Several recent stories have caught the industry’s attention and set media imaginations alight, but none moreso than last week’s record-breaking US$3B marketing settlement between pharma giant GlaxoSmithKline and the US government. In short, GSK plead guilty to withholding safety data and illegal marketing practices related to three drugs and agreed to pay US$1B in criminal fines and US$2B to resolve civil complaints with the federal and several state governments. (more…)
Earlier today we announced that two health insurers in Switzerland had agreed to reimburse SCENESSE® (afamelanotide) for the rare disease erythropoietic protoporphyria (EPP). While this is an encouraging step forward for the program and for Swiss patients, I felt it appropriate to take a moment to discuss the important role that Switzerland has played, and continues to play, in our EPP program.
In 2006 Clinuvel announced that it would commence a new clinical trial program focused on an unknown disease in a small open label study. At the time I noted that our aim was to “provide a prophylactic treatment for [a] debilitating and incurable skin disorder”. (more…)
Earlier this month Sanofi, the world’s fourth largest pharmaceutical company by revenues, announced that it would go on a cost-cutting spree, trimming its expenditure by $US2.9billion annually and cutting many thousands of jobs in the process. Amidst the upheaval, Sanofi stated its key goal for 2012 onwards was ‘generating sustainable growth’ for shareholders (the complete presentation can be viewed here). One of the key targets for its cuts was R&D costs, both in terms of overall spend and employee headcount. (more…)
Development of novel drugs is truly like no other business: one attempts to address questions that may have never been previously posed – let alone answered – in the pursuit of improving the lives and quality of life of patients. As I eluded to in my recent letter to shareholders, the team is now well into the analysis of results from our erythropoietic protoporphyria (EPP) program; two studies from the US and Europe. This is a complex and time consuming task that requires one to collate and make sense of thousands of data points to answer a seemingly straight forward question: does this trial show that the drug is safe and effective?
Obtaining an answer needs to be understood from the concept of clinical relevance. Put simply, results don’t just need to show that a treatment or intervention has an effect on a disease. Rather, they need to indicate that that effect is relevant to the current clinical understanding, treatment and care for the disease or indication. They need to show that the drug’s effect is having a positive, meaningful impact upon a patient’s prognosis and care. This is a crucial point to consider in the development of protocols and in the careful analysis of results, as it is how regulators will review the results. (more…)
When Andrew Pollack of the New York Times declared that the “world’s largest drug company is thinking small”, he wasn’t referring to reductions in sales force.
Rather, Pollack was reporting on a licensing deal between Pfizer and Israeli biotech company Protalix which built upon a growing global trend: big pharmaceutical companies were making a move into treatments for rare diseases, otherwise known as ‘orphan’ therapies.
In the months that followed Pollack’s December 2009 article, both Pfizer and GSK (two of the world’s largest pharmaceutical companies) launched specific business units focused on R&D for orphan drugs. In their announcements, both companies highlighted the significant unmet medical needs that exist in rare diseases and the potential of therapies that were in development. (more…)
Since our announcement last year that Clinuvel would commence a new program for SCENESSE® (afamelanotide) in nonsegmental vitiligo, the company has received vast interest in the application of the drug in this disease. Of the enquiries that best captured the essence of this program, one stood out: a US based analyst asked how the company intended to objectively measure the response to treatment, the repigmentation of vitiliginous lesions, in its trial. (more…)
Novel drug development is a business which is not well understood; perhaps one which is not well explained. To be able to launch a novel drug proposition, one needs tenacity, expertise and a talented team to succeed. Unlike a ‘follow-on’ product where an abundance of safety data on the molecule in one or other formulation or therapeutic application exists, those few companies working with new drugs must clear all the necessary stringent barriers from the outset.
This makes novel drug development a risky endeavour, amplified by a level of uncertainty even when it is believed that the necessary regulatory hurdles have been cleared and the drug development process seems complete. By looking at several new molecules being developed for obesity (Lorcaserin, Contrave and Qnexa particularly), one can see how uncertain the outcome remains, even when so much work and so many years have been invested; others have written extensively about these cases and I encourage avid readers to review the publications. (more…)