Brodalumab - AstraZeneca

After Amgen bowed out, AstraZeneca quietly started to hunt for a buyer to take on brodalumab. Valeant stepped up to the task.

Just when you start to think that a Big Pharma giant can finally reverse course from a troubled past, along comes an event that gives you pause. For AstraZeneca ($AZN), the fresh doubts were stirred by the IL-17 psoriasis drug brodalumab.

Back in the spring of this year, AstraZeneca and its partner Amgen ($AMGN) were confidently tallying the final data from three late-stage studies when the boom was dropped. Amgen suddenly, and completely unexpectedly, simply dumped the whole effort. The about-face came just weeks after Amgen had downplayed concerns that the drug sparked suicidal thinking among patients. But after reviewing the commercial prospects for a drug in a very crowded field, Amgen believed that a strategic retreat was the better part of corporate valor.

AstraZeneca initially said it was soldiering on alone. Even with suicidal ideation, the drug looked like it was headed straight to a near-term FDA approval. Regulators are generally content that once it clearly identifies a safety issue, it can isolate it and manage it with the right REMS program.

Behind the scenes, though, AstraZeneca started to look around for a buyer. They subsequently lined up a deal with Valeant ($VRX), which has had few compunctions about snagging rights to a troubled drug that's headed for the market--provided the numbers are right.

A drug that AstraZeneca had once tapped as a likely $1.5 billion earner was sold off for a $100 million upfront, another $170 million in prelaunch milestones and $175 million in sales milestones, plus a royalty stream.

Not all Phase III setbacks are complete write-offs. But this one certainly ranks as a disaster.

For more:
AstraZeneca auctions off troubled psoriasis drug to Valeant in $445M deal
AstraZeneca isn't giving up on brodalumab despite its links to suicide
Suicide stunner prompts Amgen to dump brodalumab, denting AstraZeneca's rep
Amgen, AstraZeneca prep a brodalumab pitch--after scuttling asthma program
Amgen, AstraZeneca's brodalumab beats J&J's Stelara in 2nd PhIII psoriasis showdown

Brodalumab - AstraZeneca
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