21.08.2012 - Sanofi withdraws a cancer drug from the markets and aims for a relaunch in multiple sclerosis.
Sanofi is withdrawing its cancer drug Campath from the markets. The pharma plans to commercialise the antibody under a different name and dosing regime for multiple sclerosis – a much more lucrative indication.
The development of Campath-1H, also known under its generic name alemtuzumab, as a successful drug took years. The anti-CD52 antibody was thought to cure rheumatoid arthritis in the beginning of the 90s but failed expectations. Since 2001, it has finally been approved for chronic lymphocytic leukaemia (CLL). Since then it also washes some money into Sanofi’s subsidiary Genzyme Corp. from Cambridge (USA). But revenues have been decling over the past years. Therefore Sanofi is now aiming for fresh money and a higher pricing. In a move to prevent off-label use the drug has now been pulled from European (in mid-August) and US markets (in early September) markets.
In both regions the market authorisation applications (MAAs) for a use in multiple sclerosis are pending. According to the pharma company clearing the market should ensure that „alemtuzumab is exclusively received and used in the ongoing clinical trials.“ Obviously, Sanofi thinks that a widely merchandised drug could jeopardise these trials. Alemtuzumab awaits its repeated market entry under the name Lemtrada. However, the German society for haematology and oncology (DGHO) criticises Sanofi for playing one group of patients against another. Sanofi responded that all leukaemia patients (so far about 4.000) will benefit from free-of-charge programmes that make sure that all patients receive their much needed medicine. In Germany, according to the DGHO, these programmes run so far quite smoothly even if they mean an increased bureaucratic effort.
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