Roche assessing options for lebrikizumab asthma drug

Roche has said it is still assessing options for its lebrikizumab asthma drug, which failed in a phase 3 trial earlier this year, adding that it will give an update later this year once further trial data is available.

The Swiss pharma company had been assessing lebrikizumab in two identical phase 3 trials in severe asthma and, although one met its primary endpoint, the other failed to reach statistical significance.

In a conference call with analysts following the company’s Q1 results, pharmaceuticals division chief operating officer Daniel O’Day said the company had a variety of trials ongoing with lebrikizumab in different asthma sub-groups and other indications.

He added: “We still believe in the IL-13 pathway … I don’t think it’s appropriate for me to comment further at this stage, because I want the science to talk and the science is going to talk by digging into the details more, which is exactly what we are doing. I think we’ll be able to come back later in the year with some more details on that programme.”

In further questioning from analysts, O’Day said that the lebrikizumab trial failure, and the failure of a lung cancer trial of onartuzumab in 2014, were unrelated.

He said there was no issue with selection of biomarkers in either case.

He said: “It would be premature to try to compare those two programmes and contrast those two programmes. I think they are very, very different circumstances and very different disease stage.”

O’Day added that the company expects biosimilar competition for cancer drugs MabThera (rituximab) and Herceptin (trastuzumab) in the second half of 2017, and later in the decade in the US.

Because of a lack of comparative data, the company was also unwilling to give predictions on how the competition would affect sales.

He said: “We’re not at all convinced that there are going to be parallels, or exact parallels to what we’ll see in oncology either in a metastatic or curative setting.”

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