Roche dumps early pipeline efforts as sales jump

Swiss Big Pharma Roche has cleared out a series of early efforts. (Roche)

Big Pharma giant Roche has quietly cut a series of early- to midstage experimental drugs as it continues the traditional quarterly clear-out.

The most advanced of the cull was its midstage med petesicatib (RG7625), a selective small molecule antagonist of cathepsin S with “broad potential in inflammatory diseases,” according to Roche, that had been in tests as an immunosuppressant.

The target has history, being trialed predominately in osteoporosis. Six years ago, a cathepsin K inhibitor was the next big thing, with Merck especially touting it as a potential blockbuster.

But safety concerns nixed that in 2016 when its effort, odanacatib, appeared to increased stroke and other risks in those taking it. Combine this with only a modest efficacy, and it was duly tossed on the scrapheap.

RELATED: Merck finally ditches osteoporosis drug odanacatib after stroke risk

It followed similar failed efforts from Novartis’ balicatib, canned because of bad skin reactions, and GlaxoSmithKline’s relacatib. Roche did not say why it chose to stop work on petesicatib.

There were also four phase 1 assets that have now been “removed,” according to its latest update: RG6148, an antibody-drug conjugate that consists of a monoclonal antibody targeting HER2-receptor; RG6123, an agent targeting the tumor-associated antigen carcinoembryonic antigen, with potential antineoplastic activity in solid tumors; RG6109, targeting acute myeloid leukemia; and RG6146, a small-molecule inhibitor of BET (bromodomain and extraterminal family), across a series of cancers.

As ever, little extra information has been given by the Swiss major on why it has removed these meds, though low efficacy/safety are always the surest bets.

The pipeline update came amid its third-quarter results, which saw pharma sales up 10% at constant exchange rates, boosted by new drugs coming through from its R&D.