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Amgen adds Otezla to the COVID-19 candidate list

Psoriasis therapy may be a potential treatment for COVID-19

Amgen

Amgen says it will start testing its psoriasis therapy Otezla as a potential treatment for COVID-19, as it reported better-than-expected first-quarter results.

Chief executive Bob Bradway said the mechanism of action of Otezla (apremilast) suggests it “might help prevent the respiratory distress seen in late-stage COVID-19 patients”, adding that clinical trials will start “imminently”.

Amgen only recently took ownership of the PDE4 inhibitor, which was sold by Celgene before it was forced to divest it in order to complete its merger with Bristol-Myers Squibb. Amgen acquired rights to the drug in a $13.4bn deal last year.

Amgen’s head of R&D David Reese said the biopharma company is “studying Otezla in a variety of settings” including hospitalised patients who don’t yet need intensive care – to see if the drug can prevent progression to more serious disease, as well as those with more serious disease.

PDE4 inhibition is a new approach to treating the runaway inflammatory response that seems to affect some people infected with SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, causing acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS) as well as other complications.

Doctors in the UK have said that kidney failure seems to be another common complication of COVID-19, as is a greater tendency to suffer thrombosis (blood clots), which contribute to the death rate.

Last week, Novartis said it would start trials of its interleukin-1β inhibitor Ilaris (canakinumab) to try to interrupt the so-called ‘cytokine storm’ that can afflict patients with COVID-19, joining other candidates including Alexion’s complement C5 inhibitor Ultomiris (ravulizumab) and two IL-6 inhibitors – Roche’s Actemra/RoActemra (tocilizumab) and Sanofi/Regeneron’s Kevzara (sarilumab).

Other drugs are also being tested in this setting, including AstraZeneca’s BTK inhibitor Calquence (acalabrutinib), and two JAK inhibitors from Novartis/Incyte and Eli Lilly – respectively Jakafi/Jakavi (ruxolitinib) and Olumiant (baricitinib).

Otezla also contributed to a strong first-quarter financial performance at Amgen, getting off to a good start under its new owner with sales up by 23% to $479m, around $20m ahead of expectations.

The drug helped Amgen to post an 11% increase in overall revenues to $6.2bn, with migraine drug Aimovig (erenumab), high cholesterol therapy Repatha (alirocumab) and Evenity (romosozumab) for osteoporosis leading the charge.

New biosimilars Mvasi (bevacizumab) and Kanjinti (trastuzumab) – alternatives to Roche’s Avastin and Herceptin – also contributed.

Amgen’s first-quarter results were increased by around $100m from patients refilling prescriptions early, said Amgen’s head of global commercial operations Murdo Gordon, although the company warned that a slowdown in sales may be seen from the second quarter as a result of the lockdowns that are disrupting healthcare delivery around the world.

“Data from IQVIA suggests that patient office visits have declined by over 50%, although some of this is being offset by telemedicine and telehealth services.”

Article by
Phil Taylor

4th May 2020

From: Research

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