Regeneron’s cholesterol drug evinacumab claims February FDA date

The FDA has started a speedy review of Regeneron’s ANGPTL3-targeting antibody evinacumab for a rare, inherited disorder that dramatically raises the risk of heart disease.

The cholesterol-lowering drug has been classed as a breakthrough therapy for homozygous familial hypercholesterolaemia (HoFH) by the FDA, which is due to deliver a decision on the marketing application by 11 February after a truncated six-month review.

HoFH affects around 1,300 people in the US, says the biotech, and raises cholesterol levels in the blood to very high levels. As a consequence, people with the condition can develop cardiovascular disease very early, even in childhood in some cases, despite aggressive treatment with cholesterol-lowering drugs like statins and PCSK9 inhibitors.

Evinacumab (formerly REGN1500) was developed after scientists discovered that people with genetic profiles that reduced ANGPTL3 gene activity had significant lower levels of LDL cholesterol, and a decrease in the risk of developing heart disease,

If approved, it will sit alongside Sanofi-partnered PCSK9 inhibitor Praluent (alirocumab) – which has underperformed since its launch in 2015 – in Regeneron’s emerging cardiovascular franchise.

The ANGPTL3 antibody has been filed for approval in the US and Europe on the back of the phase 3 ELIPSE trial, which tested the antibody in 65 HoFH patients already being treated with statins, PCSK9 inhibitors and other drugs like ezetimibe.

Adding in Regeneron’s antibody resulted in a 49% drop in cholesterol levels from the start of the study compared to patients sticking with their current therapy alone, according to results presented earlier this year at the American College of Cardiology’ congress in March.

The FDA awarded evinacumab breakthrough status in 2017 on the strength of phase 2 data which also showed that the antibody could achieve impressive 50% reductions in LDL cholesterol, as well as cutting blood lipids like triglycerides, in HoFH patients.

There’s no data showing that the drug can reduce progression to heart disease yet, but it’s widely believed that cutting blood lipids can reduce that risk.

Not all patients with HoFH are the same however as there are multiple genes involved in the disease, including those for LDL receptors, apolipoprotein B and PCSK9.

Crucially, Regeneron’s drug seems to work even in so-called ‘null-null’ patients, which have very low levels of receptors that remove LDL cholesterol from the blood and so progress to cardiovascular complications very quickly.

Evinacumab may not be so significant commercially however, at least in the near term, although it will likely be able to command higher pricing than Praluent due to the rarity of HoFH. Analysts put peak US sales in the region of $200 million to $400 million.

Once tipped as blockbusters, Praluent and a rival PCSK9 drug from Amgen – Repatha (evolocumab) – have struggled to gain sales momentum in the much larger population of people with other forms of high cholesterol, and have yet to crack the $1 billion sales threshold, even when their sales are combined.

They now also face the threat of competition from Novartis PCSK9 rival inclisiran, which offers much less frequent dosing.

Evinacumab is expected to be a smaller product, thanks to the tiny population affected by the ultra-rare indication, although Regeneron will be able to detail using the same salesforce that sells Praluent, reducing the cost of rollout if approved.

The biotech is also running trials that could end up expanding its use into patients with heterozygous familial hypercholesterolaemia (HeFH) – a less severe inherited disorder – as well as for patients with non-inherited forms of high cholesterol who can’t meet treatment targets with a statin and PCSK9 inhibitor.

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