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Onyx/Amgen sale update

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Onyx/Amgen sale update

As the news broke Sunday evening that Amgen was acquiring Onyx Pharmaceuticals, I promised an update Tuesday after some of the dust settled.

This morning I received a press release from one of my contacts at Onyx, highlighting another project that Onyx is working on.  I posted it on

More news from Onyx. A small step to try and help tough-to-treat thyroid cancer patients. But don’t be fooled; Kyprolis is the reason Amgen is acquiring Onyx:

Bayer and Onyx Pharmaceuticals Announce FDA Priority Review Designation of Nexavar(R) (sorafenib) Supplemental New Drug Application for the Treatment of Radioactive Iodine-Refractory Differentiated Thyroid Cancer


Here’s the link if you’re interested:

Onyx is sitting at the adult table these days.  Bayer and Amgen are big players!  and trust me, this deal isn’t about Nexavar (liver and kidney cancer) or Stivarga (for colon cancer and a specific gastrointestinal tumor).  Its all about Kyprolis and multiple myeloma.

Financial news outlets are all focused on Amgen as a corporation.  Very little if anything about how this deal might affect patients.

Here’s Reuters’ take on things:

Bradway’s patient dealmaking brings Onyx to Amgen

Robert Bradway, CEO of Amgen, is pictured at a business roundtable meeting of company leaders in Washington in this file photo

New York | Mon Aug 26, 2013 

(Reuters) – Investment banker turned biotech chief executive, Robert Bradway, staked a claim as a savvy dealmaker with Amgen Inc’s (AMGN.O) successful acquisition of Onyx Pharmaceuticals Inc (ONXX.O) for more than $10 billion.

All about the deal making.  Here’s the link:

Along with some others:


L.A. TIME,0,6512088.story



Reading these and other articles, it’s clear that it is way too early to try and determine if this deal helps or hurts patients.  Don’t be too quick to assume this acquisition is bad for patients.  If there isn’t enough money, sometimes patients’ best interests get lost in the shuffle.

Last year a promising myeloma therapy, perifosine, was scrapped, supposedly because of poor Stage 3 trial results.  The real reason?  The company developing the drug had run out of money and couldn’t afford to continue testing.

Yet around the same time, another potential myeloma therapy, vorinostat, was a huge disappointment, too.  But the drug’s owner, Merck, has deep pockets and stubbornly continues to search for a way to use vorinostat to treat myeloma–and it looks like they’re making progress.

If Celgene would have had more capital back in 2002, it may have been able to test pomalidomide (Pomalyst) at the same time it was pushing Revlimid.  But according to a Celgene spokesperson I interviewed last year, the company didn’t have enough money to test two IMiDs at once.  Think how many patients may have lived years longer if POM would have been available in 2006 like Revlimid was!

And let’s not forget that Onyx was dangerously close to running out of cash when the FDA approved Kyprolis last summer.  If something had gone wrong, the newest proteasome inhibitor on the block may have still been languishing up on blocks, unavailable to us now.

So at first blush, I feel this acquisition is probably a good thing.  Outspoken diva of the myeloma blogosphere, Myeloma Cinderella, disagrees.  Here is the comment she left following my first report:

Honestly, this one is a little puzzling since so many important trials are ongoing, including the very important ASPIRE & Endeavor. I wonder if Amgen has the manpower and expertise to drive the myeloma market vs. Millennium. While Amgen is known as an exceptionally innovative company they also price gouge a lot. Ever  looked up the cost of Epogen? Or Neupogen?  When those products came on the market the costs were obscene and that was back in the early 90′s.

Typically, they were able to get away with the pricing as their products were one of a kind. But you have to wonder what is going on financially for them to be zealous about buying Onyx after making obscene profits and what this will mean for the new oral proteasome in terms of costs.

I don’t see it as good for patients as it is likely to push more patients into bankruptcy.  However it is a huge profitability win for Amgen….

Fair enough.  But no reason for Kyprolis users to worry about any of this now.  You can bet no one wants an income stream as lucrative as this one to slow to a trickle!

Feel good and keep smiling!  Pat