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

Novotech CEO Dr. John Moller

Novotech CRO Award­ed Frost & Sul­li­van Best Biotech CRO Asia-Pa­cif­ic 2019

Known in the in­dus­try as the Asia-Pa­cif­ic CRO, Novotech is now lead CRO ser­vices provider for the grow­ing num­ber of in­ter­na­tion­al biotechs se­lect­ing the re­gion for their stud­ies.

Re­flect­ing this Asia-Pa­cif­ic growth, Novotech staff num­bers are up 20% since De­cem­ber 2018 to 600 in-house clin­i­cal re­search peo­ple across a full range of ser­vices, across the re­gion.

Novotech’s ca­pa­bil­i­ties have been rec­og­nized by an­a­lysts like Frost & Sul­li­van, most re­cent­ly with the pres­ti­gious Asia-Pa­cif­ic CRO Biotech of the year award for best prac­tices in clin­i­cal re­search for biotechs for the fifth year. See oth­er awards here.

Alex­ion wins pri­or­i­ty re­view for Ul­tomiris' aHUS in­di­ca­tion; FDA ex­pands ap­proval of Ver­tex's Symdeko

→ Alex­ion $ALXN has scored a speedy re­view for Ul­tomiris for pa­tients with atyp­i­cal he­molyt­ic ure­mic syn­drome (aHUS) af­ter post­ing pos­i­tive da­ta from a piv­otal study in Jan­u­ary. The drug is the rare dis­ease com­pa­ny’s shot at pro­tect­ing its block­buster blood dis­or­der fran­chise that is cur­rent­ly cen­tered around its flag­ship drug, Soliris, which is a com­ple­ment in­hibitor typ­i­cal­ly ad­min­is­tered every two weeks. Ul­tomiris has a sim­i­lar mech­a­nism of ac­tion but re­quires less-fre­quent dos­ing — every eight weeks. The de­ci­sion date has been set to Oc­to­ber 19. Late last year, Ul­tomiris se­cured ap­proval for noc­tur­nal he­mo­glo­bin­uria (PNH) pa­tients.

Bet­ter than Am­bi­en? Min­er­va soars on PhI­Ib up­date on sel­torex­ant for in­som­nia

A month af­ter roil­ing in­vestors with what skep­tics dis­missed as cher­ry pick­ing of its de­pres­sion da­ta, Min­er­va is back with a clean slate of da­ta from its Phase IIb in­som­nia tri­al.

In a de­tailed up­date, the Waltham, MA-based biotech said sel­torex­ant (MIN-202) hit both the pri­ma­ry and sev­er­al sec­ondary end­points, ef­fec­tive­ly im­prov­ing sleep in­duc­tion and pro­long­ing sleep du­ra­tion. In­ves­ti­ga­tors made a point to note that the ef­fects were con­sis­tent across the adult and el­der­ly pop­u­la­tions, with the lat­ter more prone to the sleep dis­or­der.

UP­DAT­ED: In sur­prise switch, Bris­tol-My­ers is sell­ing off block­buster Ote­zla, promis­ing to com­plete Cel­gene ac­qui­si­tion — just lat­er

Apart from revealing its checkpoint inhibitor Opdivo blew a big liver cancer study on Monday, Bristol-Myers Squibb said its plans to swallow Celgene will require the sale of blockbuster psoriasis treatment Otezla to keep the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) at bay.

The announcement — which has potentially delayed the completion of the takeover to early 2020 — irked investors, triggering the New York-based drugmaker’s shares to tumble Monday morning in premarket trading.

Celgene’s Otezla, approved in 2014 for psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis, is a rising star. It generated global sales of $1.6 billion last year, up from the nearly $1.3 billion in 2017. Apart from the partial overlap of Bristol-Myers injectable Orencia, the company’s rival oral TYK2 psoriasis drug is in late-stage development, after the firm posted encouraging mid-stage data on the drug, BMS-986165, last fall. With Monday’s decision, it appears Bristol-Myers is favoring its experimental drug, and discounting Otezla’s future.

The move blindsided some analysts. Credit Suisse’s Vamil Divan noted just days ago:

Endpoints News

Basic subscription required

Unlock this story instantly and join 53,300+ biopharma pros reading Endpoints daily — and it's free.

Why would the FDA ap­prove an­oth­er con­tro­ver­sial drug to spur a woman’s li­bido with these da­ta? And why no ex­pert pan­el re­view?

AMAG Pharmaceuticals’ newly approved drug for spurring women’s sexual desire may never make much money, but it’s a big hit at sparking media attention.

The therapy — Vyleesi (bremelanotide) — got the green light from regulators on Friday evening, swiftly lighting up a range of stories around the world, from The New York Times to The Guardian. Several headlines inevitably referred to it as the “female Viagra,” invoking Pfizer’s old erectile dysfunction blockbuster.

But the two drugs have little in common.

Endpoints News

Basic subscription required

Unlock this story instantly and join 53,300+ biopharma pros reading Endpoints daily — and it's free.

Gene ther­a­py biotech sees its stock rock­et high­er on promis­ing re­sults for rare cas­es of but­ter­fly dis­ease

Shares of Krys­tal Biotech took off this morn­ing $KRYS af­ter the lit­tle biotech re­port­ed promis­ing re­sults from its gene ther­a­py to treat a rare skin dis­ease called epi­der­mol­y­sis bul­losa.

Fo­cus­ing on an up­date with 4 new pa­tients, re­searchers spot­light­ed the suc­cess of KB103 in clos­ing some stub­born wounds. Krys­tal says that of 4 re­cur­ring and 2 chron­ic skin wounds treat­ed with the gene ther­a­py, the KB103 group saw the clo­sure of 5. The 6th — a chron­ic wound, de­fined as a wound that had re­mained open for more than 12 weeks — was par­tial­ly closed. That brings the to­tal so far to 8 treat­ed wounds, with 7 clo­sures.

Ab­b­Vie gets a green light to re­sume re­cruit­ing pa­tients for one myelo­ma study — but Ven­clex­ta re­mains un­der a cloud

Three months af­ter reg­u­la­tors at the FDA forced Ab­b­Vie to halt en­rolling pa­tients in its tri­als of a com­bi­na­tion us­ing Ven­clex­ta (vene­to­clax) to treat drug-re­sis­tant cas­es of mul­ti­ple myelo­ma, the agency has green-light­ed the re­sump­tion of one of those stud­ies, while keep­ing the rest on the side­lines.

The CANO­VA (M13-494) study can now get back in busi­ness re­cruit­ing pa­tients to test the drug for a pop­u­la­tion that shares a par­tic­u­lar ge­net­ic bio­mark­er. To get that per­mis­sion, Ab­b­Vie — which is part­nered with Roche on this pro­gram — was forced to re­vise the pro­to­col, mak­ing un­spec­i­fied changes in­volv­ing risk mit­i­ga­tion mea­sures, pro­to­col-spec­i­fied guide­lines and an up­dat­ed fu­til­i­ty cri­te­ria.

Bris­tol-My­ers star Op­di­vo fails sur­vival test in a matchup with Nex­avar aimed at shak­ing up the big HCC mar­ket

Bris­tol-My­ers Squibb has suf­fered an­oth­er painful set­back in its years-long quest to ex­pand the reach of Op­di­vo. The phar­ma gi­ant this morn­ing not­ed that their Check­mate-459 study com­par­ing Op­di­vo with Bay­er’s Nex­avar in front­line cas­es of he­pa­to­cel­lu­lar car­ci­no­ma — the most com­mon form of liv­er can­cer — failed to hit the pri­ma­ry end­point on over­all sur­vival.

This was a sig­nif­i­cant mile­stone in Bris­tol-My­ers’ tal­ly of PD-1 cat­a­lysts this year. Nex­avar (so­rafenib) has been the stan­dard of care in front­line HCC for the past decade, though Op­di­vo has been mak­ing head­way in sec­ond-line HCC cas­es, where it’s go­ing toe-to-toe with Bay­er’s Sti­var­ga (re­go­rafenib) af­ter re­cent ap­provals shook up the mar­ket.

Fol­low­ing news of job cuts in Eu­ro­pean R&D ops, Sanofi con­firms it’s of­fer­ing US work­ers an 'ear­ly ex­it'

Ear­li­er in the week we learned that Sanofi was bring­ing out the bud­get ax to trim 466 R&D jobs in Eu­rope, re­tool­ing its ap­proach to car­dio as re­search chief John Reed beefed up their work in can­cer and gene ther­a­pies. And we’re end­ing the week with news that the phar­ma gi­ant has al­so been qui­et­ly re­duc­ing staff in the US, tar­get­ing hun­dreds of jobs as the com­pa­ny push­es vol­un­tary buy­outs with a fo­cus on R&D sup­port ser­vices.