Roche just her­ald­ed a great set of place­bo com­par­isons for their new flu drug — too bad it flopped against gener­ic Tam­i­flu

Genen­tech just rolled out some of the hard da­ta around its Phase III CAP­STONE-2 tri­al for their new flu med­i­cine balox­avir mar­box­il, and it doesn’t look good.

Once you dig through the bon­ny re­marks and keep go­ing on to the sta­tis­ti­cal­ly sig­nif­i­cant place­bo com­par­isons, the phar­ma gi­ant throws in a ma­jor sna­fu. Their flu drug failed to prove sig­nif­i­cant­ly bet­ter than Tam­i­flu in a head-to-head com­par­i­son on the time it took to re­duce symp­toms of the flu. And that’s the mon­ey shot.

The me­di­an time to im­prove­ment of symp­toms for balox­avir was 73.2 hours. The Tam­i­flu com­para­tor arm: 81 hours for an aw­ful p val­ue of 0.8347. Roche op­ti­misti­cal­ly called this out­come “nu­mer­i­cal­ly su­pe­ri­or,” but a pay­er would say the rel­a­tive­ly mod­est dif­fer­ence could have been due en­tire­ly to chance.

That’s not the sort of thing pay­ers like to pay for, es­pe­cial­ly as cheap copies of Tam­i­flu abound, eras­ing a fran­chise Roche had hoped to keep. Dur­ing epi­demics, Tam­i­flu had achieved multi­bil­lion dol­lar sales fig­ures. Now it looks to re­main an oc­ca­sion­al best­seller, at a frac­tion of the cost.

The fly in the flu da­ta helps ex­plain why peak sales fore­casts for this drug have tend­ed to vary dra­mat­i­cal­ly. 

There is a wide range of da­ta to il­lus­trate how this drug does bet­ter than a place­bo, but balox­avir won’t be com­pet­ing against a sug­ar pill. In the mean­time, Roche has a Christ­mas eve PDU­FA date with the FDA and strong odds they’ll get an OK for a record-break­ing year at the agency.

Roche got rights to this drug from Sh­iono­gi, which sells it in Japan.

On the bright side, Roche did have some good news for a sub­pop­u­la­tion, with their drug beat­ing Tam­i­flu in the in­fluen­za sub­type B cat­e­go­ry, with a me­di­an time to im­prove­ment of 74.6 hours com­pared to Tam­i­flu’s 101.6 hours (p<0.05). Their drug al­so re­duced “the time that the virus con­tin­ued to be re­leased from the body (vi­ral shed­ding; me­di­an time of 48.0 hours for balox­avir mar­box­il ver­sus 96.0 hours for both place­bo and os­eltamivir; p<0.0001).”

How about ad­verse re­ac­tions? There again, there was no sig­nif­i­cant dif­fer­ence, with balox­avir at 25.1% and Tam­i­flu at 28%. That too is weak, with the phar­ma gi­ant falling back to its ar­gu­ment of nu­mer­i­cal su­pe­ri­or­i­ty.

Roche’s Genen­tech had re­peat­ed­ly boast­ed that balox­avir was the biggest new thing to come along in the flu-fight­ing are­na in 20 years. And they’re still say­ing it.

“This study adds to the grow­ing body of ev­i­dence sup­port­ing balox­avir mar­box­il as a po­ten­tial first-in-class an­tivi­ral flu treat­ment, and we plan to dis­cuss these da­ta with health au­thor­i­ties around the world,” San­dra Horn­ing, Genen­tech’s chief med­ical of­fi­cer and head of Glob­al Prod­uct De­vel­op­ment.

John Hood [file photo]

UP­DATE: Cel­gene and the sci­en­tist who cham­pi­oned fe­dra­tinib's rise from Sanofi's R&D grave­yard win FDA OK

Six years after Sanofi gave it up for dead, the FDA has approved the myelofibrosis drug fedratinib, now owned by Celgene.

The drug will be sold as Inrebic, and will soon land in the portfolio at Bristol-Myers Squibb, which is finalizing a deal to acquire Celgene.

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UP­DAT­ED: AveX­is sci­en­tif­ic founder was axed — and No­var­tis names a new CSO in wake of an ethics scan­dal

Now at the center of a storm of controversy over its decision to keep its knowledge of manipulated data hidden from regulators during an FDA review, Novartis CEO Vas Narasimhan has found a longtime veteran in the ranks to head the scientific work underway at AveXis, where the incident occurred. And the scientific founder has hit the exit.

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Ab­b­Vie gets its FDA OK for JAK in­hibitor upadac­i­tinib, but don’t look for this one to hit ex­ecs’ lofty ex­pec­ta­tions

Another big drug approval came through on Friday afternoon as the FDA OK’d AbbVie’s upadacitinib — an oral JAK1 inhibitor that is hitting the rheumatoid arthritis market with a black box warning of serious malignancies, infections and thrombosis reflecting fears associated with the class.

It will be sold as Rinvoq — at a wholesale price of $59,000 a year — and will likely soon face competition from a drug that AbbVie once controlled, and spurned. Reuters reports that a 4-week supply of Humira, by comparison, is $5,174, adding up to about $67,000 a year.

The top 10 fran­chise drugs in bio­phar­ma his­to­ry will earn a to­tal of $1.4T (tril­lion) by 2024 — what does that tell us?

Just in case you were looking for more evidence of just how important Amgen’s patent win on Enbrel is for the company and its investors, EvaluatePharma has come up with a forward-looking consensus estimate on what the list of top 10 drugs will look like in 2024.

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ICER blasts FDA, PTC and Sarep­ta for high prices on DMD drugs Em­flaza, Ex­ondys 51

ICER has some strong words for PTC, Sarepta and the FDA as the US drug price watchdog concludes that as currently priced, their respective new treatments for Duchenne muscular dystrophy are decidedly not cost-effective.

The final report — which cements the conclusions of a draft issued in May — incorporates the opinion of a panel of 17 experts ICER convened in a public meeting last month. It also based its analysis of Emflaza (deflazacort) and Exondys 51 (eteplirsen) on updated annual costs of $81,400 and over $1 million, respectively, after citing “incorrect” lower numbers in the initial calculations.

The key dates for KRAS watch­ers through the end of the year — the trail is nar­row and risks are ex­treme

There’s nothing quite like a big patent win when it comes to burnishing your prospects in the pipeline. And for Amgen, which seems to have rescued Enbrel for a run to 2029, the cheering section on Wall Street is now fixed on AMG 510 and a key rival.

And it didn’t take much data to do it. 

There was the first snapshot of a handful of patients, with a 50% response rate. Then came word that Amgen researchers are also tracking responses in different cancers, at least one in colorectal cancer and appendiceal too. 

Bain's Or­ly Mis­han joins Pfiz­er's neu­ro spin­out Cerev­el; On­colyt­ic virus biotech taps Sil­la­Jen ex­ec He­le­na Chaye as CEO

→ Bain Capital is deploying one of its top investors to Cerevel Therapeutics, steering a $350 million-plus neuro play carved out of Pfizer. Orly Mishan — a co-founder and principal of Bain’s life sciences unit — was involved in the partnership that birthed the biotech spinout in the first place. As Cerevel’s first chief business officer, she is tasked with corporate development, program management as well as technical operations. 

UP­DAT­ED: Sci­en­tist-CEO ac­cused of im­prop­er­ly us­ing con­fi­den­tial in­fo from uni­corn Alec­tor

The executive team at Alector $ALEC has a bone to pick with scientific co-founder Asa Abeliovich. Their latest quarterly rundown has this brief note buried inside:

On June 18, 2019, we initiated a confidential arbitration proceeding against Dr. Asa Abeliovich, our former consulting co-founder, related to alleged breaches of his consulting agreement and the improper use of our confidential information that he learned during the course of rendering services to us as our consulting Chief Scientific Officer/Chief Innovation Officer. We are in the early stage of this arbitration proceeding and are unable to assess or provide any assurances regarding its possible outcome.

There’s no explicit word in the filing on what kind of confidential info was involved, but the proceeding got started 2 days ahead of Abeliovich’s IPO.

Abeliovich, formerly a tenured associate professor at Columbia, is a top scientist in the field of neurodegeneration, which is where Alector is targeted. More recently, he’s also helped start up Prevail Therapeutics as the CEO, which raised $125 million in an IPO. And there he’s planning on working on new gene therapies that target genetically defined subpopulations of Parkinson’s disease. Followup programs target Gaucher disease, frontotemporal dementia and synucleinopathies.

But this time Abeliovich is the CEO rather than a founding scientist. And some of their pipeline overlaps with Alector’s.

Abeliovich and Prevail, though, aren’t taking this one lying down.

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Chi­na has be­come a CEO-lev­el pri­or­i­ty for multi­na­tion­al phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal com­pa­nies: the trend and the im­pli­ca­tions

After a “hot” period of rapid growth between 2009 and 2012, and a relatively “cooler” period of slower growth from 2013 to 2015, China has once again become a top-of-mind priority for the CEOs of most large, multinational pharmaceutical companies.

At the International Pharma Forum, hosted in March in Beijing by the R&D Based Pharmaceutical Association Committee (RDPAC) and the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA), no fewer than seven CEOs of major multinational pharmaceutical firms participated, including GSK, Eli Lilly, LEO Pharma, Merck KGaA, Pfizer, Sanofi and UCB. A few days earlier, the CEOs of several other large multinationals attended the China Development Forum, an annual business forum hosted by the research arm of China’s State Council. It’s hard to imagine any other country, except the US, having such drawing power at CEO level.