Novartis AveXis shifted top scientific leadership before Zolgensma data scandal erupted

FiercePharma | August 14, 2019

Novartis has said it shuffled staff at its under-the-gun gene therapy unit AveXis. Now we know who and when, at least when it comes to the top scientific leaders in that business. AveXis two top scientists were shunted aside in early May, right around the time Novartis confirmed internally that its gene therapy Zolgensmas approval application contained manipulated data but before it notified the FDA. AveXis former chief scientific officer, Brian Kaspar, and his brother Allan Kaspar, previously AveXis senior vice president of R and D, are no longer with the company, AveXis said Wednesday. In fact, they “have not been involved in any operations at AveXis since early May 2019.” And by the time the FDA was ready to go public with the data manipulation scandal, AveXis had a new scientific chief. The Kaspar brothers' jobs, rolled into one, went to Page Bouchard, most recently global head of preclinical safety for Novartis Institutes for BioMedical Research (NIBR). Bouchard stepped into the job Aug. 5, AveXis said, the day before the agency announced it was considering criminal and civil penalties for the faulty submission. Novartis CEO Vas Narasimhan has said the company was in the process of terminating “a small number of AveXis scientists” involved in Zolgensma data falsification. And the Kaspar brothers look to be among them. According to Narasimhan on a recent call with analysts, Novartis first received allegations of the manipulated data mid-March. Then an internal probe confirmed the allegation early May, though it didn’t inform the FDA until June 28, over a month after Zolgensma was approved by the FDA.

Spotlight

Pharmaceutical companies rely on patents, which expire after 20 years, to defend their intellectual property or drug invention from copycat versions. The drug’s patent expiration has a huge impact on revenue for the major drugmakers. They have to cut costs, raise their prices or discover new blockbuster drugs. When patents expire, generic drug manufacturers are free to produce their own replicas which cost as much as 80 percent less compared to originals. As outlined by the US FDA, these generic medicines have to be similar to the branded meds in terms of effectiveness, safety, usage, pharmacodynamics and pharmacokinetics. Here’s the drug patent expiration list for 2017.

Spotlight

Pharmaceutical companies rely on patents, which expire after 20 years, to defend their intellectual property or drug invention from copycat versions. The drug’s patent expiration has a huge impact on revenue for the major drugmakers. They have to cut costs, raise their prices or discover new blockbuster drugs. When patents expire, generic drug manufacturers are free to produce their own replicas which cost as much as 80 percent less compared to originals. As outlined by the US FDA, these generic medicines have to be similar to the branded meds in terms of effectiveness, safety, usage, pharmacodynamics and pharmacokinetics. Here’s the drug patent expiration list for 2017.

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Emerald Health Pharmaceuticals Reports Data Showing Novel Drug Candidate is First-in-class B55α/PP2A Activator

Emerald Health Pharmaceuticals | October 14, 2022

Emerald Health Pharmaceuticals Inc. a clinical-stage biopharmaceutical company developing a new class of medicines to treat neurodegenerative, autoimmune and other diseases, today announced the publication of a scientific article in the peer-reviewed Journal of Neuroinflammation highlighting additional data supporting the unique mechanism of action of EHP-101, the company’s first-in-class drug candidate for the treatment of systemic sclerosis and multiple sclerosis. Titled “A cannabidiol aminoquinone derivative activates the PP2A/B55α/HIF pathway and shows protective effects in a mouse model of traumatic brain injury”, the paper was co-authored by Eduardo Muñoz, MD, PhD, EHP’s Chief Scientific Officer. The publication demonstrates that VCE-004.8, the active pharmaceutical ingredient of EHP-101, is a highly specific activator of the B55a subunit of the protein phosphatase, thus activating the hypoxia-inducible factor (HIF) pathway. This first-in-class activator of the HIF pathway via modulation of B55a provides a new mechanism to treat diseases where vascular integrity is compromised. Therefore, these findings support the use of EHP-101 for the treatment of SSc and MS, and illustrate the potential of VCE-004.8 for acute disorders including traumatic brain injury and stroke. “The results of Dr. Muñoz’s work, as published in this prestigious journal, validate EHP-101’s unique ability to address key disease factors associated with the complex pathophysiology of fibrotic and demyelinating diseases such as SSc and MS through complementary specific mechanisms of action,” Alain Rolland, Pharm.D., Ph.D., COO of EHP EHP is currently conducting a Phase 2a clinical study to evaluate the safety, tolerability, and preliminary efficacy of EHP-101 in SSc patients. The Company has also met the regulatory requirements to start a Phase 2 clinical trial of EHP-101 for MS. About Emerald Health Pharmaceuticals Inc. Emerald Health Pharmaceuticals is developing novel product candidates for the treatment of CNS, autoimmune, and other diseases. The Company has two families of patented new chemical entities that have been created through rational drug design to affect validated receptors and pathways in the body which are pertinent to targeted diseases. Its first drug product candidate, EHP-101, is in a Phase 2a study for the treatment of systemic sclerosis, a severe form of scleroderma, and has met regulatory requirements to start a Phase 2 study for multiple sclerosis. EHP-101 has received Orphan Drug Designation in the US and EU, as well as Fast Track status by the US FDA for systemic sclerosis. The Company’s second product candidate, EHP-102, is in non-clinical development with IND-enabling studies and is focused on treating Parkinson’s disease and Huntington’s disease. EHP-102 has received Orphan Drug Designation in the US and EU for Huntington’s disease.

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PHARMACY MARKET

Nephron and Sharps Announce Manufacturing and Research Partnership

Nephron Pharmaceuticals Corporation | November 15, 2022

Nephron Pharmaceuticals Corporation and Sharps Technology, Inc. announced a brand new partnership focused on developing and sharing best practices in innovative manufacturing, product development, customer support, and quality as Nephron prepares to launch the InjectEZ component of expansion. Sharps Technology is a medical device and pharmaceutical packaging company specializing in developing and manufacturing innovative drug delivery systems. Nephron Pharmaceuticals is known across the country to health systems and hospitals as a leader in the production of affordable generic inhalation solutions and suspension products, as well as pre-filled sterile syringes, luer-lock vials, IV bottles, and IV bags. InjectEZ is part of the Nephron investment of hundreds of millions of dollars of expansion in Lexington County, S.C., over the last two years. Lou Kennedy, Nephron CEO, knows that when launching an endeavor as ambitious as InjectEZ, partnerships are key. "We are excited to kick off a partnership with Sharps Technology, as our InjectEZ expansion project opens, for a variety of innovative initiatives, including research and development," said Kennedy. "Just as the InjectEZ syringe manufacturing facility is poised to play a critical role in assisting those with whom we work on tackling emerging public health crises, Sharps Technology also offers key solutions to healthcare challenges. We look forward to working with them." Sharps product lines have historically focused on low waste and ultra-low waste syringe technologies, which allow up to 40% more injections per vial of therapy while incorporating multiple passive safety features. These features protect front-line healthcare workers from life-threatening needle stick injuries and protect the public from needle re-use. The partnership with Nephron opens up opportunities for Sharps to expand its portfolio and make an impact on the specialized pre-fillable syringe and drug delivery systems market. "Sharps Technology has identified a unique opportunity to collaborate with a leader in the industry like Nephron. Through my previous industry experience supporting and working with most of the leading healthcare and pharmaceutical companies in the world, it was easy for me to evaluate Nephron Pharmaceuticals as a potential partner. They truly are a leader in all areas of business and an example of best in class for the industry. I appreciate and look forward to the opportunity to work with Bill and Lou Kennedy and their leadership team to make this collaboration a success for both companies." Robert Hayes, CEO of Sharps Technology Sharps Technology brings extensive expertise in syringes to Nephron, including experience with specialized pre-filled syringe systems and ready-to-use processing. The pre-filled syringe lines will utilize the highly automated equipment and controlled environments established by Nephron. These premium pre-filled polymer offerings will be made from the highest quality raw materials, on the most innovative technology, and will be compliant with the USP standards required in the United States as well as the EP and JP international standards. The products that will be developed and commercialized provide solutions to support the current Nephron fill/finish strategies as well as their pipeline of new drug applications and sets forward a strategy to support branded pharma and advanced therapies, including ophthalmic and biologic applications. Sharps Technology will also be partnering with Nephron Pharmaceuticals in the development of a Pharmaceuticals Services Program designed to support healthcare customers that need innovative solutions and products to support their business. The development of this program will help create new fill/finish project opportunities for Nephron that will utilize innovative packaging solutions developed by Sharps Technology. These new customer projects will fuel the growth of both companies, and the opportunity to create new technologies to support the healthcare industry will be transformative for Nephron and Sharps as they navigate a bright future working together.

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PHARMACY MARKET

Walgreens Boots Alliance Completes Majority Share Acquisition of CareCentrix

Walgreens Boots Alliance and CareCentrix | September 01, 2022

Walgreens Boots Alliance, Inc. announced it has completed its previously announced majority share acquisition of CareCentrix, Inc.—the leading independent home-centered platform that coordinates care to the home for health plans, patients and providers. The majority investment in CareCentrix accelerates Walgreens Health’s capabilities in delivering quality healthcare across a spectrum of settings including primary care, specialty pharmacy care, post-acute care and home care. By bringing together Walgreens trusted health services and community presence with CareCentrix’s technology-enabled, care-at-home solutions, the partnership better addresses the needs of people with complex or chronic conditions as they transition out of the hospital. CareCentrix’s advanced data analytics capabilities enable highly personalized care plans to help people transition to the right site of care, prioritizing care in the home when appropriate. This approach supports both care quality and value by reducing hospital readmissions and improving patient satisfaction and outcomes. “We created Walgreens Health to reimagine local healthcare and wellbeing for all. This partnership advances our ability to address the needs of people across care settings immediately following hospital discharge. Our collaboration with CareCentrix is one of the many ways we are expanding on our pharmacy and patient expertise to surround individuals with care when and how they need it.” Roz Brewer, CEO, WBA Healthcare services delivered after discharge, including care delivered in the home, are one of the fastest growing segments in healthcare today. Caring for patients from the hospital to the home represents more than $75 billion in annual healthcare costs for payers, providers and patients. “The most challenging part of the healthcare journey is the last mile – extending healthcare delivery into people’s homes,” said John Driscoll, CEO, CareCentrix. “Together with Walgreens Health, CareCentrix is able to combine Walgreens trusted community presence with our powerful technology-enabled care to better address patients’ unique health needs in their homes.” In addition to home-based care, CareCentrix connects patients to appropriate providers and sites of care post-discharge, utilizing a predictive analytics platform, HomeFirst Analytics. This level of customization also includes pairing patients with care transition teams that support patient engagement for 90 days post-discharge to improve quality metrics. Walgreens Health will continue to advance capabilities that integrate CareCentrix data analytics and home care expertise with WBA’s portfolio of health solutions to identify and close care gaps, as well as coordinate patient care across conditions, settings and provider networks. These capabilities will enable Walgreens to support medication reconciliation for CareCentrix patients transitioning from hospital to home and provide primary care options to patients when needed, including Village Medical physicians and advanced practice providers. CareCentrix will also play a critical role in Walgreens Health integrated offerings to manage population level risk for benefits management and post-acute spend and outcomes. CareCentrix manages care for 19 million members through approximately 7,400 provider locations, and empowers more people to live, heal and age at home. By partnering with health plans and health systems, CareCentrix has reduced total cost of care for members by 20 percent, including a greater than 11 percent reduction in emergency department usage and a 23 percent reduction in skilled nursing costs. This investment gives WBA majority ownership of CareCentrix, investing approximately $330 million for 55 percent of the company at an $800 million valuation, net of debt, with the option to acquire the remaining equity interests in the future. In WBA’s fiscal year 2021, CareCentrix delivered pro forma sales of $1.5 billion. Following the completion of the investment, CareCentrix will continue to operate as an independent company under its current executive leadership. Sidley Austin LLP acted as lead legal advisor for WBA, along with Weil, Gotshal & Manges LLP. Citi acted as financial advisor for CareCentrix, Inc., and Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton LLP acted as lead legal advisor. About Walgreens Boots Alliance Walgreens Boots Alliance is an integrated healthcare, pharmacy and retail leader serving millions of customers and patients every day, with a 170-year heritage of caring for communities. A trusted, global innovator in retail pharmacy with approximately 13,000 locations across the U.S., Europe and Latin America, WBA plays a critical role in the healthcare ecosystem. The company is reimagining local healthcare and well-being for all as part of its purpose – to create more joyful lives through better health. Through dispensing medicines, improving access to a wide range of health services, providing high quality health and beauty products and offering anytime, anywhere convenience across its digital platforms, WBA is shaping the future of healthcare. WBA has more than 315,000 team members and a presence in nine countries through its portfolio of consumer brands: Walgreens, Boots, Duane Reade, the No7 Beauty Company, Benavides in Mexico and Ahumada in Chile. Additionally, WBA has a portfolio of healthcare-focused investments located in several countries, including China and the U.S. About CareCentrix CareCentrix offers value-based home solutions to payors and health systems to help more of their members access the home care they need, when they need it. Through a single platform, CareCentrix coordinates multiple, complex home care needs for over 19 million members through a national network of approximately 7,400 provider locations, resulting in a simplified patient and physician experience. For over 25 years, CareCentrix’s focus on the whole person has improved continuity of care, reduced unnecessary readmissions and unnecessary emergency department utilization, and has delivered positive financial results for health plans. With proprietary HomeFirst Analytics to stratify risk and optimize care delivery, CareCentrix takes on the complexities of care coordination and management of care in the home to provide our clients with essential insights into care at home. CareCentrix has been named one of Fierce Healthcare’s 2022 “Fierce 15” companies and FORTUNE’s Best Workplaces for Aging Services.

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