[Updated: 3:47 pm] Amylin Pharmaceuticals and Alkermes have gone to the FDA twice before to seek approval of their new diabetes drug, and been turned back, but now the persistence has paid off. The FDA has cleared their once-weekly injectable diabetes drug for sale in the U.S.
San Diego-based Amylin (NASDAQ: AMLN) and Dublin- and Waltham, MA-based Alkermes (NASDAQ: ALKS) today won clearance to start selling exenatide once-weekly (Bydureon) in the U.S., according to a letter posted on the FDA website. The approval came after the agency held up the application twice before—first in March 2010, and again in October 2010, saying it needed further assurance that the drug doesn’t cause an irregular heart rhythm known as QT prolongation. The companies expressed confidence back in July that the issue had been resolved, based on results of an additional clinical trial. The drug won approval in Europe back in June.
[Updated with added detail on Alkermes royalty] The long-awaited U.S. approval is vital to future of Amylin, as it started investing back in 2005 in a $500 million Ohio factory to mass-produce the new drug. Amylin’s fortunes have become even more tied to Bydureon since November, when longtime partner Eli Lilly bowed out of a collaboration to co-market the drug. Alkermes, which provided technology that made the drug last long enough in the bloodstream to turn it into a once-weekly injection, will pick up an 8 percent royalty on sales of the first 40 million units sold in a single year, and a 5.5 percent royalty once sales exceed 40 million units in a single calendar year. While there is competition from Novo Nordisk’s liraglutide (Victoza) as a once-daily injection for diabetes, and various other oral pills and injectable insulin, the new drug from Amylin and Alkermes is the first treatment that can be injected as little as once a week. Amylin has been marketing the original form of exenatide (Byetta) as a twice-daily injectable since 2005.
About 25 million people in the U.S. have the disease, and numbers are growing fast as the nation’s obesity rate continues to surge. The new Amylin drug could generate $1.25 billion in peak U.S. sales in 2018, said Cory Kasimov, an analyst with JP Morgan, in a note to clients on Nov. 11.
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