Thursday, 3 October 2013

Government Shutdown May Delay FDA AdCom, PDUFA dates and Stock Catalysts

Advisory committee (Adcom) and Prescription Drug User Fee Act (PDUFA) drug approval dates may face unpredictable delays due to government shortages affecting the FDA. Several drugs are/were scheduled to receive FDA decisions in October 2013 but have so far not heard from the agency on whether their applications are being processed and whether their decision dates have been affected.

On Oct 3, 2013, Ligand Pharma and Pfizer did not hear from the FDA concerning the agency's decision on Aprela/ Duavive (bazedoxifene) for the treatment of moderate-to-severe vasomotor symptoms (VMS) and vulvar and vaginal atrophy (VVA) associated with menopause, as well as the prevention of postmenopausal osteoporosis in non-hysterectomized women. Several more drugs are in the queue for October's PDUFA decisions:

Oct 3
Ligand Pharmaceuticals (LGND); Pfizer (PFE)
Duavive (EU); Aprela
Bazedoxifene/Conjugated estrogens (BZA/CE)

Moderate-to-severe vasomotor symptoms (VMS) and vulvar and vaginal atrophy (VVA) associated with menopause, as well as the prevention of postmenopausal osteoporosis in non-hysterectomized women
Oct 14
Antares Pharma (ATRS)
Otrexup
Methotrexate (combination product for use with Medi-Jet™ technology)
Rheumatoid arthritis (RA), poly-articular-course juvenile RA and moderate to severe psoriasis
Oct 17
Alimera Sciences (ALIM),
pSivida Corp (PSVD)
Iluvien
Fluocinolone acetonide intravitreal insert
Diabetic Macular Edema (DME)
Oct 21
Amag Pharmaceuticals (AMAG)
Feraheme (supplemental NDA – new formulation)
Ferumoxytol
Intravenous administration for Iron Deficiency Anemia Patients Who Cannot Take Oral Iron
Dec 18
Theravance (THRX), GlaxoSmithKline (GSK)
Anoro Ellipta
Umeclidinium bromide and vilanterol
Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disorder (COPD)
Dec 20
Amarin Corp (AMRN)
Vascepa (supplemental NDA)
Icosapent ethyl
Cardiovascular disease – triglyceride reducer during diet for adult patients with high triglycerides (TG ≥200 mg/dL and < 500 mg/dL) with mixed dyslipidemia

Until the FDA makes specific announcements, the investors are likely to be kept in the dark about October's PDUFA decisions. Delays are also likely to cause bottlenecks in the approval process and may delay the rest of the PDUFA calendar. 

To re-cap: 

Oct 3, 2013: Ligard Pharmaceuticals and Pfizer - Aprela (bazedoxifene and conjugated equine estrogens (Premarin)) - moderate-to-severe vasomotor symptoms (VMS) and vulvar and vaginal atrophy (VVA) associated with menopause, as well as the prevention of postmenopausal osteoporosis in non-hysterectomized women

Ligand is a biopharmaceutical company that develops and acquires assets it believes will generate royalty revenues and produce sustainable profitability. Ligand has a diverse asset portfolio addressing the unmet medical needs of patients for a broad spectrum of diseases including thrombocytopenia, multiple myeloma, diabetes, hepatitis, muscle wasting, dyslipidemia, anemia, and osteoporosis. Ligand has established multiple alliances with the world's leading pharmaceutical companies including GlaxoSmithKline, Merck, Pfizer, Eli Lilly & Company, Baxter International, Bristol-Myers Squibb, Celgene, Onyx Pharmaceuticals, Lundbeck Inc., and The Medicines Company, among others.

As a result of a series of successful licensing agreements, Ligand’s total revenue more than doubled in recent years, with royalties up 90% on higher sales of GlaxoSmithKline’s Promacta® and a contribution from Onyx Pharmaceuticals’ Kyprolis™, plus increases of 131% and 125% in sales and licensing revenues of Ligand’s proprietary patented drug delivery technology Captisol.

Aprela is a drug which combines Pfizer’s as-of-yet-unapproved drug Viviant (bazedoxifene), initially developed by Ligand and Wyeth (now Pfizer) in 1994 and Premarin, Pfizer’s conjugated estrogen compound. Bazedoxifene is a selective estrogen receptor modulator, which is a compound able to selectively act on estrogen receptors throughout the body. Aprela belongs to the novel class of tissue-selective estrogen complexes (TSECs), which pair SERM with conjugated estrogen (Premarin). So far, the combination drug has demonstrated positive efficacy and safety results in a series of Phase III clinical trials involving approximately 7,500 women.

The FDA accepted an NDA from Pfizer and Ligand in December 2012. The agency will deliver its verdict on Oct 3, 2013, but complications are expected, in light of the fact that bazedoxifene has been encountering obstacles with FDA approval since 2007.
  

Oct 14, 2013: – Antares pharma Otrexup (Methotrexate - combination product for use with Medi-Jet™ self-injection technology)- Rheumatoid arthritis (RA), poly-articular-course juvenile RA and moderate to severe psoriasis

Antares Pharma is a developer of parenteral technologies, specializing in self-injectable drug delivery. Among the company’s proprietary products are Jet-injectors, Auto-injectors and Pen injectors which can be used with a wide array of oral and injectable medications. Among the companies to which Antares has licensed its technologies are Pfizer, Teva and Jazz Pharmaceuticals. Teva is Antares’s largest source of revenue, having licensed three technologies from the company.

Although Antares normally engages in risk-diluting partnerships with Big Pharma, it is developing Otrexup (methotrexate) on its own. Methotrexate is a rheumatoid arthritis (RA) drug used in 70% of 1.3 million RA cases in the US. Commonly, the drug is taken orally, but complications exist with this mode of delivery, namely poor absorption and gastrointestinal side effects.  A self-injectable formulation of methotrexate would lower the necessary dosage of the drug, and reduce side effects. In clinical studies, Antares found that 98% of patients found the self-injectable system easy to use. In addition to RA, the company intends to market Otrexup for moderate to severe psoriasis, an autoimmune skin pigmentation disorder, for which methotrexane is also commonly prescribed. The global psoriasis market was worth US$ 3.9 billion in 2010.

Oct 17, 2013: Alimera Sciences (ALIM) + Psivida Corp (PSVD) Iluvien (Fluocinolone acetonide intravitreal insert) - Diabetic Macular Edema (DME)

Alimera Sciences specializes in the research, development and commercialization of prescription ophthalmic pharmaceuticals. The company’s main focus is on diseases affecting the retina. pSivida corp specializes in developing sustained-release drug delivery systems and licensing them out. Iluvien is currently licensed out by pSivida to Alimera.

Iluvien (fluocinolone acetodine (FAc)) is a sustained-release eye implant which delivers a corticosteroid (anti-inflammatory agent) to the eye for up to 36 months. Iluvien is indicated for Diabetic Macular Edema (DME) – a diabetes-related disorder characterized by fluid and protein deposits on or under the macula of the eye (a yellow central area of the retina), causing it to thicken and swell (edema). The swelling may distort a person's central vision. Alimera has conducted two Phase 3 pivotal clinical trials (collectively known as the FAME Study) for Iluvien involving 956 patients in sites across the United States, Canada, Europe and India to assess the efficacy and safety of Iluvien with two doses, a high and low dose, in the treatment of diabetic macular edema. 

Although Alimera already obtained marketing approval of Iluvien in Austria, France, Germany, Portugal, Spain and the United Kingdom, and is going through the national phase in the approval process in Italy, the FDA has so far refused to grant Iluvien marketing approval, stating that “the NDA did not provide sufficient data to support that Iluvien is safe and effective in the treatment of patients with DME. The FDA stated that the risks of adverse reactions shown for Iluvien in the FAME® Study were significant and were not offset by the benefits demonstrated by Iluvien in these clinical trials. The FDA stated that Alimera will need to conduct two additional clinical trials to demonstrate that the product is safe and effective for the proposed indication.”[i]
The third PDUFA date for Iluvien is anticipated on Oct. 17th, 2013.