Vertex set up for CF monopoly due to data, contracts
- After announcing positive data for its triple-combination cystic fibrosis treatments, Vertex Pharmaceuticals showed continued strength in its portfolio during the second quarter earnings update.
- The biotech said it will continue to roll out data for its triple-combos and will begin pivotal studies for at least two of the four next-generation correctors in the first half of 2018.
- These triple combinations would allow Vertex to treat nearly 90% of cystic fibrosis patients. Analysts believe this would give the company a monopoly on the space and knock competition from AbbVie and Galapagos out completely.
Rounding out a strong month for its cystic fibrosis franchise, Vertex announced last week it has completed an asset purchase agreement with Concert Pharmaceuticals that will help fill its early-stage pipeline.
Yet, the triple combo data is really what has the market excited. Analysts are now calling the company the fastest-growing big biotech.
Even as the company expands its cystic fibrosis franchise to patients with varying mutations of the disease, the company is also looking to expand geographically.
It recently opened an office Sao Paulo, Brazil, in an effort to better reach patients in Latin America.
"The level of newborn screening and the maturity of registries there is perhaps, as you might expect, not quite as advanced than it is here in the U.S. and in parts of Western Europe," said Chief Commercial Officer Stuart Arbuckle.
"And so, the exact numbers of patients, and indeed, their specific genotypes which we would anticipate being different in terms of distribution than it is in the U.S. and Europe, is not as well defined. And so, much of our efforts over the last year or so has been working with the various CF societies and physicians in those markets to try and better understand the size of the potential patient population there," he added during the Wednesday evening call with analysts.
Despite the clear strength of its triple combinations, Vertex is also developing a doublet that includes both tezacaftor (tez) and ivacaftor (iva) — which are two of the ingredients in the triple combos.
Even though development of tez/iva is ahead of that of the triplets, analysts have been speculating the triplets could make the double combo obsolete even before it hits the market. Arbuckle did argue on the call, though, that there is still a place for the doublet.
"We think tez/iva, because of the benefit risk profile that it has, really has a great opportunity to allow us and physicians to treat more patients with CF. That's because we think, given the benefit/risk profile where we know the efficacy is very good but also the safety and tolerability are also very good, we think it will be applicable to a number of populations," he said.
Something that could further help Vertex become a monopoly in the space is the type of agreements it’s setting up with payers. It currently has an agreement established in Ireland that covers a variety of patient populations with different genotypes and will continue to include newer Vertex medicines as they get approved.
"So, we're certainly very keen to be flexible, if that's what countries want to do. We're certainly, as we've demonstrated in Ireland, very open to doing that. I personally believe it's a real win, win, win, that arrangement. It's a win for the Irish government. It's a win for Vertex. And most importantly, it's a win for patients in Ireland. And so, we're certainly very open to doing that kind of agreement in any country," Arbuckle explained.
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