Pfizer and Merck’s Gastric Cancer Immunotherapy Bavencio Fails In Trial

Bavencio, a cancer immunotherapy developed jointly by Pfizer and Merck, has suffered a setback after a trial involving gastric cancer patients failed. With the goal being to prolong the lives of patients whose gastric cancer had either spread or returned after two prior rounds of treatment, the objective was not met.

Earlier in the year Bavencio got the approval of the regulators for the treatment of an aggressive and rare kind of skin cancer as well as against bladder cancer. A trial of the cancer immunotherapy with regards to lung cancer is expected to start before next year and this presents it biggest commercial opportunity yet.

PD-L1 inhibitors

The cancer immunotherapy is the latest of a class of drugs known as PD-1 or PD-L1 inhibitors which assist the immune system to fight cancer by preventing a mechanism used by tumors to evade detection. Drugs of this kind that have proved to have more potential according to analysts include Imfinzi which has been developed by AstraZeneca, Tecentriq developed by Roche and Opdivo developed by Bristol-Myers Squibb. Keytruda, which has been developed by Merck is also seen as possessing greater blockbuster potential.

An analyst at Evercore ISI, Umer Raffat, revealed that there were low initial expectation since Bavencio was being tested against chemotherapy as opposed to an ineffective placebo which was the case with regards to earlier comparable studies of similar rival drugs.

“[The trial] was a very high risk trial to begin with … and the fact that it didn’t work doesn’t necessarily imply that avelumab is worse off on efficacy vs Opdivo/Keytruda etc.,” Raffat wrote in a client note.

Viagra Connect

The failure of the trial coincides with Pfizer being allowed to offer Viagra for sale in the United Kingdom without a prescription. According to the U.S. pharmaceutical giant, a non-prescription version of Viagra will be launched in the U.K. in spring next year. The version will be called Viagra Connect and will only be made available in pharmaceutical stores. A pharmacist will however have to assess how suitable it is to each individual.

Since it was launched in 1998 Viagra has turned out to be one of the most successful prescription drugs for big pharma. Initially it was being studied as a heart treatment but researchers accidentally discovered its effects. In 2012 the drug reach peak global sales of over $2 billion though there has been a decline following the expiry of patents. While Viagra will continue to exist as a prescription drug, Viagra Connect is expected to cut demand for fakes and copycats sold online.

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