O ne barometer of the health of the pharmaceutical/biopharmaceutical industry is new product development, and as 2012 comes
to a close, how has the industry fared in this respect? In reviewing FDA approvals of new molecular entities (NMEs) and biologic
license applications (BLAs) through Nov. 20, 2012, there are positive signs. FDA's Center for Drug Evaluation and Research
(CDER) approved 31 NMEs and BLAs through Nov. 20, 2012, on par with the 30 NME and BLAs that it approved in 2011. The number
of approvals, however, is not a sole determinant of success. A further look into the drug approvals for 2012 shows which companies
may be graduating on the top of this year's class for new drug approvals.
Leader of the pack
Of the 31 NMEs and BLAs approved by FDA's CDER thus far in 2012, 26 NMEs and 5 BLAs were approved (see Table I). Leading the large pharmaceutical companies was Pfizer, with four NME approvals. Pfizer received FDA approval for Bosulif
(bosutinib monohydrate), a kinase inhibitor for treating adult patients with chronic, accelerated, or blast-phase Ph-positive
chronic myelogenous leukemia. Pfizer also received approval for Elelyso (taliglucerase alfa), a hydrolytic lysosomal glucocerebroside-specific
enzyme indicated for long-term enzyme replacement therapy for adults with Type 1 Gaucher disease. Pfizer partnered with Protalix
Biotherapeutics in developing Elelyso with the companies forming a collaboration in 2009. Pfizer gained approval for two more
NMEs: Inlyta (axitinib), a kinase inhibitor for treating advanced renal cell carcinoma, and Xeljanz (tofacitinib), a Janus
kinase inhibitor for treating adults with moderately to severely active rheumatoid arthritis with whom methotrexate did not
work well (see Table I).
Patricia Van Arnum
Six companies—Astellas, Eisai, Forest Laboratories, Roche/Genentech, Sanofi, and Teva—each had two new drug approvals thus
far in 2012 (see Table I). Astellas had two NMEs approved in 2012: Myrbetriq (mirabegron) and Xtandi (enzalutamide). Myrbetriq is a beta-3 adrenergic
agonist for treating overactive bladder. Xtandi, developed with Medivation, is an androgen receptor inhibitor for treating
patients with metastatic castration-resistant prostate cancer who have previously received docetaxel.
Table I: FDA approvals of new molecular entities (NME) and biologic license applications (BLA) in 2012.*
Eisai's two NME approvals were for Belviq (lorcaserin hydrochloride) and Fycompa (perampanel). Belviq is a serotonin 2C receptor
agonist indicated as an adjunct to a reduced-calorie diet and increased physical activity for chronic weight management. Belviq
was developed by Arena Pharmaceuticals, a Zofingen, Switzerland-based company, for which it granted exclusive marketing and
distribution rights to Eisai for most of North and South America. Fycompa is a noncompetitive AMPA glutamate receptor antagonist
indicated as an adjunctive therapy for treating partial-onset seizures with or without secondarily generalized seizures in
patients with epilepsy aged 12 years and older.
Forest Laboratories received approval for two NMEs in 2012: Linzess (linaclotide), developed with Ironwood Pharmaceuticals,
and Tudorza Pressair (aclidinium bromide), developed with Almirall. Linzess is a guanylate cyclase-C agonist for treating
irritable bowel syndrome or chronic idiopathic constipation. Tudorza Pressair is an anticholinergic indicated as a long-term
maintenance treatment of bronchospasm associated with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.
Roche/Genentech also had two new drug approvals, one for a NME, Erivedge (vismodegib), and one for a BLA, Perjeta (pertuzumab).
Erivedge is a hedgehog pathway inhibitor for treating metastatic basal-cell carcinoma or locally advanced basal-cell carcinoma
that has recurred following surgery or for pateints who are not candidates for surgery or radiation. Perjeta is a HER2/neu
receptor antagonist indicated in combination with trastuzumab and docetaxel for treating patients with HER2-positive metastatic
Sanofi received approval for its NME Aubagio (teriflunomide) and its BLA Zaltrap (ziv-aflibercept). Aubagio is a pyrimidine
synthesis inhibitor for treating patients with relapsing forms of multiple sclerosis. Zaltrap is a recombinant fusion protein,
which acts as a soluble receptor that binds to vascular endothelial growth factor-A (VEGF-A), VEGF-B, and placental growth
factor and is used to treat metastatic colorectal cancer. Sanofi partnered with the biopharmaceutical company Regeneron Pharmaceuticals
The generic-drug company Teva had two approvals, one for its NME Synribo (omacetaxine mepesuccinate), a drug to treat leukemia,
and a BLA for tbo-filgrastim, which was approved as an original BLA and not as a biosimiliar to Amgen's Neupogen (filgrastim),
which is a previously approved biologic. Tbo-filgrastim is a human granulocyte colony-stimulating factor produced by recombinant
DNA technology for reducing neutropenia in patients with non-myeloid malignancies.
Approvals constitute a mixed bag for other large companies. Merck & Co. gained one new drug approval in 2012 for Zioptan (tafluprost
ophthalmic solution), a prostaglandin analog indicated for reducing elevated intraocular pressure in patients with open-angle
glaucoma or ocular hypertension. Bayer received FDA approval for Stivarga (regorafenib), a kinase inhibitor for treating metastatic
colorectal cancer. Eli Lilly's subsidiary Avid Radiopharmaceuticals received approval for the radioactive diagnostic agent,
Amyvid (florbetapir F-18). Takeda Pharmaceutical and Affymax received approval for Omontys (peginesatide acetate), an erythropoiesis-stimulating
agent to treat anemia.
Equally important in evaluating R&D productivity is seeing which companies did not receive FDA approval for NMEs or new biologics
(excluding vaccines). Through Nov. 20, 2012, GlaxoSmithKline, Novartis, AstraZeneca, Bristol-Myers Squibb, and Abbott were
among the large companies without a NME or original BLA FDA approval this year. As the industry waits for 2012 to come to
a close, it has yet to be seen if their late-stage candidates under review will get the FDA nod this year.
Patricia Van Arnum is a executive editor of Pharmaceutical Technology, 485 Route One South, Bldg F, First Floor, Iselin, NJ 08830 tel. 732.346.3072, firstname.lastname@example.org