Another day, another drug on hold. Two in fact.
On Monday, Regeneron Pharmaceuticals
Yesterday, it was both AstraZeneca
Nerve growth factor, as you might guess, stimulates the growth of nerve cells, but it also sensitizes and/or activates the pain response. NGF is increased in many types of chronic pain, so sequestering NGF seemed like a good way to reduce the pain. And it apparently was.
In a phase 3 trial, Pfizer's
But as the phase 3 program progressed, Pfizer noted that a "small number" of patients' osteoarthritis got worse, and the FDA put the program on a clinical hold.
Given the additional clinical holds, the FDA is apparently worried that the shared mechanism of action for all the anti-NGF molecules is the reason for worsening of osteoarthritis. The only anti-NGF drug still standing at this point seems to be Abbott Labs'
Theoretically, the companies could get over this issue. Maybe by proving that it's specific to osteoarthritis, they might be able to get the drugs approved in other chronic pain indications like lower back pain or nerve pain that's associated with diabetes. But the potential side effect is always going to be hanging over anti-NGF drugs. Even if the FDA signs off on the drugs, it's unlikely the anti-NGF drugs will live up to their potential.
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