Biotech firm InterMune took an ugly hit on Tuesday as news broke that its lung disease drug Esbriet (pirfenidone) will require additional clinical studies, and won’t be getting the seal of approval from FDA any time soon. The news caused InterMune’s stock to drop a staggering 78 percent, according to Reuters. Analysts have downgraded the stock to values as high as $60 and as low as the mid-teens.
Esbriet is being used in trials to treat patients suffering from idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF), a debilitating and deadly lung infection that causes inflammation and scarring. People suffering from the disease typically have only two to five years to live and a 20 percent survival rate.
The treatment was involved in two large-scale clinical trials, but the drug failed to meet its endpoints in one. However, the Phase III data that the company collected was expected to be enough to get the green light from FDA.
In a complete response letter to InterMune, FDA requested another clinical trial to further prove the efficacy of Esbriet, beyond the endpoint met in the previous study. There are currently no FDA-approved medications for IPF, and an FDA advisory committee recommended that the treatment be approved back in early March.
Dan Welch, chairman, CEO and president of InterMune, said that he intends to meet with FDA as soon as possible to find out why its committee rejected the drug, and understand how to expedite the approval process. The bad news is that the meeting may not occur for 60 to 90 days.
Welch would not elaborate on the kind of data FDA would like to see, or what type of trial the regulatory body is looking for, nor would he comment on previous discussions with FDA.