Third time un­lucky: Lipocine's lat­est quest to mar­ket their oral testos­terone drug snubbed again by FDA

Lipocine’s lat­est at­tempt at se­cur­ing ap­proval for its oral testos­terone drug has fiz­zled yet again.

The Utah-based drug de­vel­op­er on Mon­day said the FDA has spurned its mar­ket­ing ap­pli­ca­tion, in­di­cat­ing that some ef­fi­ca­cy da­ta on the drug, Tlando, was not up to scratch to treat male hy­pog­o­nadism, a con­di­tion char­ac­ter­ized by low pro­duc­tion of the hor­mone testos­terone, which is re­spon­si­ble for main­tain­ing mus­cle bulk, bone growth, and sex­u­al func­tion.

Shares of the Salt Lake City com­pa­ny $LPCN cratered more than 69% to 84 cents in morn­ing trad­ing.

Testos­terone treat­ments such as skin patch­es, short-act­ing in­jec­tions, and top­i­cal gels are cur­rent­ly on the mar­ket. The space is well cov­ered by in­sur­ers and is grow­ing, gen­er­at­ing some 7.2 mil­lion pre­scrip­tions last year, ac­cord­ing to Cowen an­a­lysts. But their pop­u­lar­i­ty in the ag­ing male de­mo­graph­ic has be­come a prob­lem for some biotechs in the field, with reg­u­la­tors re­ject­ing a num­ber of ap­pli­ca­tions in re­cent years.

In­tra­mus­cu­lar in­jec­tions are of­ten the first-line testos­terone re­place­ment ther­a­py (TRT) modal­i­ty due to the fact that they have long been gener­ic, be­fore grad­u­at­ing to the brand­ed top­i­cal prod­ucts (or even the gener­ic top­i­cals, which car­ry on­ly mod­est dis­counts to brand­ed An­dro­Gel), the Cowen an­a­lysts wrote in April. “The top­i­cal prod­ucts such as Ab­b­Vie’s An­dro­Gel and Lil­ly’s Ax­iron ap­pear to be read­i­ly ac­cessed, de­spite their brand­ed/brand­ed gener­ic pric­ing.”

Tlando is de­signed to avert the is­sues that plague the ex­ist­ing top­i­cal and in­jectable prod­ucts. Lipocine’s big ri­val, Clarus Ther­a­peu­tics, in March, won FDA ap­proval for its oral prod­uct, Jaten­zo. Lipocine and Clarus have been locked in lit­i­ga­tion re­lat­ed to in­tel­lec­tu­al prop­er­ty as­so­ci­at­ed with their re­spec­tive ther­a­pies.

Months ago, Lipocine said a tri­al is set to be­gin in Au­gust 2020 as part of its patent in­fringe­ment law­suit against Clarus’s Jaten­zo, re­lat­ing to six of Lipocine’s U.S. patents.  In the mean­time, Lipocine plans to seek a per­ma­nent in­junc­tion for Clarus’s al­leged in­fringe­ment.

Lipocine has been scarred time and time again in its bat­tle to bring Tlando to mar­ket. The com­pa­ny re­ceived its first re­jec­tion from the FDA in 2016, about a year af­ter the agency tight­ened its scruti­ny of TRT prod­ucts in gen­er­al. The reg­u­la­tor in March 2015 asked man­u­fac­tur­ers to tweak their la­bels to re­flect that TRT prod­ucts are on­ly ap­proved for men with cer­tain med­ical con­di­tions, and not for ag­ing-re­lat­ed low testos­terone; and that da­ta sug­gest TRT use leads to an in­creased risk of heart at­tacks and strokes.

In 2016, the agency in­di­cat­ed it was not com­fort­able with the Tlando dos­ing al­go­rithm. “The pro­posed titra­tion scheme for clin­i­cal prac­tice was sig­nif­i­cant­ly dif­fer­ent from the titra­tion scheme used in the Phase 3 tri­al lead­ing to dis­cor­dance in titra­tion de­ci­sions be­tween the Phase 3 tri­al and re­al-world clin­i­cal prac­tice,” Lipocine cit­ed the FDA say­ing in a state­ment.

Lipocine re­sub­mit­ted a mar­ket­ing ap­pli­ca­tion in 2017. In an FDA staff re­view that fol­lowed in 2018, the agency said it had rec­om­mend­ed that the com­pa­ny con­duct a new Phase III tri­al that tests the dose titra­tion scheme pro­posed for mar­ket­ing. In­stead, Lipocine chose to con­duct two new sin­gle-arm late-stage tri­als, each test­ing a dif­fer­ent dose of Tlando (150 mg thrice-dai­ly and 225 mg twice-dai­ly) with­out titra­tion. The 150 mg tri­al failed, but the 225 mg dose made the cut.

FDA pan­elists al­so ex­pressed oth­er con­cerns, in­clud­ing that the orig­i­nal late-stage tri­al up­on which Lipocine had based its ap­pli­ca­tion on did not meet one or none of the three sec­ondary end­points that as­sess for un­ac­cept­ably high max­i­mal ex­po­sures to testos­terone; the drug’s im­pact on the pa­tient’s blood pres­sure and heart rate; and whether Tlando was def­i­nite­ly restor­ing testos­terone and its ma­jor metabo­lites in­to nor­mal range.

Days lat­er, an in­de­pen­dent pan­el of ad­vi­sors to the FDA al­so sug­gest­ed their dis­com­fort with the drug. Over­all, thir­teen pan­elists vot­ed against the ben­e­fit/risk pro­file of Tlando, while six vot­ed in fa­vor. Un­sur­pris­ing­ly, the FDA hand­ed Lipocine an­oth­er re­jec­tion.

So Lipocine con­duct­ed an­oth­er study, a small 24-pa­tient tri­al to de­fin­i­tive­ly show that the drug was de­fin­i­tive­ly restor­ing testos­terone lev­els, us­ing tri­al pro­to­col the FDA was look­ing for. But on Mon­day, the FDA’s CRL flagged a prob­lem the com­pa­ny had failed to deal with from the start: that the orig­i­nal ef­fi­ca­cy tri­al failed to show the drug clear­ing three sec­ondary end­points for max­i­mal testos­terone con­cen­tra­tions.

The com­pa­ny plans to meet with the agency to fig­ure out its next steps.

Secretary of health and human services Alex Azar speaking in the Rose Garden at the White House (Photo: AFP)

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Samit Hirawat (Bristol Myers Squibb)

Af­ter bruis­ing re­jec­tion, blue­bird and Bris­tol My­ers Squibb land ide-cel pri­or­i­ty re­view. But will it mat­ter for the CVR?

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The acceptance comes five months after the two companies weres slammed with a surprise refuse-to-file that threatened to foreclose the CVR entirely. Today’s acceptance sets the FDA decision date for March 27, 2021 – or precisely 4 days before the CVR deadline of March 31. Given the breakthrough designation and strong pivotal data — 81.5% response rate, 35.2% complete response rate — priority review was largely expected.

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Anthony Coyle (Pfizer via Youtube)

Flag­ship's merged biotech Reper­toire nets ex-Pfiz­er CSO An­tho­ny Coyle as R&D chief

Flagship is building a big-name C-Suite at its new, $220 million merged biotech.

Repertoire Immune Medicines, which already boasts former Bioverativ chief John Cox as its CEO, announced yesterday that Anthony Coyle, the former Pfizer CSO and the founding CEO of Pandion, will join as their head of R&D.

“As we progress clinical trials for our multi-clonal T cell candidates in immuno-oncology, Tony’s deep expertise in cellular immunology and novel therapeutic development will help us achieve our vision of creating a new class of transformative medicines for patients,” Cox said in a statement.

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Jeff Goldberg was getting acquainted with a brand new way to do corneal transplants when an even newer, even bolder idea hit him.

It was almost 10 years ago, and Goldberg was in his first faculty position at Bascom Palmer Eye Institute at the University of Miami. Scientists had developed a new way to do cornea transplants where instead of sewing a whole donor cornea — a decades-old practice — they were just engrafting the inner layer of cells.

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Siolta Therapeutics, a microbiome company targeting allergic diseases, raked in a $30 million Series B to develop its lead candidate, STMC-103H. The drug, which has been FDA fast-tracked, is headed for proof-of-concept trials, according to the company. Its various indications include allergic asthma, food allergies, atopic dermatitis, allergic rhinitis, and allergy prevention.

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A federal committee that advises the CDC was expected to hold a vote Tuesday on a plan regarding the distribution for initial doses of approved Covid-19 vaccines. But that vote has been scrapped.

The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, or ACIP, won’t be voting until the committee members learn more about which vaccines become available first, the Wall Street Journal reported. The vote could potentially wait until a specific vaccine is authorized before recommending how to dole out the first doses.

#ES­MO20: Push­ing in­to front­line, Mer­ck and Bris­tol My­ers duke it out with new slate of GI can­cer da­ta

Having worked in parallel for years to move their respective PD-1 inhibitors up to the first-line treatment of gastrointestinal cancers, Merck and Bristol Myers Squibb finally have the data at ESMO for a showdown.

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President Donald Trump (via AP Images)

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President Donald Trump, who seems intent on announcing a Covid-19 vaccine before Election Day, could legally authorize a vaccine over the objections of experts, officials at the FDA and even vaccine manufacturers, who have pledged not to release any vaccine unless it’s proved safe and effective.

In podcasts, public forums, social media and medical journals, a growing number of prominent health leaders say they fear that Trump — who has repeatedly signaled his desire for the swift approval of a vaccine and his displeasure with perceived delays at the FDA — will take matters into his own hands, running roughshod over the usual regulatory process.

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Moving into earlier and earlier treatment lines, Bristol Myers Squibb is reporting that adjuvant treatment with Opdivo has doubled the time that esophageal or gastroesophageal junction cancer patients stay free of disease.

With the CheckMate-577 data at ESMO, CMO Samit Hirawat said, the company believes it can change the treatment paradigm.

While a quarter to 30% of patients typically achieve a complete response following chemoradiation therapy and surgery, the rest do not, said Ronan Kelly of Baylor University Medical Center. The recurrence rate is also high within the first year, Hirawat added.