Reata Pharmaceuticals sold for $7.3B

Biogen to acquire Reata Pharmaceuticals for $172.50 per share in cash

Biogen Inc. (BIIB) and Reata Pharmaceuticals (RETA) announced the companies have entered into a definitive agreement under which Biogen has agreed to acquire Reata for $172.50 per share in cash, reflecting an enterprise value of approximately $7.3B.

Reata has made significant advancements developing therapeutics that regulate cellular metabolism and inflammation in serious neurologic diseases.

Biogen sharply higher on data, Stockwinners

Reata’s FDA-approved SKYCLARYS is the first and only approved treatment for Friedreich’s Ataxia in the United States, with a commercial launch underway, and European regulatory review ongoing.

Ataxia is a degenerative disease of the nervous system. Many symptoms of Ataxia mimic those of being drunk, such as slurred speech, stumbling, falling, and incoordination. These symptoms are caused by damage to the cerebellum, the part of the brain that is responsible for coordinating movement. Ataxia treatment involves a combination of medication to treat symptoms and  therapy to improve quality of life.

People affected by Ataxia may experience problems with using their fingers and hands, arms, legs, walking, speaking or moving their eyes. Ataxia affects people of all ages. Age of symptom-onset can vary widely, from childhood to late-adulthood. Complications from the disease are serious and oftentimes debilitating. 

In addition, Reata is developing a portfolio of innovative products for a range of neurological diseases.

The transaction, which was approved by the boards of directors of both companies, is currently anticipated to close in the fourth quarter of 2023.

Biogen expects this acquisition to be accounted for as a business combination.

The acquisition of Reata is expected to be slightly dilutive to Biogen’s Non-GAAP diluted Earnings Per Share in 2023, roughly neutral in 2024, and significantly accretive beginning in 2025, inclusive of associated transaction costs.

Biogen plans to update its Full Year 2023 Financial Guidance in conjunction with its third quarter 2023 earnings release.

Biogen expects to finance the acquisition with cash on hand, supplemented by the issuance of long term debt.

The transaction is subject to customary closing conditions, including approval by Reata stockholders and the receipt of necessary regulatory approvals.

Biogen has entered into voting and support agreements with certain stockholders of Reata representing approximately 36% of the voting power of Reata’s common stock.

RETA is up 52% or $56.90 to $165.37. BIIB is up 1% to $265.58.

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Krystal Biotech shares jump as FDA approves Vyjuvek

Vyjuvek is designed to treat the genetic root cause of DEB

Krystal Biotech (KRYS) announced the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved Vyjuvek for the treatment of patients six months of age or older with dystrophic epidermolysis bullosa, or DEB.

DEB is a rare disease that appears at birth or during the first few years of life, and lasts a lifetime. Prognosis is variable, but tends to be serious. Life expectancy is 50 years, and the disease brings with it complications related to infections, nutrition and neoplastic complications.

“Vyjuvek is designed to address the genetic root cause of DEB by delivering functional copies of the human COL7A1 gene to provide wound healing and sustained functional COL7 protein expression with redosing.

Vyjuvek is the first-ever redosable gene therapy and the first and only medicine approved by the FDA for the treatment of DEB, both recessive and dominant, that can be administered by a healthcare professional in either a healthcare professional setting or in the home,” the company stated.

With this approval, the FDA issued the Company a Rare Pediatric Disease Priority Review Voucher, or PRV, which confers priority review to a subsequent drug application that would not otherwise qualify for priority review, the company noted.

“Vyjuvek is expected to be available in the United States in the third quarter of 2023, and the company will begin the promotion of Vyjuvek immediately.

Outside of the US, the European Medicines Agency has granted Vyjuvek orphan drug designation and PRIME – PRIority MEdicines – eligibility for the treatment of DEB.

The Company anticipates starting the official Marketing Authorization Application procedure in the second half of 2023 with a potential approval in 2024.

The Company is also working with the Pharmaceuticals and Medical Devices Agency in Japan to study Vyjuvek and seek approval for potential launch in 2025,” the company added.

KRYS is up 8.7% to $95.00 per share on heavy trading volume.

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Prometheus Biosciences reports positive data, shares jump!

Prometheus announces results for PRA023 in APOLLO-CD Phase 2 study

Prometheus Biosciences (RXDX) reported results from its ARTEMIS-UC Phase 2 and APOLLO-CD Phase 2a studies of PRA023 demonstrating strong efficacy and favorable safety results in both studies.

Based on the totality of the data in these two studies, Prometheus intends to advance PRA023 into Phase 3 studies for ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease in 2023.

Results from the APOLLO-CD Phase 2a Study: Prometheus’ Phase 2a APOLLO-CD clinical trial was a 12-week open-label study that enrolled 55 patients with moderate-to-severely active CD with endoscopically active disease who had failed conventional or biologic therapy.

Crohn’s Disease

The study enrolled a highly refractory patient population with 70.9% of patients previously treated with at least one biologic therapy and 52.7% treated with two or more biologic therapies.

The results on the key endpoints were as follows: 26.0% of patients on PRA023 achieved endoscopic response; 49.1% of patients on PRA023 achieved clinical remission; PRA023 was well tolerated in the APOLLO-CD study.

There were no treatment-emergent serious adverse events, adverse events leading to discontinuation, or severe AEs assessed as related to PRA023 by the investigator.

The predictive power of the company’s prespecified genetic markers was validated using an alternative Crohn’s-specific CDx algorithm which showed 45.0% endoscopic response relative to all-comers of 26%.

While the original algorithm provided limited benefit on some of the endpoints, the alternative algorithm demonstrated enhanced performance across both clinical and endoscopic outcomes.

As a result of these positive data, Prometheus plans to advance PRA023 into pivotal development in 2023, following discussions with regulators.

Based upon confidence in its precision approach and speed to market, the company conducted an interim companion diagnostic (CDx) analysis of Cohort 1 to evaluate the effectiveness of the CDx candidate in ARTEMIS-UC. Although from limited patient numbers, data from the subset of patients who tested positive on the CDx in Cohort 1 (N=32) demonstrated a placebo-adjusted clinical remission rate of 37.5%, compared with the placebo-adjusted remission rate of 25.0% for all-comers. The expansion cohort (Cohort 2), which is statistically powered to further assess the treatment effect of PRA023 in CDx+ patients will continue to enroll, and the company expects results in the second quarter of 2023.

RXDX is up $17 to $112.86.

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Mirati Theraputics shares jump on take over rumors!

Mirati Therapeutics shares are up 20% on heavy trading volume

Mirati Therapeutics (MRTX) is attracting fresh takeover interest from large pharma companies, sources tell Bloomberg’s Michelle Davis and Dinesh Nair.

Mirati Therapeutics, Inc. is a clinical-stage oncology company. It develops product candidates to address the genetic and immunological promoters of cancer in the United States.

The company develops MRTX849, a KRAS G12C inhibitor, which is in Phase 1/2 clinical trial for treating non-small cell lung (NSCL), colorectal, pancreatic, and other cancers; and Sitravatinib, an investigational spectrum-selective kinase inhibitor that is in Phase 3 clinical trial for the treatment of NSCL cancer, as well as a KRAS G12D inhibitor program, which is in preclinical development. It has a collaboration and license agreement with BeiGene, Ltd. to develop, manufacture, and commercialize sitravatinib.

Sitravatinib

Sitravatinib (MGCD516) is an orally-available, small molecule inhibitor of a closely related spectrum of receptor tyrosine kinases (RTKs) including MET, TAM (Tyro3, AXL, MERTK) family, VEGFR family, PDGFR family, KIT, FLT3, TRK family, RET, DDR2, and selected EPH family members. Nivolumab is a human IgG monoclonal antibody that binds to the PD-1 receptor and selectively blocks the interaction with its ligands PD-L1 and PD-L2, thereby releasing PD-1 pathway mediated inhibition of the immune response, including anti-tumor immune response. RTKs have been implicated in mediating an immunosuppressive tumor microenvironment, which has emerged as a potential resistance mechanism to checkpoint inhibitor therapy. Inhibition of these RTKs by sitravatinib may augment anti-tumor immune response and improve outcomes by overcoming resistance to checkpoint inhibitor therapy.

On November 8th, Mirati Therapeutics (MRTX) reported a 3rd Quarter September 2022 loss of $3.09 per share on revenue of $5.4 million. The consensus estimate was a loss of $3.46 per share on revenue of $4.6 million.

The stock has a 52-week trading range of $32.96 to $154.17. Shares last traded at $89.50.

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Eisai reports positive Alzheimer data, shares jump!

Biogen/Eisai’s phase 3 trial of lecanemab in MCI meet primary endpoint

Eisai (ESALY) and Biogen (BIIB) “announced positive topline results from Eisai’s large global Phase 3 confirmatory Clarity AD clinical trial of lecanemab, an investigational anti-amyloid beta protofibril antibody for the treatment of mild cognitive impairment due to Alzheimer’s disease, AD, and mild AD with confirmed presence of amyloid pathology in the brain.

#Lecanemab met the primary endpoint and all key secondary endpoints with highly statistically significant results.

#Eisai will discuss this data with regulatory authorities in the U.S., Japan and Europe with the aim to file for traditional approval in the US and for marketing authorization applications in Japan and Europe by the end of Eisai’s FY2022, which ends March 31, 2023.

Amyloid-related imaging abnormalities

Additionally, Eisai will present the Clarity AD study results on November 29, 2022, at the Clinical Trials on Alzheimer’s Congress, and publish the findings in a peer-reviewed medical journal. Lecanemab treatment met the primary endpoint and reduced clinical decline on the global cognitive and functional scale, CDR-SB, compared with placebo at 18 months by 27%, which represents a treatment difference in the score change of -0.45 in the analysis of Intent-to-treat population.

Starting as early as six months, across all time points, the treatment showed highly statistically significant changes in CDR-SB from baseline compared to placebo.

All key secondary endpoints were also met with highly statistically significant results compared with placebo.

Key secondary endpoints were the change from baseline at 18 months compared with placebo of treatment in amyloid levels in the brain measured by amyloid positron emission tomography, the AD Assessment Scale-cognitive subscale14, AD Composite Score and the AD Cooperative Study-Activities of Daily Living Scale for Mild Cognitive Impairment.”

ESALY last traded at $39.79. BIIB last traded at $197.50.

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Altimmune announces positive results, shares tumble!

 Altimmune announces results from Phase 1b study of pemvidutide

Altimmune (ALT) announced “positive” topline results from its 12-week Phase 1b study of pemvidutide in subjects with non-alcoholic fatty liver disease.

NAFLD. The trial was a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study, with Dr. Stephen A. Harrison, Medical Director, Pinnacle Research, serving as the Principal Investigator.

The primary efficacy endpoint was the percent reduction in liver fat content from baseline, and the key secondary efficacy endpoint was the % weight loss from baseline, both at 12 weeks of treatment.

The trial was conducted without adjunctive diet and exercise interventions that are the standard for obesity trials.

Ninety-four subjects were randomized and treated at 13 sites across the U.S.

Mean BMI at baseline was approximately 36 kg/m2 and mean liver fat content, as measured by MRI-PDFF, was approximately 22%.

Twenty-seven subjects had type 2 diabetes at baseline, and approximately 75% of study subjects were of Hispanic ethnicity.

The trial met its primary endpoint in all pemvidutide treatment groups.

At the 1.8 mg dose, pemvidutide achieved a mean reduction of liver fat content of 68.5%, with 94.4% of subjects achieving a 30% reduction in liver fat, 72.2% achieving a 50% reduction in liver fat, and 55.6% of subjects achieving normalization of liver fat, defined as liver fat fraction of 5% or less.

In addition, mean serum alanine aminotransferase levels declined in all subjects, and in subjects with baseline serum ALT above 30 IU/L, levels declined more than 17 IU/L at all dose levels and 27.0 IU/L in the 2.4 mg dose cohort.

The trial also met its key secondary endpoint in all pemvidutide treatment groups. Employing an efficacy estimand, mean weight losses of 4.9% in subjects without diabetes and 4.4% in subjects with diabetes were achieved at the 1.8 and 2.4 mg doses, respectively.

Pemvidutide was reported to be generally well tolerated. Gastrointestinal events comprised the majority of the adverse events.

Even without dose titration, the symptoms experienced by subjects were predominantly mild and transient in nature, consistent with known GLP-1 class effects.

“We are pleased with the results of this trial, including the extent of liver fat and serum ALT reductions. Weight loss was within our target range, and good tolerability was observed without the need for dose titration. In addition, no clinically significant ALT elevations were observed,” said Vipin Garg,, President and Chief Executive Officer of Altimmune.

“With these positive results in hand, we look forward to reporting data from the 24-week NAFLD trial, as well as 24-week interim data from our MOMENTUM obesity trial.”

ALT shares opened down 58%, now down 25.5% to $15.21.

Piper Sandler

Piper Sandler analyst Yasmeen Rahimi said she is surprised to see the negative pre-market stock reaction in shares of Altimmune (ALT) after the company announced topline results from its 12-week Phase 1b study. She thinks it may be attributed to the 4.7% weight-loss which came in below Street’s expectations. However, the analyst points out that this measure is in alignment with the 6% placebo adjusted seen with Eli Lilly’s (LLY) tirzepatide and 4% placebo adjusted weight loss with Novo Nordisk’s (NVO) semaglutide at 12 weeks. Rahimi, who calls the study a “big win with a clean safety profile,” believes that the stock reaction due to weight loss percentage is “overdone” and argues that the totality of data “suggests that pemvidutide could be a serious player in the obesity/NASH space.” Rahimi has an Overweight rating and $25 price target on Altimmune shares.

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Great News for Thalassemia patients

Bluebird Bio confirms FDA approval of Zynteglo

bluebird bio (BLUE) announced the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved Zynteglo, also known as beti-cel, a one-time gene therapy custom-designed to treat the underlying genetic cause of beta-thalassemia in adult and pediatric patients who require regular red blood cell transfusions.

“Due to the complex nature of gene therapy, Zynteglo will be available exclusively at Qualified Treatment Centers, which are carefully selected based on their expertise in relevant areas such as stem cell transplantation, cell and gene therapy, and beta-thalassemia; and receive specialized training to administer Zynteglo.

Information on bluebird’s QTC network, as well as personalized support focused on the needs of each patient throughout their treatment journey and information on insurance coverage and access will be available through bluebird’s patient support program,” the company stated.

“The FDA approval of Zynteglo offers people with beta-thalassemia the possibility of freedom from burdensome regular red blood cell transfusions and iron chelation, and unlocks new possibilities in their daily lives.

Current thalassemia treatment

After more than a decade of research and clinical development, and through the perseverance of clinicians, patients, and their families, the approval of Zynteglo marks a watershed moment for the field of gene therapy.

As the first ex-vivo lentiviral vector gene therapy approved in the U.S. for the treatment of people with beta-thalassemia, we are ushering in a new era in which gene therapy has the potential to transform existing treatment paradigms for diseases that currently carry a lifelong burden of care,” said Andrew Obenshain, CEO of bluebird bio. 

Expensive Treatment

The lifetime cost of medical care for a patient with transfusion-dependent beta-thalassemia can reach up to $6.4M in the U.S. and the average total health care cost per patient per year is 23 times higher than the general population. bluebird estimates that there are approximately 1,300-1,500 individuals with transfusion-dependent beta-thalassemia in the U.S.

” bluebird has set the wholesale acquisition cost of Zynteglo in the U.S. at $2.8M, in “recognition of its robust and sustained clinical benefit demonstrated in clinical studies and its potential to alleviate a lifetime of health care costs associated with regular RBC transfusions and iron management.” Tom Klima, chief commercial and operating officer of bluebird bio, said.

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Biohaven sold for $11.6B

Pfizer to acquire Biohaven Pharmaceuticals for $148.50 per share

Pfizer (PFE) and Biohaven Pharmaceutical (BHVN) announced that the companies have entered into a definitive agreement under which Pfizer will acquire Biohaven, the maker of NURTEC ODT, a dual-acting migraine therapy approved for both acute treatment and episodic prevention of migraine in adults.

Pfizer buys the migraine drug

Under the terms of the agreement, Pfizer will acquire all outstanding shares of Biohaven not already owned by Pfizer for $148.50 per share in cash.

Biohaven common shareholders, including Pfizer, will also receive 0.5 of a share of New Biohaven, a new publicly traded company that will retain Biohaven’s non-CGRP development stage pipeline compounds, per Biohaven common share.

The boards of directors of both Biohaven and Pfizer have unanimously approved the transaction.

Pfizer will pay transaction consideration totaling approximately $11.6B in cash.

Pfizer will also make payments at closing to settle Biohaven’s third party debt and for the redemption of all outstanding shares of Biohaven’s redeemable preferred stock.

Pfizer shares lower after talk with President prompts rollback, Stockwinners

The $148.50 cash consideration represents a premium of approximately 33% to Biohaven’s volume weighted average selling price of $111.70 over the three months prior to the announcement of the transaction.

This agreement follows on the November 9, 2021 collaboration for the commercialization of rimegepant and zavegepant outside the United States, in connection with which Pfizer invested $350M to acquire 2.6% of Biohaven’s common stock at $173 per share.

Following the closing, New Biohaven will continue to operate under the Biohaven name.

New Biohaven will be led by Vlad Coric, MD, as Chairman and CEO, and include other members of the current management team of Biohaven.

Biohaven common shareholders will receive, for each Biohaven share, 0.5 of a share of New Biohaven distributed via a pro rata distribution of SEC-registered, publicly listed shares. At distribution, New Biohaven will be capitalized with $275M of cash.

New Biohaven will also have the right to receive tiered royalties from Pfizer on any annual net sales of rimegepant and zavegepant in the United States in excess of $5.25B.

Pfizer expects to finance the transaction with existing cash on hand. Pfizer’s acquisition of Biohaven is subject to the completion of the New Biohaven spin-off transaction and other customary closing conditions, including receipt of regulatory approvals and approval by Biohaven’s shareholders.

The companies expect the transaction to close by early 2023.

Due to the proposed transaction, Biohaven will not hold a conference call to discuss its first quarter 2022 financial results and will issue a press release and file a quarterly report on Form 10-Q with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission announcing those results on May 10, the companies noted.

BHVN is up $58.08 to $141.22.

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Jazz Pharma. provides guidance, shares rise!

Jazz Pharmaceuticals announces $5B revenue target for 2025

Jazz Pharmaceuticals (JAZZ) announced its Vision 2025 to deliver sustainable growth and enhanced value.

Vision 2025 includes the following expectations: 1) generating $5B in revenue in 2025; 2) approval of at least five additional novel products by the end of the decade; and 3) realizing a 5% adjusted operating margin improvement from 2021 to 2025, driven by operational excellence.

The company also confirmed that it expects to meet its previously announced 2021 revenue guidance range of $3.02B-$3.1B and its net product sales guidance for neuroscience and oncology.

Jazz ended 2021 demonstrating executional excellence across its business, including launching five key products in 2020 and 2021, integrating the GW Pharmaceuticals business, making progress towards its deleveraging target and initiating multiple potentially registrational clinical trials.

The company remains on track to deliver revenue diversification, with at least 65% of 2022 net product revenue from newly launched or acquired products, driving sustainable growth and enhanced shareholder value.

“Building on our track record of strong execution and guided by our patient-centric approach, Jazz is setting forth its Vision 2025 to deliver meaningful treatment options to patients, a great place to work for employees and significant value to shareholders,” said Bruce Cozadd, chairman and CEO of Jazz Pharmaceuticals.

“Jazz’s leadership in sleep and rare epilepsy with Xywav and Epidiolex, respectively, coupled with promising new oncology products like Zepzelca and Rylaze, have led to the rapid transformation of our revenue base.

We are further poised to enter new disease areas with serious unmet patient need and substantial market potential, including movement disorders and PTSD, with our mid-to late-stage assets nabiximols, suvecaltamide and JZP150.

We expect our continued operational excellence to drive a five-percentage point improvement in our adjusted operating margin from 2021 to 2025, and we are confident in our ability to continue to leverage strategic capital allocation to grow our business.”

In Monday’s trading shares of JAZZ are up $10.49 to $144.91.

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AbbVie’s antidepressant achieves positive results

AbbVie’s cariprazine met primary endpoint in Phase 3 study

AbbVie (ABBV) announced top-line results from two Phase 3 clinical trials, Study 3111-301-001 and Study 3111-302-001, evaluating the efficacy and safety of cariprazine as an adjunctive treatment for patients with major depressive disorder.

Cariprazine, sold under the brand names Vraylar in the United States and Reagila in the European Union, is an atypical antipsychotic which is used in the treatment of schizophrenia, bipolar mania, and bipolar depression.

Drug pipeline looks very promising for Abbvie

In Study 3111-301-001, cariprazine showed a statistically significant change from baseline to week six in the Montgomery-Asberg Depression Rating Scale total score compared with placebo.

The Montgomery–Asberg Depression Rating Scale (MADRS) is a ten-item diagnostic questionnaire which psychiatrists use to measure the severity of depressive episodes in patients with mood disorders. 

Patients treated with cariprazine at 1.5 mg/day achieved improved MADRS total score at week six compared to placebo.

Patients treated with cariprazine at 3.0 mg/day demonstrated improvement in MADRS total score at week six over placebo but did not meet statistical significance.

In Study 3111-302-001, cariprazine demonstrated numerical improvement in depressive symptoms from baseline to week six in MADRS total score compared with placebo but did not meet its primary endpoint for either the 1.5 mg/day or 3.0 mg/day dose.

In a previously published Phase 2/3 registration-enabling study, RGH-MD-75, patients treated with cariprazine flexible doses of 2.0-4.5 mg/day in addition to ongoing antidepressant therapy met the primary endpoint and achieved improved MADRS total scores at week eight compared to placebo.

Based on the positive results of studies 3111-301-001 and RGH-MD-75, and the totality of data reported, AbbVie intends to submit a supplemental New Drug Application with the U.S. FDA for the expanded use of cariprazine for the adjunctive treatment of MDD.

Separately, AbbVie reported Q3 Global Humira sales of $5.425B up 5.6% on reported basis.

In Q3, Global net revenues from the immunology portfolio were $6.674 billion, an increase of 15.3 percent on a reported basis, or 14.9 percent on an operational basis.

Global Humira net revenues of $5.425 billion increased 5.6 percent on a reported basis, or 5.2 percent on an operational basis.

U.S. Humira net revenues were $4.613 billion, an increase of 10.1 percent.

Internationally, Humira net revenues were $812 million, a decrease of 14.6 percent on a reported basis, or 16.7 percent on an operational basis, due to biosimilar competition.

Treatment for Psoriasis

Global Skyrizi net revenues were $796 million. Global Rinvoq net revenues were $453 million.

Treatment for moderate to severe rheumatoid arthritis

ABBV is up $5 to $114.70.

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FDA Approved Vapes are coming!

FDA announces ‘first authorization’ for marketing of e-cigarette products

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration announced it has authorized the marketing of three new tobacco products, which it noted marks “the first set of electronic nicotine delivery system products ever to be authorized by the FDA through the Premarket Tobacco Product Application – PMTA – pathway.”

The FDA issued marketing granted orders to R.J. Reynolds Vapor Company, a subsidiary of British American Tobacco, for its Vuse Solo closed ENDS device and accompanying tobacco-flavored e-liquid pods, specifically, Vuse Solo Power Unit, Vuse Replacement Cartridge Original 4.8% G1, and Vuse Replacement Cartridge Original 4.8% G2.

“As the RJR Vapor Company submitted data to the FDA that demonstrated that marketing of these products is appropriate for the protection of public health, today’s authorization allows these products to be legally sold in the U.S.,” the FDA stated.

Solar Powered Vuse

Today, the FDA also issued 10 marketing denial orders for flavored ENDS products submitted under the Vuse Solo brand by RJR.

“Due to potential confidential commercial information issues, the FDA is not publicly disclosing the specific flavored products. These products subject to an MDO for a premarket application may not be introduced or delivered for introduction into interstate commerce. Should any of them already be on the market, they must be removed from the market or risk enforcement. Retailers should contact RJR with any questions about products in their inventory.

The agency is still evaluating the company’s application for menthol-flavored products under the Vuse Solo brand,” the FDA stated.

“Today’s authorizations are an important step toward ensuring all new tobacco products undergo the FDA’s robust, scientific premarket evaluation. The manufacturer’s data demonstrates its tobacco-flavored products could benefit addicted adult smokers who switch to these products – either completely or with a significant reduction in cigarette consumption – by reducing their exposure to harmful chemicals. We must remain vigilant with this authorization and we will monitor the marketing of the products, including whether the company fails to comply with any regulatory requirements or if credible evidence emerges of significant use by individuals who did not previously use a tobacco product, including youth. We will take action as appropriate, including withdrawing the authorization,” said Mitch Zeller, J.D., director of the FDA’s Center for Tobacco Products.

Mitch Zeller, J.D., director of the FDA’s Center for Tobacco Products

Shares to watch: BTI, MO, PM.

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New York reaches settlement over opioid drugs

NY AG announces $1.1B agreement with big three drug distributors over opioids

New York Attorney General Letitia James announced an agreement with McKesson (MCK), Cardinal Health (CAH), and Amerisource Bergen (ABC) – three of the nation’s largest drug distributors – that will deliver up to $1.1B to New York state to combat the ongoing opioid epidemic.

“The $1.1B agreement is the largest monetary settlement ever negotiated by Attorney General James. The agreement resolves claims made by Attorney General James for the three companies’ role in helping to fuel the opioid epidemic and will remove the three distributors from New York’s ongoing opioid trial, currently underway in Suffolk County State Supreme Court…

Additionally, late last month, Attorney General James announced an agreement with Johnson & Johnson (JNJ) that removed the company from New York’s opioid trial in exchange for up to $230M for the state’s opioid prevention and treatment efforts, as well as it ending the sale of opioids nationwide.

The trial against the three remaining defendants – Endo Health Solutions (ENDP), Teva Pharmaceuticals USA (TEVA), and Allergan Finance (ABBV) – is currently underway and will continue in state court,” the AG stated.

As part of today’s agreement, McKesson, Cardinal Health, and Amerisource Bergen will pay New York state a total of up to $1,179,251,066.68, of which more than $1 billion will go towards abatement.

Payments will start in just two months and will continue over the course of the next 17 years, the AG said.

Opioids are a class of drugs that include the illegal drug heroin, synthetic opioids such as fentanyl, and pain relievers available legally by prescription, such as oxycodone (OxyContin®), hydrocodone (Vicodin®), codeine, morphine, and many others. 

Fentanyl and similar compounds like carfentanil are powerful synthetic opioids — 50 to 100 times more potent than morphine. High doses of opioids, especially potent opioids such as fentanyl, can cause breathing to stop completely, which can lead to death.

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RAPT Therapeutics shares soar on data

RAPT Therapeutics, Inc. (RAPT) announced positive topline results from its randomized placebo-controlled Phase 1b clinical trial of RPT193 as monotherapy in 31 patients with moderate-to-severe atopic dermatitis (AD).

Atopic dermatitis (eczema) is a condition that makes your skin red and itchy. It’s common in children but can occur at any age. Atopic dermatitis is long lasting (chronic) and tends to flare periodically. It may be accompanied by asthma or hay fever.

After four weeks of treatment, patients with moderate-to-severe AD who received RPT193 showed a 36.3% improvement from baseline in the Eczema Area and Severity Index (EASI) score, a standard measure of disease severity, compared to 17.0% in the placebo group.

Notably, in the two-week period following the end of treatment, the RPT193 group showed continued improvement and further separation from placebo with a 53.2% improvement in EASI at the six-week time point compared to 9.6% in the placebo group. This continued improvement may be related to RPT193’s mechanism of action, which is upstream of other agents targeting cytokines or signaling pathways.

Emma Guttman-Yassky, M.D., Ph.D., the Waldman Professor of Dermatology and System Chair Department of Dermatology at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, and member of RAPT’s Scientific Advisory Board, added, “I am very excited about these results as they not only demonstrate clinically meaningful improvement after just four weeks of treatment, but also further improvement for two weeks after completion of treatment. This may suggest that this novel mechanism of action targeting CCR4 on Th2 cells could have prolonged, disease-modifying effects, which could differentiate it from other agents. Along with being an oral drug that seems to have promising clinical activity and a well-tolerated safety profile, RPT193 could fill a high unmet medical need for AD patients.”

Cantor Fitzgerald

Cantor Fitzgerald analyst Alethia Young raised the firm’s price target on Rapt Therapeutics to $71 from $51 and reiterates an Overweight rating on the shares. The stock in midday trading is up 110%, or $19.60, to $38.17. This morning’s RPT193 data update “was robust with clear clinical benefit compared to placebo on all exploratory endpoints,” Young tells investors in a research note.

The analyst took the drug’s probability of success in atopic dermatitis to 50% from 25% previously, and increased her peak sales estimates. Young sees a “large unmet need” for a safe and effective oral treatment which is separate from the injectable market, and models peak sales of $4B in atopic dermatitis by 2035. She views Rapt’s risk/benefit profile as potentially best-in-class for an oral treatment.

RAPT is up 107% to $37.70.

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FDA Approves Biogen’s Alzheimer’s Drug

FDA approves Biogen Alzheimer’s drug, says benefits outweigh risks

The FDA approved Biogen’s (BIIB) Aduhelm to treat patients with Alzheimer’s disease.

“This approval is significant in many ways. Aduhelm is the first novel therapy approved for Alzheimer’s disease since 2003.

Perhaps more significantly, Aduhelm is the first treatment directed at the underlying pathophysiology of Alzheimer’s disease, the presence of amyloid beta plaques in the brain.

The clinical trials for Aduhelm were the first to show that a reduction in these plaques – a hallmark finding in the brain of patients with Alzheimer’s – is expected to lead to a reduction in the clinical decline of this devastating form of dementia,” the FDA said in a statement.

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Eli Lilly is a partner with Biogen

It added, “We ultimately decided to use the Accelerated Approval pathway – a pathway intended to provide earlier access to potentially valuable therapies for patients with serious diseases where there is an unmet need, and where there is an expectation of clinical benefit despite some residual uncertainty regarding that benefit.

Brain of an Alzheimer patient

In determining that the application met the requirements for Accelerated Approval, the Agency concluded that the benefits of Aduhelm for patients with Alzheimer’s disease outweighed the risks of the therapy.”

The FDA said in its approval statement: “Additionally, FDA is requiring Biogen to conduct a post-approval clinical trial to verify the drug’s clinical benefit. If the drug does not work as intended, we can take steps to remove it from the market. But hopefully, we will see further evidence of benefit in the clinical trial and as greater numbers of people receive Aduhelm. As an agency, we will also continue to work to foster drug development for this catastrophic disease.”

STIFEL

Stifel analyst Paul Matteis reiterates his Buy rating on Biogen shares following the FDA granting accelerated approval of aducanumab, now to be called “Aduhelm,” for the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease.

Approval based on amyloid plaque as a “surrogate” is “definitely unexpected” and appears to be a way for FDA to work around the contentious advisory committee meeting, argues Matteis, who adds that the approval “is a big win.” How investors will risk-adjust revenues that are modeled after completion of a Phase 4 trial and how insurers will treat access for a drug approved based on a biomarker are “highly interesting” questions that will now “be debated at a materially higher stock valuation,” added Matteis. Biogen shares remain halted for trading at midday following news of the FDA approval.

JEFFRIES

Jefferies analyst Andrew Tsai said news of Biogen (BIIB) being granted FDA approval for aducanumab is likely to spark investor enthusiasm across all Alzheimer’s names and he believes the longer-term setup for Athira Pharma (ATHA) looks more attractive now. Given what he views as “the FDA tailwind,” he would buy on strength as he believes the FDA’s aducanumab decision “clearly has a positive readthrough” to Athira, whose Phase I data suggests ATHA-1017 could produce “a profound cognitive benefit” in Phase 2/3 studies expected to read out in 2022, Tsai tells investors.

In that context, he thinks a 25%-50% short-term move for Athira shares “seems reasonable” relative to the company’s current market cap.

Shares of Biogen (BIIB) remain halted while Eli Lilly (LLY), who has an Alzheimer’s disease drug in its pipeline, is up 4% to $210.78 following the news.

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FDA Approves J&J’s one shot Covid-19 Vaccine

Johnson & Johnson Covid vaccine granted emergency approval from FDA 

The Food and Drug Administration issued an emergency use authorization for the third vaccine for the prevention of coronavirus disease. The FDA has determined that the Janssen COVID-19 Vaccine has met the statutory criteria for issuance of an EUA. The totality of the available data “provides clear evidence that the Janssen COVID-19 Vaccine may be effective in preventing COVID-19,” the agency said in a statement.

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The Janssen COVID-19 Vaccine is manufactured using a specific type of virus called adenovirus type 26. The vaccine uses Ad26 to deliver a piece of the DNA, or genetic material, that is used to make the distinctive “spike” protein of the SARS-CoV-2 virus, the FDA said. While adenoviruses are a group of viruses that are relatively common, Ad26, which can cause cold symptoms and pink eye, has been modified for the vaccine so that it cannot replicate in the human body to cause illness, it added. After a person receives this vaccine, the body can temporarily make the spike protein, which does not cause disease, but triggers the immune system to learn to react defensively, producing an immune response against SARS-CoV-2.

The EUA allows Johnson & Johnson’s (JNJ) Janssen COVID-19 vaccine to be distributed in the U.S for use in individuals 18 years of age and older.

Meanwhile, Johnson & Johnson also announced that the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices has recommended its single-shot COVID-19 vaccine.

The ACIP recommendation will be forwarded to the Director of the CDC and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services for review and adoption.

Johnson & Johnson has begun shipping its COVID-19 vaccine and expects to deliver enough single-shot vaccines by the end of March to enable the full vaccination of more than 20M people in the U.S.

The company plans to deliver 100M single-shot vaccines to the U.S. during the first half of 2021. The U.S. government will manage allocation and distribution of the vaccine in the U.S.

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