Friday Five - The pharma week in review (13 March 2020)

COVID-19 outbreak designated a pandemic by WHO

During a week dominated by the continued global outbreak of COVID-19, the World Health Organization moved on Wednesday to officially declare it a pandemic.

More here.

FirstWord Pharma coverage of the outbreak this week

We ran two short polls this week evaluating the potential impact of the COVID-19 outbreak on healthcare provision for existing and other non-COVID-19 patients (more here), and perception among front-line physicians towards the readiness of healthcare systems to cope with the pandemic (more here).

We have another short poll in field surveying Italian physicians in response to the nationwide quarantine measures that were introduced in the country earlier this week and the impact these are likely to have on healthcare provision. Results will be published shortly. 

Conference season disrupted

The effect of the COVID-19 pandemic on pharmaceutical companies' top and bottom lines will not be known for some time. Share prices have fallen dramatically, however, as investors become increasingly concerned (see ViewPoints: COVID-19 plays with global markets) and a number of medical conferences have been postponed or will take place virtually.

The highest profile of these is the annual meeting of the American Association of Cancer Research (AACR), which was due to be held in San Diego on April 24 to 29, and will be rescheduled for later in the year. 

A full list of medical conferences affected by the COVID-19 pandemic can be found here. It remains unclear at the moment what will happen to new (in some cases potentially practice-changing) clinical data readouts due to be presented at these meetings.

The latest on remdesivir

With it now widely assumed that a vaccine for severe acute respiratory coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV 2) will take a minimum of 12-18 months to develop, focus has increasingly shifted to the potential development of existing mid- and late-stage pipeline assets or use of existing medicines, which are approved for other indications.

This week, analysts at one Wall Street bank gave the most advanced of these drugs - Gilead Sciences' remdesivir - a 50/50 chance of success, despite what they describe as likely a "very low bar" for success. Another analyst suggested that once initial Phase III data is released it will be worth evaluating clinical response in relation to when patients received remdesivir, as animal data suggests that earlier treatment could be significantly more effective.   

Non-COVID-19 news of note

Intarcia Therapeutics faced its second rejection for its ITCA 650 implant to treat type 2 diabetes, sharing no details on the shortcomings the FDA identified in the application. The company went through the rejection ringer for the first time in 2017, when the agency cited aspects of its manufacturing as deficiencies. It now says its eager to give the application a third try before the FDA.

More here.

AstraZeneca and partner Merck & Co. conceded a Phase III defeat for their combination of VEGFR inhibitor cediranib and PARP inhibitor Lynparza (olaparib) in the GY004 trial to treat ovarian cancer. Expectations for the combo hadn't been sky high based on previously raised concerns over cediranib's risk/benefit profile, but it does remove one arrow from the partners' quiver in their quest to expand the remit of Lynparza.

More here.

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