Novartis looks set to repurpose cancer drug in MS after trial wins

pharmaphorum | August 30, 2019

Novartis has announced data supporting a cancer drug it acquired from GlaxoSmithKline and Genmab in a new use in multiple sclerosis, with plans for regulatory filings later this year. The Swiss pharma already markets ofatumumab under the brand name Arzerra, after acquiring rights in all indications including autoimmune diseases in 2015 for $1 billion from the UK pharma. Novartis is now repurposing Arzerra as an MS drug, announcing last year that it would only be available in the US to treat chronic lymphocytic leukaemia (CLL) on a compassionate use basis. The Swiss pharma decided that competition from the likes of Roche’s Gaxyva (onibutuzumab) was too tough in CLL, saying it would only be available in the US on special request from doctors, and has decided to focus on its potential in MS instead. Novartis bought the drug from GSK as part of a $16 billion asset swap and joint venture deal in 2014, where the Swiss firm received the UK firm’s portfolio of cancer drugs and its vaccines business went the other way. The 2015 deal with GSK settled the outstanding rights issues to Arzerra, while co-developer Genmab still earns a royalty from net sales. Ofatumumab works by targeting the CD20 molecule on the surface of B-cells, causing them to die – a mechanism that is useful in leukaemia, when there are too many of these cells, and in MS when they become over-active and begin to attack the patient’s own nervous system. Novartis said the twin phase 3 ASCLEPIOS I and II studies met their primary endpoints, where ofatumumab showed a highly significant and clinically meaningful reduction in the number of confirmed relapses, evaluated as the annualised relapse rate (ARR).

Spotlight

Radiopharmaceuticals, or medicinal radiocompounds, are a group of pharmaceutical drugs which have radioactivity. Radiopharmaceuticals can be used as diagnostic and therapeutic agents. Radiopharmaceuticals emit radiation themselves, which is different from contrast media which absorb or alter external electromagnetism or ultrasound. Radiopharmacology is the branch of pharmacology that specializes in these agents.

Spotlight

Radiopharmaceuticals, or medicinal radiocompounds, are a group of pharmaceutical drugs which have radioactivity. Radiopharmaceuticals can be used as diagnostic and therapeutic agents. Radiopharmaceuticals emit radiation themselves, which is different from contrast media which absorb or alter external electromagnetism or ultrasound. Radiopharmacology is the branch of pharmacology that specializes in these agents.

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