Melbourne-based biotech Avexa has announced the closure of its lead HIV program for apricitabine after failing to attract a licensing partner for the Phase III drug.
“In the increasingly competitive HIV market, once-daily cross-class fixed-dose combinations (FDCs) will drive future growth, dwarfing the commercial opportunity for single nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitors like apricitabine” says Hedwig Kresse, lead healthcare analyst at Datamonitor.
“Atripla and other powerful once-daily cross-class FDCs in late-stage clinical development will drive future market growth, including Gilead's QuadPill (tenofovir/emtricitabine/efavirenz/GS-9350) and Gilead/Tibotec's combination of Truvada and rilpivirine. In the US alone, Datamonitor forecasts sales to peak at USD$2.4 billion for Atripla in 2011, and to grow to USD$1.4 billion and USD$2.2 billion for the QuadPill and for Truvada/rilpivirine, respectively, by 2019” comments Hedwig, based in London.
Avexa, under license from Shire Pharmaceuticals, was investigating apricitabine, a nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitor (NRTI), for use in treatment-experienced HIV patients. Despite promising Phase III safety and efficacy results, Avexa has failed to attract a major pharmaceutical licensing partner for apricitabine and has consequently decided to halt further development of the drug.
The shelving of apricitabine does not come as a surprise in the competitive HIV sector, in which market growth is increasingly being driven by fixed-dose combinations (FDCs) which offer improved patient convenience. Apricitabine's biggest competitor in the NRTI class would have been Gilead Sciences' FDC Truvada (tenofovir/emtricitabine). Truvada has demonstrated continued sales growth, reaching sales of $2.2 billion across the seven major markets in 2009, and is predicted to remain the most important backbone in anti-HIV therapy over the coming decade. This leaves little opportunity for single NRTIs such as apricitabine to penetrate the market.