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Amgen’s Otezla could be treatment for COVID-19

By   /   Friday, May 8th, 2020  /   Comments Off on Amgen’s Otezla could be treatment for COVID-19

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Amgen’s newly acquired Otezla product line could find a role in a suite of new therapies designed to treat COVID-19 patients.

News of the potential for the rheumatoid arthritis product came as the Thousand Oaks-based biotech reported that earnings and revenue shot up in the first quarter.

The company’s outlook stayed flat as it shifts attention to the coronavirus pandemic. In Ventura County, it has helped ramp up testing efforts and made donations to support area nonprofits.

Otezla is showing promise as a treatment for respiratory symptoms as the company also pursues antibodies that might stop coronavirus in its tracks.

“In addition to our efforts to develop a therapeutic antibody, we have also been engaged in discussions with multiple groups conducting platform trials in COVID-19 and anticipate that Otezla will enter the clinic in the coming weeks to be investigated as a potential immunomodulatory treatment in adult patients with the disease,” said Dave Reese, head of research and development.

The drug’s mechanism is likely to help with some of the inflammatory aspects of COVID-19, Mizuho senior biotechnology analyst Salim Syed told the Business Times. But it would enter a crowded field, as it likely wouldn’t be the only drug patients would take if it’s shown to work.

Revenue for Otezla, which Amgen acquired for some $13.4 billion in 2019, reached $476 million in the first quarter, the first full quarter of sales for Amgen since the deal closed in November.

Research into Otezla as a potential treatment for COVID-19 follows a previously announced partnership with Seattle-based Adaptive Biotechnologies to develop antibodies to treat and prevent the virus.

Revenues for Amgen rose 11 percent in the first quarter to $6.2 billion but earnings per share dipped 3 percent to $3.07 apiece.

Sales volumes increased, offset by lower overall prices, Amgen said in filings with regulators April 30. Net income fell 8 percent compared to the previous first quarter to $1.83 billion.

Among its other products, some patients have refilled prescriptions early, pushing sales earlier in the year. However, increased reliance on telehealth services and declines in patient visits have impacted products that require in-person administration, said Murdo Gordon, head of commercial operations for Amgen.

Sales of oncology drug Neulasta dropped 40 percent quarter-over-quarter to $609 million, while Sensipar, facing increasing pressure from competitors, fell 42 percent to $123 million.

Newer drugs like cholesterol treatment Repatha and kidney disease treatment Parsabiv gained 62 percent and 39 percent, respectively.

The company’s financial guidance for the full year stayed stable at $25 billion to $25.6 billion, with adjusted earnings in the range of $14.85 to $15.60 per share.

Adjusted to exclude impacts from acquisitions and restructuring, earnings per share rose to $4.17 for the first quarter, beating analyst estimates of $3.76 on average. Shares dipped around half a percent in trading after the announcement and remain down 1.8 percent for the year as of press time May 6.

The company’s supply chain has remained intact throughout the pandemic, Chairman and CEO Robert Bradway said on a call with investors.

Clinical trials for Otezla and the company’s BiTE platform have continued uninterrupted, but others in the pipeline have seen impacts from the COVID-19 shutdown.

Outside of the push to develop a treatment or vaccine for the virus, “The earlier trials tend to get pushed out,” Syed said. “The ones that haven’t started will kind of wait a little longer. FDA interactions have been pretty good.”

Oncology trials and those that can conduct patient assessments virtually have also stayed on pace, he added.

“We need to make sure that we’re both responding to COVID-19 and meeting the ongoing needs of other seriously ill patients,” Bradway said. “From a supply chain perspective, we’ve not experienced any significant disruptions and we don’t currently anticipate any shortages of our medicines due to COVID-19.”

Through its charitable foundation, the company donated testing equipment to Ventura County that doubled its testing capacity, he added.

• Contact Marissa Nall at

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