Nektar Still Has Some Juice

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Investors are putting the squeeze on Nektar Therapeutics after two Food and Drug Administration committees said they won't recommend its opioid addiction-fighting drug, oxycodegol, to be approved.

But the company still has more than a bit of juice in its pipeline.

The FDA's Anesthetic and Analgesic Drug Products Advisory Committee (AADPAC) and Drug Safety and Risk Management Advisory Committee (DSaRM) both voted in favor of not approving the drug.

In a statement, the company said it was “disappointed in the committees' vote regarding oxycodegol and believes it is also disappointing for patients suffering from chronic pain and the physicians that treat those patients who are currently relying on existing opioid therapies.”

Nektar created oxycodegol “specifically to both help these patients and physicians and address the opioid abuse epidemic," it said, noting it used "well-established efficacy, safety and human abuse potential study designs that have led to many prior FDA approvals of opioid medications."

But oxycodegol isn't the only medication in Nektar's repertoire; it also has cancer-fighting drug bempegaldesleukin in late-stage production.

While analysts haven't been too happy about certain perceived missteps the company has taken in  manufacturing bempegaldesleukin as well as reduced confidence in the company's ability to execute on the drug's late-stage development.

Still, Nektar is far from a one-trick biopharma pony. Investors were drinking Nektar's cool-aid last summer after the company reported positive results from the clinical study of its melanoma treatment candidates, including bempegaldesleukin and also nivolumab.

Nektar is currently working through a Phase 3 trial evaluating its treatment candidates in a combination with each other.