Should Sarep­ta’s patents be seized by the gov­ern­ment? Pa­tient ad­vo­cates pitch con­tro­ver­sial drug pric­ing pro­pos­al

Six ad­vo­ca­cy groups are send­ing a big ask to the fed­er­al gov­ern­ment to low­er the price of one rather ex­pen­sive drug for Duchenne mus­cu­lar dy­s­tro­phy, pe­ti­tion­ing health reg­u­la­tors to flex pow­er it’s nev­er ex­er­cised be­fore.

Amidst a years-long de­bate over drug pric­ing, Sarep­ta has hit a sen­si­tive chord with the high price tag of its DMD drug Ex­ondys 51 (eteplirsen), which goes for a around $300,000 per year.

The or­ga­ni­za­tions draft­ed a let­ter to the De­part­ment of Health and Hu­man Ser­vices (HHS), plead­ing that Sec­re­tary Alex Azar act to low­er the price of the drug. Specif­i­cal­ly, the group wants HHS to lever­age a piece of leg­is­la­tion called the Bayh-Dole Act — along with con­trac­tu­al agree­ments with fund­ing agen­cies — to take over own­er­ship of five patents on Ex­ondys 51. They can do that, the group in­sists, be­cause the in­tel­lec­tu­al prop­er­ty was backed by fed­er­al re­search dol­lars. Grant re­cip­i­ents are re­quired to dis­close fed­er­al fund­ing that con­tributes to a patent­ed in­ven­tion on their patent ap­pli­ca­tion — a step that both Sarep­ta and the Uni­ver­si­ty of West­ern Aus­tralia failed to do.

By tak­ing ti­tle to the patents, the HHS could lever­age their po­si­tion to low­er the price of Ex­ondys, the or­ga­ni­za­tions said.

An­a­lysts at Leerink, who cov­er Sarep­ta’s stock $SRPT, sent a note to in­vestors this morn­ing not­ing the un­like­li­hood that such ac­tion would be tak­en by the gov­ern­ment.

“Bot­tom Line: To­day’s let­ter from sev­er­al groups de­liv­ered to HHS Sec­re­tary (Alex) Azar high­lights the lengths that some are will­ing to go in or­der to force drug prices low­er; how­ev­er we be­lieve these groups have an up­hill bat­tle, and even if they were to pre­vail there would be lim­it­ed read through to oth­er rare dis­ease com­pa­nies whose busi­ness mod­els re­ly on pre­mi­um pric­ing.”

Leerink re­minds in­vestors that a sim­i­lar strat­e­gy was used against Gilead, Ver­tex, and No­var­tis, among oth­ers. Those ef­forts failed, an­a­lysts said in a note.

But KEI, one of the or­ga­ni­za­tions that wrote the let­ter, said Leerink’s note is mis­lead­ing.

“If they are re­fer­ring to re­search we’ve sub­mit­ted to HHS on drugs mar­ket­ed by Gilead and oth­er firms, that state­ment isn’t quite ac­cu­rate,” KEI spokesper­son Kim Tre­anor wrote in an email. “Our re­search has been sub­mit­ted very re­cent­ly and is still be­ing re­viewed by HHS, so no res­o­lu­tion to these cas­es has oc­curred as of yet.”

The let­ter writ­ers do ac­knowl­edge, how­ev­er, that the ac­tion they’re re­quest­ing is un­prece­dent­ed:

In the past, the fed­er­al gov­ern­ment has, on sev­er­al oc­ca­sions, asked re­cip­i­ents of fed­er­al grants and con­tracts to cor­rect fail­ures to dis­close fed­er­al fund­ing of the in­ven­tions, but has not ex­er­cised its rights to take the ti­tle of such patents for pur­pos­es of in­flu­enc­ing drug prices. In this re­spect, we rec­og­nize that we are ask­ing HHS to do some­thing new.

And lat­er, the let­ter re­it­er­ates what the or­ga­ni­za­tions are up against:

We re­spect­ful­ly ask for a meet­ing with your staff to fur­ther dis­cuss this is­sue, not­ing that as a prac­ti­cal mat­ter, if the de­ci­sions are del­e­gat­ed sole­ly to the NIH (Of­fice of Tech­nol­o­gy Trans­fer) staff it is high­ly un­like­ly any ac­tion will be tak­en to mod­er­ate the price of this drug.

Read the full let­ter here, writ­ten and sub­mit­ted by KEI, Health GAP, Pa­tients for Af­ford­able Drugs, Peo­ple of Faith for Ac­cess to Med­i­cines, So­cial Se­cu­ri­ty Works and Uni­ver­si­ties Al­lied for Es­sen­tial Med­i­cines.


Im­age: Sarep­ta Ther­a­peu­tics. AP IM­AGES

Brian Kaspar. AveXis via Twitter

AveX­is sci­en­tif­ic founder fires back at No­var­tis CEO Vas Narasimhan, 'cat­e­gor­i­cal­ly de­nies any wrong­do­ing'

Brian Kaspar’s head was among the first to roll at Novartis after company execs became aware of the fact that manipulated data had been included in its application for Zolgensma, now the world’s most expensive therapy.

But in his first public response, the scientific founder at AveXis — acquired by Novartis for $8.7 billion — is firing back. And he says that not only was he not involved in any wrongdoing, he’s ready to defend his name as needed.

I reached out to Brian Kaspar after Novartis put out word that he and his brother Allen had been axed in mid-May, two months after the company became aware of the allegations related to manipulated data. His response came back through his attorneys.

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UP­DAT­ED: An em­bold­ened As­traZeneca splurges $95M on a pri­or­i­ty re­view vouch­er. Where do they need the FDA to hus­tle up?

AstraZeneca is in a hurry.

We learned this morning that the pharma giant — not known as a big spender, until recently — forked over $95 million to get its hands on a priority review voucher from Sobi, otherwise known as Swedish Orphan Biovitrum.

That marks another step down on price for a PRV, which allows the holder to slash 4 months off of any FDA review time.

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Martin Shkreli [via Getty]

Pris­on­er #87850-053 does not get to add drug de­vel­op­er to his list of cred­its

Just days after Retrophin shed its last ties to founder Martin Shkreli, the biotech is reporting that the lead drug he co-invented flopped in a pivotal trial. Fosmetpantotenate flunked both the primary and key secondary endpoints in a placebo-controlled trial for a rare disease called pantothenate kinase-associated neurodegeneration, or PKAN.

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We­bi­nar: Re­al World End­points — the brave new world com­ing in build­ing fran­chise ther­a­pies

Several biopharma companies have been working on expanding drug labels through the use of real world endpoints, combing through the data to find evidence of a drug’s efficacy for particular indications. But we’ve just begun. Real World Evidence is becoming an important part of every clinical development plan, in the soup-through-nuts approach used in building franchises.

I’ve recruited a panel of 3 top experts in the field — the first in a series of premium webinars — to look at the practical realities governing what can be done today, and where this is headed over the next few years, at the prodding of the FDA.

ZHEN SU — Merck Serono’s Senior Vice President and Global Head of Oncology
ELLIOTT LEVY — Amgen’s Senior Vice President of Global Development
CHRIS BOSHOFF — Pfizer Oncology’s Chief Development Officer

A premium subscription to Endpoints News is required to attend this webinar. Please upgrade to either an Insider or Enterprise plan for access. Already have Endpoints Premium? Please sign-in below. You can contact our Subscriptions team at help@endpointsnews.com with any issues.

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Am­gen, Al­ler­gan biosim­i­lar of Roche's block­buster Rit­ux­an clears an­oth­er US piv­otal study 

Novartis $NVS may have given up, but Amgen $AMGN and Allergan $AGN are plowing ahead with their knockoff of Roche’s blockbuster biologic Rituxan in the United States.

Their copycat, ABP 798, was found to have a clinically equivalent impact as Rituxan — meeting the main goal of the study involving CD20-positive B-cell non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma patients. This is the second trial supporting the profile of the biosimilar. In January, it came through with positive PK results in patients with rheumatoid arthritis.

BeiGene and Mus­tang nail down spe­cial FDA sta­tus for top drugs; Roche bags added cov­er­age for Hem­li­bra

→ BeiGene $BGNE is getting a boost in its drive to field a rival to Imbruvica. The FDA has offered an accelerated review to zanubrutinib, a BTK inhibitor that has posted positive results for mantle cell lymphoma. The PDUFA date lands on February 27, 2020. The drug scored breakthrough status at the beginning of the year.

→ BeiGene isn’t the only biopharma company to gain special regulatory status today. Mustang Bio $MBIO and St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital announced that MB-107, a lentiviral gene therapy for the treatment of X-linked severe combined immunodeficiency, also known as bubble boy disease, has been granted Regenerative Medicine Advanced Therapy status.

Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion re­vives bid to get drug list prices on TV ads

The Trump administration is not giving up just yet. On Wednesday, the HHS filed an appeal against a judge’s decision in July to overturn a ruling obligating drug manufacturers to disclose the list price of their therapies in television adverts — hours before it was stipulated to go into effect.

In May, the HHS published a final ruling requiring drugmakers to divulge the wholesale acquisition cost— of a 30-day supply of the drug — in tv ads in a bid to enhance price transparency in the United States. The pharmaceutical industry has vehemently opposed the rule, asserting that list prices are not what a typical patient in the United States pays for treatment — that number is typically determined by the type of (or lack thereof) insurance coverage, deductibles and out-of-pocket costs. Although there is truth to that claim, the move was considered symbolic in the Trump administration’s healthcare agenda to hold drugmakers accountable in a climate where skyrocketing drug prices have incensed Americans on both sides of the aisle.

Ver­sant-backed Chi­nook gets a $65M launch round for its dis­cov­ery quest in a resur­gent kid­ney field

Versant is once again stepping off the beaten track in biotech to see if they can blaze a trail of their own in a field that has looked too thorny to many investors for years.

The venture group and their partners at Apple Tree are bringing their latest creation out of stealth mode today. Born in Versant’s Inception Sciences’ Chinook Therapeutics is betting that its preclinical take on kidney disease can get an early lead among the companies starting up in the field.

Sir An­drew Dil­lon, NICE's first — and on­ly — chief ex­ec­u­tive to step down next year

Using a laptop borrowed from his former employer, South London’s St George’s Hospital, Sir Andrew Dillon set about establishing NICE — launched by the then health secretary Frank Dobson — in 1999.  On Thursday, the UK cost-effectiveness watchdog said its first and only chief executive — Dillon — is stepping down in March 2020.

Back in the day, decisions about which drugs and interventions were funded by the National Health Service (NHS) were made at the local level, but this ‘postcode prescribing’ system was fraught with skewed healthcare deployment making the structure unsustainable. A national system was deemed necessary — and NICE was formed to bridge that gap.