With a sub­stan­tial dis­count to Cat­a­lyst's Fir­dapse, is Ja­cobus poised to win physi­cian, pay­er sup­port for off-la­bel adult LEMS use?

Weeks ago, the FDA en­dorsed a Lam­bert-Eaton myas­thenic syn­drome (LEMS) drug from fam­i­ly-run New Jer­sey-based com­pa­ny called Ja­cobus Phar­ma­ceu­ti­cals in pe­di­atric pa­tients, on the ba­sis of adult da­ta, to the sur­prise of Cat­a­lyst Phar­ma­ceu­ti­cals which on­ly last year got its pricey — yet sim­i­lar — treat­ment for the rare au­toim­mune dis­or­der across the fin­ish line in adults. It has now been re­vealed that Ja­cobus’ ver­sion car­ries a price that is less than half of Cat­a­lyst’s Fir­dapse — a move that could fu­el off-la­bel pre­scrip­tion in adults.

Be­fore Cat­a­lyst’s Fir­dapse was sanc­tioned for use by the FDA, hun­dreds of pa­tients had been able to ac­cess a sim­i­lar drug from com­pound­ing phar­ma­cies for a frac­tion of the cost, or Ja­cobus’ for free, as part of an FDA-rat­i­fied com­pas­sion­ate use pro­gram. But the ap­proval of the Cat­a­lyst drug, ac­com­pa­nied by mar­ket ex­clu­siv­i­ty span­ning sev­en years — ef­fec­tive­ly pre­clud­ed Ja­cobus and com­pound­ing phar­ma­cies from sell­ing their ver­sions.

Dos­ing for any of these treat­ments is based on the pa­tient’s weight and dis­ease sever­i­ty. Cat­a­lyst’s Fir­dapse, which is ap­proved with a max­i­mum dose of 80 mg, car­ries an av­er­age list price of $375,000 a year. The com­pa­ny does not dis­close a per pill num­ber, a Cat­a­lyst spokesper­son told End­points News. 

The list price for Ruzur­gi is $80 for each 10 mg tablet, and Ja­cobus’ treat­ment is ap­proved up to a max­i­mum dose of 100 mg, Lau­ra Ja­cobus, who runs the pri­vate­ly-held com­pa­ny, told End­points News. “As an ex­am­ple, the whole­sale cost for a 60 mg dos­ing reg­i­men would be $175,200.00 an­nu­al­ly.  The cost to sup­port a pa­tient re­quir­ing a dai­ly dose of 100 mg would be $292,000.00 an­nu­al­ly.”

Ver­mont Sen­a­tor Bernie Sanders — ahead of his an­nounce­ment to make a sec­ond at­tempt at the pres­i­den­cy — spot­light­ed Cat­a­lyst for the “im­moral ex­ploita­tion of pa­tients”. Oth­er crit­ics of Cat­a­lyst’s pric­ing strat­e­gy sug­gest­ed that de­pend­ing on how Ja­cobus prices its drug, Ruzur­gi, in­sur­ers could be per­suad­ed to fa­vor it over Cat­a­lyst’s prod­uct de­spite be­ing of­fi­cial­ly ap­proved for pe­di­atric use on­ly. As far as the FDA is con­cerned, doc­tors can pre­scribe drugs for off-la­bel use when they judge that it is med­ical­ly ap­pro­pri­ate for their pa­tient.

Fir­dapse land­ed on the US mar­ket this Jan­u­ary, and Cat­a­lyst has not­ed it has en­coun­tered min­i­mal push­back from pay­ers, and in­di­cat­ed that typ­i­cal­ly, cov­ered pa­tients pay less than $10 per month out-of-pock­et.

In a note pub­lished last month, Sun­Trust Robin­son Humphrey’s Ed­ward Nash sug­gest­ed that de­spite sug­ges­tions to the con­trary, “(W)e have not seen any prece­dent where pay­ers cov­er an off-la­bel drug for use in un­ap­proved pa­tient pop­u­la­tion”.

Mean­while, HC Wain­wright’s An­drew Fein sug­gest­ed that Ja­cobus, de­spite the rep­u­ta­tion of a “mod­ern-day Robin Hood” is not equipped with the in­fra­struc­ture nor the ex­pe­ri­ence to sup­port a com­mer­cial push of Ruzur­gi, even with the ap­proval in hand.

“Hand­i­capped by le­gal rea­sons, we do not be­lieve that Ja­cobus can open­ly pro­mote off-la­bel use in LEMS adults…It is un­clear if and how Ja­cobus would be able to ex­pand com­mer­cial pen­e­tra­tion oth­er than through pro­mot­ing a pro­lif­er­a­tion of off-la­bel use at aca­d­e­m­ic cen­ters that were en­rolled in the com­pas­sion­ate pro­gram (which mounts to ap­prox­i­mate­ly 200 pa­tients),” he wrote in a May note.

In LEMS pa­tients, the body’s own im­mune sys­tem launch­es an at­tack on the neu­ro­mus­cu­lar junc­tion — which con­nects nerves and mus­cles. The con­di­tion can as­so­ci­at­ed with oth­er au­toim­mune dis­eases, but tends to oc­curs in pa­tients with can­cer. Its preva­lence in pe­di­atric pa­tients is not known, but glob­al­ly it is es­ti­mat­ed to af­fect three per mil­lion in­di­vid­u­als, ac­cord­ing to the FDA. In a re­cent in­vestor pre­sen­ta­tion Cat­a­lyst sug­gest­ed there are 3,000 LEMS US pa­tients, of which 300 are on Fir­dapse.

A STAT re­port pub­lished on Mon­day sug­gest­ed that some adult LEMS pa­tients have in­sin­u­at­ed that Fir­dapse is not ef­fec­tive enough and more tablets be­yond the ap­proved 80 mg dose must be tak­en for re­lief — these ex­tra pills sad­dle them with out-of-pock­et bills that could climb to thou­sands of dol­lars month­ly. The Cat­a­lyst spokesper­son did not pro­vide com­ment on this as­ser­tion.

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:

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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.

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.

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.

Suf­fer­ing No­var­tis part­ner Cona­tus is pack­ing it in on NASH af­ter a se­ries of un­for­tu­nate tri­al events

The NASH par­ty is over at No­var­tis-backed Cona­tus. And this time they’re turn­ing off the lights.

More than 2 years af­ter No­var­tis sur­prised the biotech in­vest­ment com­mu­ni­ty with its $50 mil­lion up­front and promise of R&D sup­port to part­ner with the lit­tle biotech on NASH — ig­nit­ing a light­ning strike for the share price — Cona­tus $CNAT is back with the lat­est bit­ter tale to tell about em­ri­c­as­an, which once in­spired con­fi­dence at the phar­ma gi­ant.

Dean Hum. Nasdaq via YouTube

Gen­fit goes to Chi­na with a deal worth up to $228M for NASH drug

Fresh off the high of its Nas­daq IPO de­but, and the low of com­par­isons to Cymabay — whose NASH drug re­cent­ly stum­bled — Gen­fit on Mon­day un­veiled an up to $228 mil­lion deal with transpa­cif­ic biotech Terns Phar­ma­ceu­ti­cals to de­vel­op its flag­ship ex­per­i­men­tal liv­er drug — elafi­bra­nor — in Greater Chi­na.

The deal comes more than a week af­ter Gen­fit $GN­FT is­sued a fiery de­fense of its dual PPAR ag­o­nist elafi­bra­nor, when com­peti­tor Cymabay’s PPARδ ag­o­nist, se­ladel­par, fiz­zled in a snap­shot of da­ta from an on­go­ing mid-stage tri­al. The main goal at the end of 12 weeks was for se­ladel­par to in­duce a sta­tis­ti­cal­ly sig­nif­i­cant im­prove­ment in liv­er fat con­tent, but da­ta showed that pa­tients on the place­bo ac­tu­al­ly per­formed bet­ter.

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.

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.