Category: Drug Pipeline

VX445 gets the green light for FDA approval

For those of you who didn’t see the news a few weeks ago, On 30th May Vertex Pharmaceuticals  announced that it has selected the triple combination of the next-generation corrector VX-445 (elexacaftor), tezacaftor and ivacaftor to submit for potential global regulatory approvals for people ages 12 and older with cystic fibrosis (CF). Final data announced today from a 24-week Phase 3 study in people with one F508del mutation and one minimal function mutation and from a 4-week Phase 3 study in people with two F508del mutations will form the basis of these submissions. Vertex previously announced that both of these Phase 3 studies met their primary endpoints, and the company today announced the final results of these studies, including results for key secondary endpoints and safety data.

Great news.


Vertex reports great results for its latest trials targeting double DF508 and single DF508 combos

Hopefully by now you’ve all seen the fantastic results that Vertex reported last week regarding their latest trials with precision therapy for those with both double DF508 and a single DF508 mutation combo. Vertex shares are up 21% and the reported results are pretty exciting. Although the trials were for patients 18 and older, it sounds like they’re fast tracking the next late stage trials (earmarked for early 2018) so let’s hope pediatric trials follow swiftly. Continue reading “Vertex reports great results for its latest trials targeting double DF508 and single DF508 combos”

FDA Approves Orkambi for Children, Ages 6-11, with Cystic Fibrosis

shutterstock_117362710-1024x683.jpgVertex Pharmaceuticals reported that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has granted approval for its cystic fibrosis (CF) drug Orkambi to be used to treat children, ages 6 to 11, who have two copies (one inherited from each parent) of the F508del mutation in the CFTR gene.

Continue reading “FDA Approves Orkambi for Children, Ages 6-11, with Cystic Fibrosis”

FDA approves Orkambi

Orkambi, a New Cystic Fibrosis Drug, Wins F.D.A. Approval

JULY 2, 2015
A new drug for people with the most common genetic type of cystic fibrosis won approval from the Food and Drug Administration on Thursday.

The drug, Orkambi, is the second cystic fibrosis treatment brought to market by Vertex Pharmaceuticals, a biotechnology company based in Boston. It is expected to make the company consistently profitable; it has lost several billion dollars since it was founded 26 years ago.

Both Vertex drugs are the first to try to counteract the underlying genetic defect that causes the disease, as opposed to treating symptoms.

Vertex’s first cystic fibrosis drug, Kalydeco, which was approved in 2012, is applicable to a small percentage of those with cystic fibrosis, those with particular genetic muations. Sales of Kalydeco reacched $464 million in 2014, accounting for the bulk of Vertex’s revenue.

Orkambi, by contrast, could be useful for nearly half of cystic fibrosis patients, those who have two copies of the most common mutation, known as F508del. The initial approval, however, is only for patients 12 and older.

Analysts expect annual sales of Orkambi to eventually exceed $3 billion. Orkambi is a combination of ivacaftor, the active ingredient in Kalydeco, and a second drug called lumacaftor.

Approval was expected because a committee of outside advisers to the F.D.A. endorsed the drug in May by a 12-1 vote. The agency’s own staff, however, had given the product a lukewarm review, saying its effectiveness in improving lung function was small.

Vertex did not immediately announce the price of Orkambi. Kalydeco costs more than $300,000 a year for each patient, a price that has drawn criticism from some doctors who treat cystic fibrosis.

Wall Street analysts have been expecting Vertex to charge less for Orkambi, perhaps $200,000 to $250,000 a year.

That is because Orkambi would be used by more patients, meaning Vertex would not have to charage as much per patient to recoup its investment. Also, Orkambi is less effective than Kalydeco in improving lung function, meaning it will have less value in the eyes of insurance companies and government agencies that pay for these drugs.

QLD Orkambi trial shows really positive results

Screen Shot 2015-05-18 at 8.22.50 pmQueensland researchers may have discovered a game-changing treatment for children suffering from cystic fibrosis.

The Queensland Children’s Medical Research Institute has released results from world-first clinical trials of a new treatment that combined two existing drugs, lumacaftor and ivacaftor.

Neither had shown significant clinical outcomes when used alone, but QCMRI interim director Claire Wainwright said the combination treatment had resulted in up to 39 per cent fewer lung infections.

“Cystic fibrosis is the most common life-threatening genetic condition affecting children in Australia, so these results are incredibly exciting,” Professor Wainwright said.

“As well as the 30-39 per cent reduction in lung infections, our trial participants reported a decrease in events requiring hospitalisation or use of IV antibiotics.

“Results like this mean our novel treatment is a potential game changer for the way we treat CF and other genetic disorders in the future.”

Cystic fibrosis sufferers have abnormally thick mucus linings in the lungs, which clog air passages and result in repeated infections and blockages.

It affects the respiratory, digestive and reproductive systems and usually leads to a shortened life expectancy, around 37 years on average.

“Research into novel treatments like the one we trialled is essential to improve the quality of life for CF patients,” Professor Wainwright said.
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“There is still no cure for CF but with treatments like this proving successful, our research could have positive outcomes for CF patients not just here in Australia but internationally for years to come.”

More than 1100 children under the age of 12 participated in the six-month study, which involved two randomised, double-blind, phase 3 clinical trials.

Senior researcher Scott Bell said 187 hospitals in Australia, Europe and the United States collaborated in the trials.

“Nine CF centres in Australia have been involved in the study and patients have been eagerly awaiting the results,” Professor Bell said.

“More than 1000 patients in Australia have the potential to benefit from the treatment in the future.”

The Food and Drug Administration will make a decision on the treatment in July, after which it will be assessed by the Therapeutic Goods Administration to determine market availability and costs.



Lumacaftor/Ivacaftor Combo Helps Common CF Mutation

Phase III trial finds drug combo boosts forced expiratory volume in homozygous DF508del cystic fibrosis patients

  • This study was published as an abstract and presented at a conference. These data and conclusions should be considered to be preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed journal.
  • Note that this pair of randomized trials of lumacaftor and ivacaftor in combination improved lung function in patients with cystic fibrosis.
  • These results have led to a recommendation for approval by the FDA.

DENVER — Combination of approved cystic fibrosis drug, ivacaftor (Kalydeco), and experimental drug, lumacaftor, improved forced expiratory volume in patients with common gene mutation, researchers reported.

In two, phase III randomized, controlled, multi-center trials including over 1,000 cystic fibrosis patients with the Phe508del mutation in the cystic fibrosis transmembrane conductance regulator (CFTR) protein, found the drug delivered in two different dose combinations improved predicted forced expiratory volume by 2.6% to 4.0% compared to a placebo without drastic increases in serious adverse events (4.2% versus 1.6%), Claire E. Wainwright, MBBS, MD, of Lady Cilento Children’s Hospital in Queensland, Australia, and colleagues, presented at the American Thoracic Society annual meeting.

These findings were also reported in the New England Journal of Medicine.

The drug, which is being developed by Vertex and will be marketed under the brand name Orkambi, was recommended for approval by an FDA advisory committee last week.

Phe508del mutation in CFTR is the big target for CF patients, Pamela B. Davis, MD, PhD, Dean of the School of Medicine at Case Western Reserve University, wrote in the New England Journal of Medicine.

Roughly half of cystic fibrosis patients in the U.S. are homozygous for this mutation, and more than 90% have at least one allele, she wrote.

Ivacaftor is generally used for patients with the Gly551Asp mutation. It works on the fraction of time that the CFTR channel is open, the “open probability,” of the mutant protein, but it doesn’t work on patients who are homozygous for the Phe508del mutation, Davis added. Lumacaftor improves the processing of the mutant CFTR by prolonging its residence at the cell surface, but it doesn’t improve the open probability.

“The combination of lumacaftor and ivacaftor produced significant improvements in lung function and weight gain, as well as significant amelioration of respiratory symptoms and pulmonary exacerbations,” Davis wrote. “However, the extent of improvement was not as great as that produced by ivacaftor alone in the treatment of patients with the Gly551Asp mutation.”

Davis compared the forced expiratory volume improvements seen in the trials to those seen with inhaled DNase, and even slightly less than those seen with inhaled tobramycin. Davis does note that neither inhalants address the basic defect in the protein the way ivacaftor does.

Davis proposed that the combination of ivacaftor and lumacaftor create a need for higher doses of ivacaftor, as lumacaftor is a strong CYP3A inducer and ivacaftor is a sensitive CYP3A substrate and weak inhibitor, as the combination can cause problems with other cystic fibrosis drugs that the patient might need to take.

In light of these complexities, Davis suggested a tailored dose would probably work better than the fixed doses used in the trials. She also mentioned two laboratory studies demonstrating prolonged exposure to the combination eventually interfered with lumacaftor’s mechanisms by reducing the protein release from the endoplasmic reticulum, thereby reducing the chloride transport activity originally seen in the combination.


Wainwright’s team conducted two phase III, randomized, controlled trials to test the effects of combining lumacaftor, a CFTR corrector, and ivacaftor, a CFTR potentiator. The trials were know as TRAFFIC and TRANSPORT. All patients were at least 12 years old, and were homozygous for the Phe508del CFTR mutation.

Both trials were double-blinded, and dose-identical. For 24 weeks, 1,108 patients, across 187 centers, either received either 600 mg of lumacaftor once a day with 250 mg of ivacaftor every 12 hours, 400 mg of lumacaftor every 12 hours with 250 mg of ivacaftor every 12 hours, or a placebo.

Patients were assigned to each group on a 1:1:1 ratio, and allowed to remain on their pre-study medications. Controls were matched for age, gender, and pulmonary function.

Changes in forced expiratory volume were measured at baseline. The mean of which was 61% of the predicted value.

At 24 weeks, the mean absolute improvement in the predicted forced expiratory volume ranged from 2.6% to 4.0% (P<0.001). The improvements in mean relative treatment difference ranged from 4.3% to 6.7% (P<0.001).

Compared to the placebo group, pulmonary exacerbations were 30% lower in the 600mg/day of lumacaftor group (P=0.001) and 39% lower in the 400mg/12-hours of lumacaftor group (P<0.001).

Improvements in forced expiratory volume were seen as early as day 15 on the therapy across treatment arms.

Relative improvements in percentage of predicted forced expiratory volume of 5% or higher were reported by 39% to 46% in the treatment arms versus 22% in the placebo group (odds ratio 2.9 for 600 mg/day and 2.2 for 400 mg/12-hours). That of 10% or higher were found among 24% to 27% of those in the treatment arms compared to 13% in the placebo group.

The researchers also reported clinically meaningful reductions in the rates of protocol-defined pulmonary exacerbations in both treatment arms compared to placebo: rate ratio 0.57 to 0.72 (P<0.001 to P=0.05). However, these rate ratios didn’t reach significance in the testing hierarchy.

After 24 weeks on the therapy, slight weight gains were noted in the treatment groups, 1.23 kg and 1.57 kg, on average. The researchers estimated that either better caloric absorption, possibly due to normalized intestinal pH, or lower energy expenditure from improvements in symptoms explained this result.

CFQ-R scores, though improved in the 600 mg/day of lumacaftor group, did not meet the criteria for clinical difference of 4 points.

Serious Adverse Events

Serious adverse events were reported among 28.6% of those in the placebo arm, and 17.3% to 22.8% of patients in the pooled treatment arms. The most common event was infective pulmonary exacerbations, which comprised 24.1% of SAEs in the placebo group, and 13% in the combined treatment arms.

Drop out rates were 4.2% for those in the combined treatment groups, and 1.6% in the placebo group. Elevated creatine kinase levels occurred in 4 patients, hemoptysis in 3, bronchospasm in 2, dyspnea in 2, pulmonary exacerbations in 2, and rash in 2 patients. No deaths were reported.

Seven patients in the treatment arms, and none in the placebo group, experienced abnormal liver function.

ORKAMBI given the green light for FDA Review

May 12, 2015

Food and Drug Administration Advisory Panel Voted 12 to 1 to Recommend Approval of ORKAMBI™ (lumacaftor/ivacaftor) to Treat People with Cystic Fibrosis Ages 12 and Older Who Have Two Copies of the F508del Mutation

FDA decision expected by July 5, 2015

Approximately 8,500 people with cystic fibrosis in the U.S. have two copies of the F508del mutation and are ages 12 and older

Pills In JarsBOSTON–(BUSINESS WIRE)– Vertex Pharmaceuticals Incorporated (Nasdaq: VRTX) today announced that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) Pulmonary-Allergy Drugs Advisory Committee (PADAC) voted 12 to 1 to recommend that the FDA approve ORKAMBITM (lumacaftor/ivacaftor) for use in people with cystic fibrosis (CF) ages 12 and older who have two copies of the F508del mutation in the CFTR gene. Advisory committees provide the FDA with independent scientific and medical advice on safety, effectiveness and appropriate use of potential new medicines. The FDA is expected to make a decision on the approval of ORKAMBI by July 5, 2015 under the Prescription Drug User Fee Act (PDUFA). The FDA is not bound by the committee’s recommendation but often follows its advice. If approved, ORKAMBI will be the first and only medicine to treat the underlying cause of CF for eligible people with CF ages 12 and older with two copies of the F508del mutation in the CFTR gene. People with two copies of the F508del mutation represent the largest group of people with CF. There are approximately 8,500 people ages 12 and older with two copies of the F508del mutation in the U.S.

“Today’s positive recommendation brings the cystic fibrosis community one step closer to potential approval of the first medicine to treat the underlying cause of this disease for many more people,” said Jeffrey Chodakewitz, M.D., Executive Vice President and Chief Medical Officer at Vertex. “We look forward to continuing to work with the FDA and other regulatory agencies throughout the world to make ORKAMBI available to eligible patients as soon as possible.”

Cystic fibrosis is a rare genetic disease that is caused by defective or missing CFTR proteins resulting from mutations in the CFTR gene. The defective or missing proteins result in poor flow of salt and water into and out of the cell in a number of organs, including the lungs. In people with two copies of the F508del mutation, the CFTR protein is not processed and trafficked normally within the cell, resulting in little to no CFTR protein at the cell surface.

ORKAMBI is a combination of lumacaftor, which is designed to increase the amount of functional protein at the cell surface by addressing the processing and trafficking defect of the protein, and ivacaftor, which is designed to enhance the function of the CFTR protein once it reaches the cell surface. ORKAMBI is an oral medicine that, if approved, would be taken as fully co-formulated tablets that contain both lumacaftor and ivacaftor.

Vertex (VRTX) Soars After Hours as FDA Panel Backs Cystic Fibrosis Drug Orkambi

Vertex Soars After Hours as FDA Panel Backs Cystic Fibrosis Drug Orkambi
May 12, 2015
By Riley McDermid, Breaking News Sr. EditorA delegation of executives of Vertex Pharmaceuticals (VRTX) successfully argued today before the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Pulmonary-Allergy Drugs Advisory Committee that its cystic fibrosis drug Orkambi has merit, causing the panel to vote 12-1 to approve the drug. For a complete breakdown of the questions asked and how the panelist voted, please click here.

There had been some concern the treatment may not be approved after notes form the panel leaked last week showing the FDA had significant concerns about the efficacy or Orkambi. But investors who had been waiting all day for the news and applauded the decision, pushing Vertex up almost 9 percent in aftermarket trading.

“Today’s positive recommendation brings the cystic fibrosis community one step closer to potential approval of the first medicine to treat the underlying cause of this disease for many more people,” said Jeffrey Chodakewitz, executive vice President and chief medical officer at Vertex. “We look forward to continuing to work with the FDA and other regulatory agencies throughout the world to make ORKAMBI available to eligible patients as soon as possible.”

One of the ingredients of Orkambi is ivacaftor, which Vertex markets under the name Kalydeco. Kalydeco is used to treat patients with one specific mutation in the CFTR gene, not including F508del, the most common cystic fibrosis mutation. Orkambi combines ivacaftor with lumacaftor.

Neither lumacaftor nor ivacaftor, by themselves, help cystic fibrosis patients with the F508del mutation. But a combination of the two has shown positive results in clinical trials and the FDA agreed that the benefits were large enough to allow approval.

“Despite the questions raised by the FDA and the panelists’ willingness to consider the FDA’s arguments this morning (after multiple speakers during the open public hearing), the panelists this afternoon came out in general support of Orkambi,” wrote biotech analyst Mark Schoenebaum in a note Tuesday.

“The panelists generally agree that a comparative efficacy study of Orkambi vs Kalydeco in homozygous F508del patient could be done post-approval if necessary,” he said.

Kalydeco generated $464 million in revenue last year. In the U.S., there are about 30,000 CF patients, but only 7 percent have the specific gene mutation that Kalydeco treats. If Orkambi is effective and gets approved, it could potentially be used to treat about 15,000 of those patients in the U.S. alone, although more likely be applicable about 8,500 patients 12 years and older. However, potential revenue if approved, is projected at $5 billion within a couple years.

The Vertex portion of the presentation was concluded by Bonnie Ramsey, director of the Center for Clinical and Translational Research at Seattle Children’s Hospital and the Washington School of Medicine, saying Orkambi “will have a major impact” on her CF patients.

News last Friday that the FDA’s Pulmonary-Allergy Drugs Advisory Committee has released its briefing notes ahead of the meeting initially spooked the market, but the company has roared back as Wall Street agreed the document is an overall positive.

When parsed thoroughly the documents appeared to show the FDA believes that there is a statistically significant benefit over placebo in FEV1 but has questions about the small treatment effect and the lack of ivacaftor monotherapy and lumacaftor monotherapy controls in the Phase III trials, said analysts.

The lead biotech analyst at Citigroup, Yaron Werber, said a closer look at the FDA’s notes show the regulator is generally open to the idea of approving Orkambi.

“Given that Orkambi has Breakthrough designation, which provides for enhanced interaction, FDA notes that they and EMA agreed with the study designs and continuously provided constructive guidance,” wrote Werber.

“As such we believe that FDA needs to raise this question for discussion but is supportive of the trial design. The key question is whether the benefit is clinically meaningful. We believe that the AdCom will vote positively for approval of Orkambi given the lack of alternative treatment options for cystic fibrosis patients homozygous for the F508del mutation in the CFTR gene.”