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.

Biotech Half­time Re­port: Af­ter a bumpy year, is biotech ready to re­bound?

The biotech sector has come down firmly from the highs of February as negative sentiment takes hold. The sector had a major boost of optimism from the success of the COVID-19 vaccines, making investors keenly aware of the potential of biopharma R&D engines. But from early this year, clinical trial, regulatory and access setbacks have reminded investors of the sector’s inherent risks.

RBC Capital Markets recently surveyed investors to take the temperature of the market, a mix of specialists/generalists and long-only/ long-short investment strategies. Heading into the second half of the year, investors mostly see the sector as undervalued (49%), a large change from the first half of the year when only 20% rated it as undervalued. Around 41% of investors now believe that biotech will underperform the S&P500 in the second half of 2021. Despite that view, 54% plan to maintain their position in the market and 41% still plan to increase their holdings.

How to col­lect and sub­mit RWD to win ap­proval for a new drug in­di­ca­tion: FDA spells it out in a long-await­ed guid­ance

Real-world data is messy. There can be differences in the standards used to collect different types of data, differences in terminologies and curation strategies, and even in the way data is exchanged.

While acknowledging this somewhat controlled chaos, the FDA is now explaining how biopharma companies can submit study data derived from real-world data (RWD) sources in applicable regulatory submissions, including new drug indications.

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David Livingston (Credit: Michael Sazel for CeMM)

Renowned Dana-Far­ber sci­en­tist, men­tor and bio­phar­ma ad­vi­sor David Liv­ingston has died

David Livingston, the Dana-Farber/Harvard Med scientist who helped shine a light on some of the key molecular drivers of breast and ovarian cancer, died unexpectedly last Sunday.

One of the senior leaders at Dana-Farber during his nearly half century of work there, Livingston was credited with shedding light on the genes that regulate cell growth, with insights into inherited BRCA1 and BRCA2 mutations that helped lay the scientific foundation for targeted therapies and earlier detection that have transformed the field.

David Lockhart, ReCode Therapeutics CEO

Pfiz­er throws its weight be­hind LNP play­er eye­ing mR­NA treat­ments for CF, PCD

David Lockhart did not see the meteoric rise of messenger RNA and lipid nanoparticles coming.

Thanks to the worldwide fight against Covid-19, mRNA — the genetic code that can be engineered to turn the body into a mini protein factory — and LNPs, those tiny bubbles of fat carrying those instructions, have found their way into hundreds of millions of people. Within the biotech world, pioneers like Alnylam and Intellia have demonstrated just how versatile LNPs can be as a delivery vehicle for anything from siRNA to CRISPR/Cas9.

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No­vo CEO Lars Fruer­gaard Jør­gensen on R&D risk, the deal strat­e­gy and tar­gets for gen­der di­ver­si­ty

 

I kicked off our European R&D summit last week with a conversation involving Novo Nordisk CEO Lars Fruergaard Jørgensen. Novo is aiming to launch a new era of obesity management with a new approval for semaglutide. And Jørgensen had a lot to say about what comes next in R&D, how they manage risk and gender diversity targets at the trendsetting European pharma giant.

John Carroll: I’m here with Lars Jørgensen, the CEO of Novo Nordisk. Lars, it’s been a really interesting year so far with Novo Nordisk, right? You’ve projected a new era of growing sales. You’ve been able to expand on the GLP-1 franchise that was already well established in diabetes now going into obesity. And I think a tremendous number of people are really interested in how that’s working out. You have forecast a growing amount of sales. We don’t know specifically how that might play out. I know a lot of the analysts have different ideas, how those numbers might play out, but that we are in fact embarking on a new era for Novo Nordisk in terms of what the company’s capable of doing and what it’s able to do and what it wants to do. And I wanted to start off by asking you about obesity in particular. Semaglutide has been approved in the United States for obesity. It’s an area of R&D that’s been very troubled for decades. There have been weight loss drugs that have come along. They’ve attracted a lot of attention, but they haven’t actually ever gained traction in the market. My first question is what’s different this time about obesity? What is different about this drug and why do you expect it to work now whereas previous drugs haven’t?

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Leen Kawas (L) has resigned as CEO of Athira and will be replaced by COO Mark Litton

Ex­clu­sive: Athi­ra CEO Leen Kawas re­signs af­ter in­ves­ti­ga­tion finds she ma­nip­u­lat­ed da­ta

Leen Kawas, CEO and founder of the Alzheimer’s upstart Athira Pharma, has resigned after an internal investigation found she altered images in her doctoral thesis and four other papers that were foundational to establishing the company.

Mark Litton, the company’s COO since June 2019 and a longtime biotech executive, has been named full-time CEO. Kawas, meanwhile, will no longer have ties to the company except for owning a few hundred thousand shares.

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Pascal Soriot, AstraZeneca CEO (via Getty images)

UP­DAT­ED: FDA slaps As­traZeneca's MCL-1 can­cer drug with a hold af­ter safe­ty is­sue — 2 years af­ter Am­gen axed a trou­bled ri­val

There are new questions being posed about a class of cancer drugs in the wake of the second FDA-enforced clinical hold in the field.

Two years after the FDA hit Amgen with a clinical hold on its MCL-1 inhibitor AMG 397 following signs of cardiac toxicity, AstraZeneca says that regulators hit them with a hold on their rival therapy of the same class.

The pharma giant noted on clinicaltrials.gov that its Phase I/II study for the MCL-1 drug AZD5991 “has been put on hold to allow further evaluation of safety related information.”

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Sur­geons suc­cess­ful­ly at­tach pig kid­ney to a hu­man for the first time, us­ing tech from Unit­ed's Re­vivi­cor

In a first, researchers reportedly successfully transplanted a pig kidney into a human without triggering an immediate immune response this week. And the technology came from the biotech United Therapeutics.

Surgeons spent three days attaching the kidney to the patient’s blood vessels, but when all was said and done, the kidney appeared to be functioning normally in early testing, Reuters and the New York Times were among those to report. The kidney came from a genetically altered pig developed through United’s Revivicor unit.

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Sen. Richard Durbin (D-IL, foreground) and Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) (Patrick Semansky/AP Images)

Sen­a­tors back FDA's plan to re­quire manda­to­ry pre­scriber ed­u­ca­tion for opi­oids

Three Senate Democrats are backing an FDA plan to require mandatory prescriber education for opioids as overdose deaths have risen sharply over the past decade, with almost 97,000 American opioid-related overdose deaths in the past year alone.

While acknowledging a decline in overall opioid analgesic dispensing in recent years, the FDA said it’s reconsidering the need for mandatory prescriber training through a REMS given the current situation with overdoses, and is seeking input on the aspects of the opioid crisis that mandatory training could potentially mitigate.