Saturday 19 January 2019

Amryt wins NHS funding for its cholesterol drug

Joe Wiley, CEO of Amryt
Joe Wiley, CEO of Amryt

Gavin McLoughlin and Bailey Lipschutz

listed Amryt Pharma has won funding from NHS England for its drug Lojuxta.

The move means NHS patients will be treated with the drug which is for a rare disorder, Homozygous Familial Hypercholesterolaemia (HoFH), that causes increased bad cholesterol.

The company expects the drug to be available to patients during the fourth quarter of the year.

Amryt chief executive Joe Wiley said: "This decision today is in line with our strategy to make Lojuxta available to more patients across Amryt's territories and it is estimated that funding approval will have a positive impact on revenue from 2019 and beyond.

"We look forward to working with the NHS to make this treatment available to patients in need of this life-changing therapy as soon as possible."

Shares in Amryt pared early gains and were down more than 1pc in afternoon trading yesterday.

Dr Handrean Soran, consultant physician at Manchester University Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, said the NHS decision to fund the drug, also known as lomitapide, was a "vital step" in ensuring patients with HoFH have access to a "new effective treatment option". Dr Soran added: "Lomitapide works differently to other available medicines for this condition.

"Unlike currently available treatments, lomitapide lowers cholesterol in adults with HoFH by switching off the release of 'bad cholesterol' from the liver and reduces the uptake from the gut.

"The treatment has shown it can enable more than half of adults with this life-threatening condition to finally be able to reach target cholesterol levels, previously thought not to be possible with current available therapies," he said.

Dr Soran said the treatment would "substantially reduce their need for lipoprotein apheresis, a lengthy and cumbersome 'dialysis for cholesterol', available only in six specialist centres in the UK". Small-cap Amryt is focused on so-called orphan drugs - designed for the treatment of rare diseases.

Separately, analysts covering large-cap biotechs said investors betting on a resurgence for the sector shouldn't hold their breath.

Generalist investors fled big biotech after failed drug trials and disappointing earnings eroded confidence that the sector could maintain its rapid pace of growth.

While shares may angle higher if there are more positive surprises like Biogen's Alzheimer's trial success on Friday, Mizuho analyst Salim Syed doesn't expect sentiment to improve dramatically.

"There isn't going to be a broad-brush of generalists coming back in because the things they're concerned about haven't gone away in drug pricing and drug price increases," Mr Syed said. "Even if there is a good earnings period, the question centres on catalysts in the back half of 2018," and there aren't a lot of those.

The low bar for expectations was on display on Friday as Biogen rallied 20pc on positive mid-stage results from a drug for Alzheimer's disease.

While the data surprised Wall Street, some analysts cautioned that investment remains risky ahead of pivotal trials, which aren't expected to yield results until late 2019 or 2020. (Additional reporting Bloomberg)

Irish Independent

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