Flu Plus Congestion, there’s a “mismatched” list of active ingredients between the labeling and the electronic listing file. The listing file for the active ingredients did not match the active ingredients in the electronic file.

FTC says patent bat­tle over Parkin­son's drug could have 'sig­nif­i­cant im­pli­ca­tion­s' for pa­tients

The Federal Trade Commission has gotten involved in a patent feud over Supernus’ Parkinson’s drug Apokyn, a case the agency said may have ‘‘significant implications” for patients who rely on the drug.

Sage Chemical won the first generic approval for its Apokyn formulation (also known as apomorphine hydrochloride injection) back in 2022. The non-ergoline dopamine agonist is approved to treat Parkinson’s symptoms during “off episodes,” such as difficulty moving, tremors and intense cramping. However, regulators specified that the approval pertained to the generic drug cartridges only, not the injector pen required for administration.

Harpreet Singh, Immatics CEO

Im­mat­ics an­nounces mul­ti­ple pipeline changes with lat­est fi­nan­cial re­sults

The T-cell biotech Immatics is looking to make some changes to its pipeline.

Immatics released its 2022 financial results on Tuesday and announced that it’s planning to discontinue its program for IMA201, an experimental cell therapy for solid tumors that express the antigens known as MAGE4/8. It plans to shift focus to IMA401, a TCR bispecific which goes after the same target.

The German-based biotech said it will treat the remaining patients enrolled in the program before the discontinuation. No other reasons were given for the discontinuation. Endpoints News reached out to Immatics for more details but did not receive a response by press time.

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Growth hor­mone from No­vo Nordisk is in short­age over man­u­fac­tur­ing de­lays

Novo Nordisk’s growth hormone Norditropin is in shortage because of manufacturing delays, according to an FDA site that tracks drug shortages as well as the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists’ shortages list.

The FDA has shortages of the drug listed for its 5, 10, 15 and 30 mg doses, while the pharmacists’ group, also known as ASHP, reported shortages of the same doses, except for the 15 mg version.

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