AstraZeneca may continue R&D of drug linked to suicidal thoughts
- On May 22, Amgen terminated its partnership with AZ on the development of brodalumab, which in clinical trials has been linked to suicidal intentions.
- Brodalumab, an IL-17 inhibitor, has been in late-stage clinical trials since 2014, for psoriasis, as well as other inflammatory conditions, including psoriatic arthritis and spondyloarthritis. Analysts had forecasted $2 billion in annual revenues.
- During clinical trials, researchers observed suicidal thoughts in subjects taking brodalumab. Based on safety concerns and the impact that those concerns would have on labeling, Amgen decided to discontinue its collaboration with AstraZeneca on this drug.
Although Amgen is no collaborating with AZ on brodalumab, the two companies are still partnered on development of several other drugs in an agreement that dates back to April 2012. Now that AZ is on its own with the development of brodalumab, it will bear more of a cost burden. AZ paid Amgen $50 million up front at the beginning of the collaboration, and also agreed to fund 65% of the cost of development for all of the drugs being developed under the agreement until 2014. The plan was to split all costs and profits.
Clearly, AZ has confidence in the long-term prospects of brodalumab. This is also part of a larger story, in which Pascal Soriot, CEO of AZ, is determined to navigate AZ to target revenues of $45 million in sales by 2023. Soriot has restated his understanding that each project has a set of risks and benefits---and he is willing to take some risks to achieve target goals in the next eight years.