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The Race is Afoot? Over to the ECB

The Race is Afoot? Over to the ECB

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The Federal Reserve's adoption of an average inflation target pushed on a door in the foreign exchange market that was already open.  The dollar had been trending lower since the end of March and, as of the end of August, was down against all the major currencies this year, save the New Zealand and Canadian dollars.

The real broad trade-weighted dollar is arguably the best measure of metric to gauge the economic impact.  At the end of August, it stood at 108.09 after finishing 2019 at 107.05. It had peaked in April near 113.40, an 18-year high incidentally.

Neither the FOMC statement, Powell's comments, or subsequent official remarks have specified a period by which the average rate of inflation will be observed.  The Fed's Vice-Chair Clarida seemed to play down the need to adopt new tools.  Even Brainard's comments seemed to be more geared at the Fed refraining from action (e.g., preemptive rate hike) than a fresh policy tool for the new framework.

Nevertheless, the Fed's confirmation that it would tolerate inflation for some unspecified period by an unpsecified amount above 2% provided fresh fuel to the dollar bears.  The greenback was sold to new lows for the year against most of the major currencies.  Sterling approached $1.35 and the Australian dollar pressed through $0.7400.  The dollar tested CHF0.9000 and briefly traded below CAD1.3000.  Gold was reaching again for that $2000-mark.  The euro poked above $1.20, its average since the launch in 1990. It had not been this high since May 2018.

As this was taking place on September 1, the ECB's Chief Economist Lane commented that although the ECB does not target the exchange rate, the euro-dollar rate matters.  It is not clear if,  given the key levels, profit-taking was going to set in in any event, but Lane's comments helped frame the correction that quickly turned into a rout.  A short squeeze lifted the dollar back into its previous ranges that had been threatened.

A few hours before Lane spoke, the preliminary August eurozone CPI was reported.  It was weaker than expected.  At minus 0.2%, it was the first deflationary reading since 2106.  The core rate fell to a lowly 0.4% from 1.2% and is a new record low.   The strength of the euro only aggravates the situation, says the conventional wisdom, and raises the obvious question is Lane's comments were shot across the bow.  The ECB is engaged in its own review of its policy framework.  It seems considerably less bothered that Fed officials about the role of monetary policy in addressing social or racial inequality.  ECB President Lagarde does embrace "green bonds," and Germany (and Sweden) launched their first green bonds last week (10-year maturities).

The ECB's staff will update its forecasts.  There can be no doubt the lowly CPI reading was unsettling, but it is not the like it was surprising to the staff.  Recall that its last forecast,   made in June, was that headline CPI would average 0.3% this year.  It averaged 0.7% in H1, and now with the August reading, the average for this year so far is 0.5%.  And those inflation figures are not clean in the sense that there are statistical distortions and noise from pandemic-related decisions.  If the staff shaves its 2022 inflation target by a tenth or two of a percent from 1.3%, as some suggest, it can hardly be attributed to some short-term appreciation of the euro.

The euro has appreciated by about 5.5% against the US dollar this year after having fallen by a little more than 1.5% in Q1.  As the markets froze up in March, the euro fell to a three-year low near $1.0650.  Much to the chagrin of the Swiss National Bank, the Swiss franc has kept pace with the euro and is a tad stronger still.  The euro has appreciated by about 5% against sterling.  More recently, sterling had performed better, and the euro's earlier gains were trimmed in both July and August.  The eurozone's other major trading partner is China.  The euro has appreciated about 3.7% against the yuan, though bilateral trade is probably mostly conducted in euros.  Investors' reaction to the pandemic has been particularly hard on emerging markets as an asset class, and the euro has appreciated against most, including those in eastern and central Europe.

The Financial Times reported that several ECB officials are worried about the euro's appreciation.  First, consider who would talk to reporters, off the record, risk a scandal if word got out.  Those that have won or are winning some internal fight have no reason.  They won.  More often than not, such leaks and clandestine sources are on the losing side.  It is not a question of the morality of the leaks, but a question of interests that are served.  The German member of the executive board, Schnabel spoke on the record at the start of last week and played down the significance of the recent price action, but noted that "if there is a depreciation of the US dollar, it tends to boost global trade and global growth".

Second, consider the level of urgency conveyed in the article.  The posted nuanced explanation recognized IF the euro continues to appreciate, then it could have undesirable effects on exports, prices, and "would intensify the pressures for more stimulus."  That latter is the real fear by the hard money camp.  Although Schnabel did not see a need to change policy at next week's meeting, there is some pressure to do more to achieve its inflation target and in light of the Fed's shift.

In a separate interview, Bundesbank President Weidmann argued that the measures are for an emergency only and a limited duration.  Wunsch, the Governor of Belgium's central bank warned that assistance will be needed through 2021.  Germany's Finance Minister Scholz, and the Social Democrat candidate to succeed Merkel next year, has been praised far and wide for loosening Germany's purse strings. Still, many confuse the emergency with a jettisoning of ordo-liberalism.  Weidmann's strict constructionist and hard-money camp may not be a majority at the ECB, but within Germany, it is, and Scholz has called for the re-imposition of the debt brake in 2022.

The Financial Times states matter of factly that the euro had risen "close to all-time highs against a  trade-weighted basket of currencies."  Yet, it is not so obvious.  Here, for example, a chart of Deutschebank's trade-weighted euro,  It is about the middle of its 20-year range.  The Financial Times also conveniently ignored other measures of valuation that make the euro cheap, not rich.  The Economist's Big Mac Index had the euro about 14% undervalued in July.    A more rigorous measure of Purchasing Power Parity comes from the OECD.  At $1.1850, its model shows the euro to be about 19.5% under-valued.

The euro has fallen for five of the past six years against the dollar.  It seems a bit premature to make a big deal about the recent appreciation.  At mid-year, it was virtually flat.  The issue is really two month's of gains.  The euro appreciated by a little more than 4.8% in July.  It was the biggest monthly advance in a decade.  The pace of the move is indeed notable, but, on its own, the market calmed down in August, and the euro entered a trading range against the dollar.  It had been $1.17-$1.19.

It was the Fed's adoption of an average inflation rate target (whatever that really means) that provided dollar bears fresh nourishment.  Moreover, it follows calls from President Trump for a weaker dollar.  It is in this context that some diplomatic parrying may be understandable.  And as the Finacial Times article recognized, there is a camp that thinks the euro's appreciation or at least part of it is about Europe rather than the US.  They point to the European Recovery Fund  (that had not been launched yet) and the forecasts for a stronger rebound from the pandemic.

Ironically, the Financial Times article appeared on the same day the Markit reported that the eurozone's August composite PMI slowed to 51.9 from 54.9 in July, and Italy's and Spain's fell below the 50 boom/bust level.  Separately, and more disheartening, Eurostat reported that retail sales in the euro area unexpectedly fell by 1.3% in July.  The median forecast in the Bloomberg survey was for a 1% increase.

There are several takeaways.  First, as of the end of August, the Federal Reserve's real broad trade-weighted index remains a little higher on the year.  The dollar's recent decline that has gotten so many worked up and so many columns warning of the demise of its numeraire status ought not to be exaggerated.  Similarly, the impact of the euro's appreciation against the dollar has been similarly modest, and it had entered a trading range after the July rally.  The Fed's adoption of the average inflation target threatened a new leg higher for the euro.  

Second, even before the pandemic struck the hawks at the ECB were in a minority and seemed to have lost key controversial decisions.  They may take to the press anonymously but they do not speak for the ECB.  On balance, the ECB looks less concerned about the euro's recent appreciation than the hawks.  The G7 position is that markets should determine exchange rates, but excessive volatility should be avoided.  Lagarde is on safe ground reiterating that, though she is too diplomatic to comment on President Trump's comments that had purposely sought a weaker dollar while US rails against other countries, including for manipulating their currencies, no matter how poor, small, or the extent that it is over-valued. 

Third, there seem to be two main narratives.  One sees the euro's rise as a function of not pursuing a sufficiently accommodative monetary policy. Although the ECB has a negative 50 bp deposit rate, expanded its balance sheet by $200 bln in July and August (as the Fed's balance sheet contracted by about $92 bln in the same period), and has made more than 1 trillion of loans to banks at minus 100 bp, the problem the critics say lies with real rates.   If current levels of inflation rates are deducted from nominal rates, then European real rates are higher than in the US, its nominal rates are lower.  However, current inflation readings have been skewed by the pandemic and economic shutdowns and are hardly representative of general price pressures.  There is a high degree of uncertainty, and the data are terribly noisy.   

The other narrative sees the euro's rise as emblematic at the broader setback in the dollar after its two main legs, interest rate and growth differentials, have been cut. The euro is the next deepest alternative and may serve as the chief alternative to the US dollar.  Speculators have been carrying a net long euro futures position since mid-March and took it to a record high in late August.  The positioning in the other currency futures is not nearly as extreme.

Fourth, the battle at the ECB is over the future course of policy.  The hard money camp is positioning to oppose an extension of the Pandemic Emergency Bond Purchases that have already been extended to the middle of next year.  Such a decision is expected at the December ECB meeting, with the cover of new staff forecasts.  Meanwhile, the growth of the ECB's balance sheet slowed in August (~19.85 bln euros on average a week vs 24.9 bln in July, and 45.2 bln in May, June was skewed by the TLTRO) condition thinned during August.  Some mention by Lagarde that the purchases will increase now that full liquidity has returned makes good tactical sense.  





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Breaking the tape

The top performers among drugs launched in 2020 were each the first of their kind.

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Breaking the tape

The top performers among drugs launched in 2020 were each the first of their kind.

By Joshua Slatko • josh.slatko@medadnews.com

The leaders in pharma’s Class of 2020 were all firsts. Veklury, for COVID, and Tepezza, for thyroid eye disease, were each the first drug of any kind to be approved by FDA for their respective disease targets. And while other treatments for migraine exist, Ubrelvy was the first orally administered calcitonin gene-related peptide (CGRP) receptor antagonist (gepant) for the treatment of migraine attacks once they start. The era of follow-ons in pharma may not entirely be over; but surely the industry’s researchers are still breaking barriers. 

Earning nearly $5.57 billion in sales during the product’s first full calendar year on the market, Veklury was the first drug approved by FDA for the treatment of COVID-19.

Veklury

The very first drug to be approved in the United States for the treatment of COVID-19, Gilead’s Veklury received emergency use authorization from FDA during May 2020, an expanded EUA three months later, and full approval for treating patients with COVID requiring hospitalization during October 2020. Veklury had originally been developed for the treatment of hepatitis C and had been studied in Ebola and Marburg virus, without success. 

FDA approval was based on three randomized controlled trials including final results of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases’ double blind, placebo-controlled Phase III ACTT-1 trial, which showed that treatment with Veklury resulted in clinically meaningful improvements across multiple outcome assessments compared with placebo in hospitalized patients with COVID-19. Based on the strength of these data, Veklury became a standard of care for the treatment of COVID-19 in hospitalized patients.

In the randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled ACTT-1 trial, Veklury significantly improved time to recovery as compared to placebo – by five days in the overall study population (10 versus 15 days) and seven days in patients who required oxygen support at baseline (11 versus 18 days). As a secondary endpoint, Veklury also reduced disease progression in patients needing oxygen, resulting in a significantly lower incidence of new mechanical ventilation or ECMO (13 percent versus 23 percent). In the overall patient population, there was a trend toward reduced mortality with Veklury compared with placebo at Day 29.

In June 2021, Gilead announced positive data from three retrospective studies of the real-world treatment of patients hospitalized with COVID-19, adding to the body of mortality and hospital discharge data for patients treated with Veklury. All three of the real-world analyses observed that, in the overall patient populations, patients who received Veklury treatment had significantly lower risk for mortality compared with matched controls. A reduction in mortality was observed across a spectrum of baseline oxygen requirements. The results were consistently observed at different time frames over the course of the pandemic and across geographies. Two of the studies also observed that patients who received Veklury had a significantly increased likelihood of discharge from the hospital by Day 28.

In January 2022, FDA granted expedited approval of a supplemental new drug application for Veklury for the treatment of non-hospitalized adult and adolescent patients who are at high risk of progression to severe COVID-19, including hospitalization or death. The expanded indication allowed for Veklury to be administered in qualified outpatient settings that can administer daily intravenous infusions over three consecutive days. FDA also expanded the pediatric EUA of Veklury to include non-hospitalized pediatric patients younger than 12 years of age who are at high risk of disease progression.

These actions by FDA came amidst a surge in COVID-19 cases and the reduced susceptibility to several anti-SARS-CoV-2 monoclonal antibodies (mAbs) due to the Omicron variant. In contrast, Veklury targets the highly conserved viral RNA polymerase, thereby retaining activity against existing SARS-CoV-2 variants of concern. In vitro laboratory testing has shown that Veklury retains activity against the Omicron variant. 

Quarterly sales, VekluryThe FDA sNDA approval, pediatric EUA expansion, and updated National Institutes of Health Treatment Guidelines for COVID-19 that additionally recommend Veklury for treatment in non-hospitalized settings were based on results from the PINETREE Phase III randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial. The study evaluated the efficacy and safety of a three-day course of Veklury for intravenous use for the treatment of COVID-19 in non-hospitalized patients at high risk for disease progression. An analysis of 562 participants randomly assigned in a 1:1 ratio to receive Veklury or placebo, demonstrated that treatment with Veklury resulted in a statistically significant 87 percent reduction in risk for the composite primary endpoint of COVID-19 related hospitalization or all-cause death by Day 28 (0.7 percent, 2/279) compared with placebo (5.3 percent, 15/283). In the study, no deaths were observed in either arm by Day 28.

In February, Gilead released data demonstrating the in vitro activity of Veklury against 10 SARS-CoV-2 variants, including Omicron. Results of Gilead’s studies were consistent with other in vitro studies independently conducted by researchers from institutions in other countries, including Belgium, the Czech Republic, Germany, Poland and the United States, which confirmed Veklury’s antiviral activity against multiple previously identified variants of SARS-CoV-2, including Alpha, Beta, Gamma, Delta and Omicron.

The study analyzed in vitro antiviral activity by two methods to understand the susceptibility of 10 major SARS-CoV-2 variants to Veklury. The study results showed similar activity of Veklury against the variants and an early ancestral A lineage isolate detected in Seattle, Wash. (WA1 strain). Specifically, Delta and Omicron variants both remained fully susceptible to Veklury, and these laboratory results demonstrated that Veklury has remained active against all major variants isolated over the past two years.

In April, FDA approved a supplemental new drug application for Veklury for the treatment of pediatric patients who are older than 28 days, weighing at least 3 kg, and are either hospitalized with COVID-19 or have mild-to-moderate COVID-19 and are considered high risk for progression to severe COVID-19, including hospitalization or death. This approval made Veklury the first and only approved treatment for pediatric COVID patients in the United States. Under the expanded indication, a three-day Veklury treatment regimen is recommended to help prevent hospitalization in non-hospitalized COVID-19 pediatric patients who are at high risk for COVID-19 disease progression. For hospitalized pediatric patients who do not require invasive mechanical ventilation and/or ECMO, a five-day treatment course is recommended. The approval was supported by results from the CARAVAN Phase II/III single arm, open-label study, which demonstrated that Veklury was generally well-tolerated among pediatric patients hospitalized with COVID-19 with a high proportion of participants showing clinical improvement and recovery, as well as data from trials in adults.

Tepezza

Tepezza

Tepezza was the first drug ever approved by FDA for the treatment of thyroid eye disease.

When it earned approval in January 2020, Horizon Therapeutics’ Tepezza became the first and only FDA-approved medicine for thyroid eye disease, a serious, progressive and vision-threatening rare autoimmune disease that is associated with proptosis (eye bulging), diplopia (double vision), blurred vision, pain, inflammation, and facial disfigurement. Tepezza is a fully human monoclonal antibody (mAb) and a targeted inhibitor of the insulin-like growth factor-1 receptor (IGF-1R) that is administered to patients once every three weeks for a total of eight infusions.

The FDA approval of Tepezza was supported by a robust body of clinical evidence, including statistically significant, positive results from the Phase II clinical study, as well as the Phase III confirmatory clinical study OPTIC. The OPTIC study found that significantly more patients treated with Tepezza (82.9 percent) had a meaningful improvement in proptosis (≥ 2 mm) as compared with placebo patients (9.5 percent) without deterioration in the fellow eye at Week 24. Additional secondary endpoints were also met, including a change from baseline of at least one grade in diplopia (double vision) in 67.9 percent of patients receiving Tepezza compared to 28.6 percent of patients receiving placebo at Week 24. In a related analysis of the Phase II and Phase III clinical studies, there were more patients with complete resolution of diplopia among those treated with Tepezza (53 percent) compared with those treated with placebo (25 percent).

In October 2020, Horizon announced new long-term follow-up data from the Phase II clinical trial of Tepezza, which showed a sustained response up to one year following completion of treatment for thyroid eye disease. All patients with Week 72 data (37/37) reported some improvement in at least one of the study outcomes from baseline. 97 percent (36/37) of study participants had an improvement in clinical activity score (decrease of at least 1 point). 86 percent (31/36) had any decrease in proptosis. One patient chose elective TED surgery at Week 70 and did not have proptosis measurements at Week 72. Of patients with baseline diplopia, 70 percent (23/33) had an improvement of at least one grade. 70 percent (26/37) had disease inactivation (CAS of 0 or 1 point).

During December 2020, Horizon announced that the company expected a short-term disruption in Tepezza supply as a result of government-mandated COVID-19 vaccine production orders related to Operation Warp Speed that dramatically restricted capacity available for the production of Tepezza at its drug product contract manufacturer, Catalent. In March 2021, FDA cleared a prior approval supplement to the previously approved Biologics Licensing Application giving Horizon authorization to manufacture more Tepezza drug product resulting in an increased number of vials with each manufacturing slot. The company began to resupply the market in April, which ended the supply disruption.

Tepezza Quarterly SalesIn April 2021, new pooled data from the Tepezza Phase II and III trials was published in The Lancet Diabetes & Endocrinology. This data further reinforced that Tepezza significantly improves proptosis and diplopia for TED patients in different subgroups, with most maintaining a long-term response. There was no evidence for acute disease rebound (increase in percentage of patients no longer meeting proptosis, diplopia or ophthalmic composite outcome) seven weeks after the last dose of Tepezza. Proptosis (87 percent; 62/71), diplopia (66 percent; 38/58) and ophthalmic composite outcome (92 percent; 66/72) responses were observed seven weeks after the last dose of Tepezza. A post-hoc analysis of the composite ophthalmic outcome indicated that 81 percent (68/84) of Tepezza patients versus 44 percent (38/87) of placebo patients were responders at Week 24. Proptosis (67 percent; 38/57), diplopia (69 percent; 33/48) and composite outcome response (83 percent; 48/58) were observed 51 weeks after the last dose of Tepezza for those who had long-term off-treatment data available.

Additionally, in a post-hoc analysis, Tepezza-treated patients with more severe disease (those with ≥3 mm of proptosis and/or inconstant or constant diplopia) and those with less severe disease at baseline both experienced significant improvements in proptosis and diplopia. In patients with more severe disease, those treated with Tepezza had a proptosis response of 79 percent (50/63) compared to 17 percent (11/65) of those who received placebo, and a diplopia response of 68 percent (38/56) compared to 31 percent of those who received placebo (15/49). In patients with less severe disease, those treated with Tepezza had a proptosis response of 71 percent (15/21) compared to 9 percent in those who received placebo (2/22), and a diplopia response of 80 percent (8/10) compared to 30 percent in placebo (3/10).

In post-hoc analyses, patients who received Tepezza in both the lower baseline CAS subgroup (4 or 5) and the higher CAS subgroup (6 or 7) demonstrated statistically significant improvements compared with placebo in proptosis and diplopia. Overall response and CAS of 0 or 1 response also improved.

Post-hoc analysis from the Phase III study also demonstrated that in patients treated with Tepezza, those with higher (≥10 IU/L) or lower (<10 IU/L) serum thyrotropin-binding inhibitory immunoglobulin (TBII) baseline levels both had a proptosis response (mean reduction of -3.65 mm and -3.01 mm, respectively) with no treatment difference between the two groups. In patients with higher baseline TBII, 71 percent (10/14) of patients who received Tepezza experienced an improvement in diplopia compared to 23 percent (3/13) of patients who received placebo.

In November 2021, Horizon announced findings of a real-world adherence analysis of Tepezza for the treatment of TED. The analysis found that more than 90 percent (n=995) of people who were prescribed Tepezza for TED went on to complete all eight infusions, indicating a high level of adherence to the medicine in clinical practice. The study evaluated 1,101 people living with TED (71 percent female, mean age 58 years) who started treatment with Tepezza prior to July 2020. Non-compliance was low at approximately 1 percent (n=15). Only 8 percent (n=84) reported that they discontinued because of adverse events.

In June 2022, Horizon announced results of a new analysis examining rates of hyperglycemia among patients treated with Tepezza for TED compared to placebo in the Phase II and OPTIC Phase III clinical trials. The analysis found a total of nine adverse event reports of hyperglycemia in eight patients (8/84, 10 percent) who received Tepezza, and one patient (1/86; 1.2 percent) who received placebo. The majority (5/8, 63 percent) of patients who experienced hyperglycemia while taking Tepezza had pre-existing diabetes. Of the hyperglycemic AEs reported in the Tepezza-treated patients, all were controlled with medicine. All reported AEs were grade 1 (>ULN-160mg/dl) or grade 2 (161 – 250mg/dl), and none led to study discontinuation. HbA1c levels increased by 0.22 percent in those treated with Tepezza compared to 0.04 percent among placebo patients.

Ubrelvy

Ubrelvy

Ubrelvy was the first orally administered calcitonin gene-related peptide receptor antagonist (gepant) to be approved by FDA for the treatment of migraine attacks once they start.

Approved by FDA in late December of 2019, Ubrelvy was the first orally administered calcitonin gene-related peptide (CGRP) receptor antagonist (gepant) for the treatment of migraine attacks once they start. Ubrelvy works by blocking CGRP, a protein that is released during a migraine attack, from binding to its receptors. It works without constricting blood vessels, which some older treatments were known to do. FDA’s approval was based on four clinical studies (ACHIEVE I, ACHIEVE II, UBR-MD-04, and 3110-105-002), which demonstrated efficacy, safety, and tolerability of orally administered Ubrelvy in the acute treatment of migraine. Both 50 mg and100 mg dose strengths demonstrated significantly greater rates of pain freedom and freedom from the most bothersome migraine-associated symptom at two hours, compared with placebo. Ubrelvy joined AbbVie’s portfolio when that company completed its acquisition of Allergan in May 2020. 

In August 2020, AbbVie announced Serena Williams as the spokesperson for Ubrelvy to raise awareness of an effective acute treatment option for people living with migraine. The multichannel marketing campaign featuring Williams highlighted how Ubrelvy works for people with different lifestyles by helping individuals treat their migraine attacks anytime, anywhere. As spokesperson, she was featured in a video, available on social media, talking with neurologist and paid AbbVie consultant Dr. Jennifer McVige about her experience with migraine and Ubrelvy. Williams was also included in print and digital advertising and other marketing initiatives.

In September 2021, FDA approved Abb­Vie’s Qulipta, another drug from the gepant family, for the preventive treatment of episodic migraine in adults. Qulipta is the first and only oral calcitonin gene-related peptide receptor antagonist specifically developed for the preventive treatment of migraine. The approval was supported by data from a robust clinical program evaluating the efficacy, safety, and tolerability of Qulipta in nearly 2,000 patients who experienced 4 to 14 migraine days per month, including the pivotal Phase III ADVANCE study, the pivotal Phase IIb/III trial, and the Phase III long-term safety study.

Ubrevly quarterly salesIn the pivotal Phase III, multicenter, randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled, parallel-group ADVANCE trial, the primary endpoint was change from baseline in mean monthly migraine days across the 12-week treatment period. All Qulipta dose groups met the primary endpoint and demonstrated statistically significant reductions in mean monthly migraine days compared to placebo. Patients treated with 60 mg of Qulipta across 12 weeks experienced a 4.2-day reduction from baseline of 7.8. A key secondary endpoint in the ADVANCE trial measured the proportion of patients that achieved a ≥50 percent reduction in monthly migraine days across the 12-week treatment period. The trial demonstrated that 56 percent/59 percent/61 percent of patients in the 10 mg/30 mg/60 mg Qulipta arms, respectively, achieved a 50-100 percent reduction, compared to 29 percent of patients in the placebo arm.

During June, AbbVie submitted a supplemental NDA to FDA for Qulipta to support the preventive treatment of chronic migraine in adults. If approved, Qulipta would be the first gepant cleared for the broad indication of the preventive treatment of migraine, including episodic and chronic. The supplemental NDA submission includes data from the pivotal Phase III PROGRESS trial in patients with chronic migraine, which supplements the existing data in episodic migraine. People living with chronic migraine experience headaches for 15 or more days per month, which, on at least eight of those days per month, have the features of migraine.

The Phase III PROGRESS trial met its primary endpoint of statistically significant reduction from baseline in mean monthly migraine days compared to placebo across the 12-week treatment period in adults with chronic migraine. The trial also demonstrated that treatment with Qulipta 60 mg once daily (QD) and 30 mg daily (BID) resulted in statistically significant improvements in all six secondary endpoints. This includes a key secondary endpoint that measured the proportion of patients that achieved at least a 50 percent reduction in mean monthly migraine days across the 12-week treatment period. 

Josh Slatko, Med Ad News Josh Slatko is contributing editor of Med Ad News and PharmaLive.com.

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Over the top

The biopharma industry’s response to the global pandemic has propelled some COVID-19 vaccines into the leading ranks of the world’s best-selling products,…

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Over the top

The biopharma industry’s response to the global pandemic has propelled some COVID-19 vaccines into the leading ranks of the world’s best-selling products, with Pfizer/BioNTech’s Comirnaty surpassing AbbVie’s Humira for the No. 1 spot.

By Andrew Humphreys • andrew.humphreys@medadnews.com

The ripple effects of the worldwide COVID-19 pandemic continue to be felt throughout the biopharmaceutical realm, from allocation of business resources to the revenue impact of new vaccines and treatments for the industry’s main players. No biopharma company has thrived more during the pandemic’s reign than Pfizer, which experienced the largest increase in market capitalization during 2021 at $127 billion, rising to $331 billion. 

Comirnaty became the first COVID-19 vaccine to gain full approval.

Pfizer has collaborated with BioNTech to jointly develop the mRNA-based coronavirus vaccine Comirnaty/BNT162b2 to help prevent COVID-19. Comirnaty/BNT162b2 accounted for 45 percent of Pfizer’s total revenue during 2021, coming in at $36.78 billion. For the first six months of 2022, Pfizer reported Comirnaty direct sales and alliance revenue of $22.08 billion. As of July 28, Pfizer forecasted $32 billion in revenue for Comirnaty for full-year 2022, with gross profit to be split evenly with BioNTech, which includes doses expected to be delivered throughout the fiscal year. 

Comirnaty is based on Bi­oN­Tech’s proprietary messenger RNA technology. As the first-ever approved mRNA therapy, Comirnaty additionally represents BioNTech’s first commercial product. Through the vaccine, BioNTech’s revenue grew from €482.3 million ($571 million) in 2020 to €18.98 billion ($22.45 billion) for 2021. In reporting first-quarter 2022 results, BioNTech reiterated the company’s prior full-year 2022 financial year outlook of €13 billion ($15.4 billion) to €17 billion ($20.11 billion).

Pfizer-BioNTech’s COVID-19 vaccine is authorized by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration under Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) for active immunization to prevent coronavirus disease 2019 caused by severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) in individuals 6 months of age and older. Comirnaty (approved under a Biologics License Application)/BNT162b2 (authorized under EUA) in July 2022 became the first COVID-19 vaccine to be granted FDA approval for adolescents 12 years and older, following U.S. emergency use authorization in May 2021. Comirnaty became the first FDA-approved COVID-19 vaccine for individuals 16 years and older during August 2021. 

The impact of the worldwide pandemic led to the unseating of Humira (adalimumab) as the world’s top-selling pharmaceutical product in 2021, which was the medicine’s best-performing year ever. Humira has annually been the best seller among prescription medicines dating back to 2012. The drug’s combined revenue for 2021 between AbbVie and Japan’s Eisai topped $21.18 billion. AbbVie reported $20.69 billion of that total, the first time Humira broke the $20 billion barrier in one year for the North Chicago-based company. For first-half 2022, AbbVie reported Humira worldwide revenue of $10.1 billion.Humira

Humira is administered as a subcutaneous injection. The biologic therapy is approved for treating various autoimmune diseases in North America and in the European Union: rheumatoid arthritis (moderate to severe), psoriatic arthritis, ankylosing spondylitis, adult Crohn’s disease (moderate to severe), plaque psoriasis (moderate to severe chronic), juvenile idiopathic arthritis (moderate to severe polyarticular), ulcerative colitis (moderate to severe), axial spondyloarthropathy, pediatric Crohn’s disease (moderate to severe), hidradenitis suppurativa (moderate to severe), pediatric enthesitis-related arthritis, non-infectious intermediate, posterior and panuveitis, pediatric ulcerative colitis (moderate to severe), and pediatric uveitis. Humira is approved in Japan for treating intestinal Behçet’s disease and pyoderma gangrenosum.

Humira is sold in other markets around the globe, including Japan, China, Brazil, and Australia. The medication accounted for 37 percent of AbbVie’s total net revenue during 2021 and nearly 36 percent during the first six months of 2022.

Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine Spikevax (mRNA-1273) has been authorized for use or approved in more than 70 countries. The FDA fully approved the BLA for Spikevax for individuals 18 years of age and older in January 2022. Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine was made available under EUA in the United States on Dec. 18, 2020. The full licensure of Spikevax in the United States joined that in Canada, Japan, the European Union, the UK, Israel, and other countries where the adolescent indication is additionally approved. 

During June 2022, Moderna gained EUA from the FDA for the company’s COVID-19 vaccine mRNA-1273 in young children ages 6 months through 5 years of age at a dose level of 25 µg. Moderna has additionally received emergency use authorization for a 50 µg two-dose regimen of mRNA-1273 for children ages 6 through 11 years old and a 100 µg two-dose regimen for adolescents aged 12 through 17 years old. 

Spikevax marks Moderna’s first commercial product. Sales amounted to nearly $17.68 billion during full-year 2021. For the first six months of 2022, Moderna reported product sales of about $10.46 billion.

Keytruda ranks as the world’s top-selling cancer therapeutic. Global sales for Merck’s checkpoint inhibitor grew from $11.08 billion during 2019 to $14.38 billion for 2020 and $17.19 billion in 2021. For first-half 2022, Merck reported Keytruda global sales of $10.06 billion. The anti-PD-1 (programmed death receptor-1) therapy contains the active chemical pembrolizumab.

Keytruda

Keytruda works by increasing the ability of the body’s immune system to help detect and fight tumor cells. The humanized monoclonal antibody blocks the interaction between PD-1 and its ligands, PD-L1 and PD-L2, thereby activating T lymphocytes that may affect both tumor cells and healthy cells.

Outside the COVID-19 vaccine domain, Keytruda is expected to overtake Humira as the top-selling prescription medicine in 2023 when the latter’s U.S. market exclusivity is set to expire. AbbVie has entered into settlement and license deals with several adalimumab biosimilar manufacturers. The licenses in the United States will start during 2023 and the licenses in Europe began in 2018. “The inevitable arrival of Humira biosimilars in the U.S. next year means that AbbVie is hurtling towards biopharma’s biggest-ever patent cliff,” according to Evaluate Pharma analysis.

Meanwhile, Keytruda is anticipated to continue thriving as the product’s compound patent is protected from expiration in all majors markets until at least 2028 (the United States and China) and into the following decade in the EU and Japan. 

According to analysts from Evaluate Pharma, come 2028, Keytruda will remain the top-selling non-Covid treatment with estimated sales of $30.9 billion. By that year, the top-selling pharmaceutical of all-time, Humira, will no longer be a member of the top 10 sellers (see graphic on this page). 

Per Evaluate Pharma, the No. 2 seller in 2028 is projected to be Bristol Myers Squibb and Ono Pharmaceutical’s Opdivo (nivolumab), predicted to trail Keytruda by nearly half in revenue at $15.7 billion. A fully human monoclonal antibody that binds to the PD-1 on T and NKT cells, the biological product Opdivo has received approvals for various anti-cancer indications including bladder, blood, colon, head and neck, kidney, liver, lung, melanoma, mesothelioma and stomach.

Biggest Selling Drugs, Evaluate Pharma

Download the listing of the top 200 medicines based on global sales during 2021

Andrew Humphreys is contributing editor of Med Ad News and PharmaLive.com.

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Braxia and KetaMD, CEOs McIntyre and Gumpel Speak on Acquisition

Last week, the Canadian company Braxia Scientific acquired 100% of the issued and outstanding stock of KetaMD, Inc. This is an exciting acquisition, and…

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Last week, the Canadian company Braxia Scientific acquired 100% of the issued and outstanding stock of KetaMD, Inc. This is an exciting acquisition, and in today’s interview, The Dales Report’s Nicole Hodges talks with CEOs Dr. Roger McIntyre and Warren Gumpel of Braxia Scientific and KetaMD respectively.

For some background information, KetaMD is a U.S. based, privately-held, innovative telemedicine company, with a mission to address mental health challenges via access to technology-facilitated ketamine-based treatments. Braxia Scientific is Canada’s first clinic specializing in ketamine treatments for mood disorders. They recorded revenue of $1.49m for 2022 fiscal year, ended March 31. On a year-over-year basis, revenue increased 47.5%.

Here’s some highlights from the interview.

KetaMD gives Braxia a presence in the US

Dr. McIntyre says that KetaMD gives Braxia what they’ve had as their vision from the beginning: a US presence. KetaMD is a living program. It’s already running, has infrastructure, and patients. McIntyre believes that a program like KetaMD is something Braxia’s needed to scale and obtain commercial success.

With telemedicine, Braxia has a potential to serve a gap in access. The zeitgeist of “patient going to medicine” has flipped, McIntyre says. “Now it’s medicine goes to the patient, and that is long overdue.”

COVID speeding a trend that was already happening

In 2020, 80% of physicians indicated they had virtual visits. That’s a number up from 22% the year before. But this is something that many doctors, McIntyre included, believe always should have happened. The pandemic only was the catalyst for innovation and making the option viable.

While some treatments will always need a clinic or a hospital, McIntyre believes some treatments can be done safely at home. And they are, for many chronic diseases. He feels implementing ketamine and psychedelics would be among these treatments where service could be expanded into the home. It would require careful SOPs in place, best practices, and surveillance. But he believes Braxia Scientific could deliver this with KetaMD.

Gumpel to stay as CEO of KetaMD

Gumpel says that KetaMD benefits in this acquisition from being part of the world’s most prominent researchers in depression, psychedelics, and ketamine. In the acquisition, he’ll stay on as CEO. He admits that Dr. McIntyre has been a huge part of collecting the data on the safety of ketamine treatment, and has a strong motivation to “see this thing through until most of society can access that – or at least the people that need it and want it.”

Gumpel admits he has a personal connection to ketamine treatment. As a person who has experienced bouts of depression for years, it saved his life, he says. He is grateful he was living within walking distance of ketamine treatment in Manhattan. It made him extremely aware of the accessibility gap, which in part inspired KetaMD.

Be sure to tune in for the full interview regarding Braxia and KetaMD, right here on The Dales Report!

The post Braxia and KetaMD, CEOs McIntyre and Gumpel Speak on Acquisition appeared first on The Dales Report.

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