Notes from the Cowen and Co. Annual Health Care Conference, being held this week in Boston: At a Monday morning session on bone loss due to cancer treatments and osteoporosis, doctors and investors in the audience were bullish on Amgen's ( AMGN) bone-loss drug denosumab, and less so about GTX's ( GTXI) toremifene. Both drugs are currently under review by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, with approval decisions expected in October. Amgen's denosumab was seen as more likely to receive a timely FDA approval than GTX's toremifene, according to separate surveys of doctors and investors conducted by Cowen and shared Monday with attendees of the conference. Bone loss caused by prostate cancer hormone therapy has not always been a high priority for doctors, but that's changing, with a majority of doctors polled by Cowen calling bone loss in these men a "negative consequence" that can and should be treated. Denosumab was seen as the commercial winner over toremifene, according to the Cowen survey. Denosumab was also preferred over Novartis' ( NVS) Zometa, in part because urologists who treat prostate cancer patients can more easily administer denosumab, given as a simple injection, over Zometa, which required an intravenous infusion. Amgen is further studying the use of denosumab in other cancer-related conditions, including a phase III study designed to determine whether the drug can delay or prevent prostate cancer from spreading to bones. Results from this study are expected next year. A majority of doctors and investors surveyed by Cowen believe denosumab will be effective in delaying so-called "bony metastases" in prostate cancer patients, which would open an entirely new avenue of treatment for the disease.
When it comes treating women with post-menopausal osteoporosis, the Cowen surveys showed that doctors generally view denosumab favorably, especially the ability to treat women every six months with a simple injection. This was preferred over Novartis' Reclast, which is given as a once-a-year intravenous infusion. If approved, denosumab will be used largely by doctors to treat women who can't tolerate or otherwise don't respond well to oral bisphosphonate drugs like Merck's ( MRK) Fosamax or generic equivalents. Notes from other doctor panels held Monday: Alzheimer's disease: Little new was said Monday at the Cowen conference in a debate over potential winners and losers in race to develop a new drug to treat Alzheimer's. There was praise and criticism for Elan's ( ELN) and Wyeth's ( WYE) bapineuzumab, currently in phase III studies and likewise pros and cons raised about drugs from Bristol-Myers Squibb ( BMY) and Eli Lilly ( LLY). Doctors surveyed by Cowen were not enthusiastic about Medivation's ( MDVN) Dimebon, also in phase III studies, but they were intrigued by Genentech's ( DNA) recently published discoveries about a potential new cause for Alzheimer's and the drugs that may result. Multiple sclerosis: Doctors were positive about Novartis' oral multiple sclerosis drug FTY 720 but less so about cladribine, a competing oral drug from Germany's Merck KGaA. Data from separate phase III studies of FTY 720 and cladribine will be presented next month at a multiple sclerosis conference. Doctors also gave poor marks to an long-acting version of Biogen Idec's ( BIIB) Avonex. Acorda Therapeutics' ( ACOR) drug fampridine was viewed as likely to receive FDA approval to improve the walking ability of multiple sclerosis patients, although use of the drug would likely be limited, according to the Cowen survey.
Liquid tumors: Celgene's ( CELG) Revlimid and Takeda's Velcade continue to compete fiercely in the multiple myeloma treatment market, with significant use of both drugs already in the first-line treatment market. New data expected later this year in front-line use of Revlimid could provide some "modest" uptick in U.S. adoption, according to the Cowen survey. More meaningful growth in Revlimid sales could come if the drug is effective as a maintentance therapy for multiple myeloma patients.