Pfizer to recover from set-back in the lung cancer drug market
Written by Alyssa Clark
As one of America’s largest and leanest pharmaceutical giants, Pfizer has continued to demonstrate its flexibility and productivity in foreign markets as well as domestically here in the U.S. Taking bold strides within the market over the past two years, this company has continuously tried to make itself even more valuable and marketable but branching into unpopular and unexplored markets. In an attempt to once and for all streamline their business and Pfizer has recently focused on the emerging oncology segment of the company in order to do so. However, things have not gone according to plan as Pfizer is now faced with reported failures of its leading lung cancer candidates and clinical tests.
The drug which was set to break into the lung cancer scene is named Dacomitinib, and was highly anticipated by investors and the market alike until it began reporting less than pleasing results. Dacomitnib works as an epidermal growth factor receptor tyrosine kinase inhibitor, or as it is more commonly referred to, an EGFR inhibitor. While in the experimental drug phase, the drug was eventually expected to put its non-small cell lung cancer competitors out of business. It is no secret that the competition, like Tarceva from Roche and Iressa from AstraZeneca and Teva, are no match for Pfizer’s proposed unique therapy which is technically irreversible and can act on multiple receptor types at once. However, with the recorded failures the trials have already shown, investors and the public are curious: how far will this set Pfizer back?
This new lung cancer drug was not expected to be as huge of a moneymaker as Pfizer’s number one grossing drug Lipitor, which was at one time the top selling drug in the world, but it definitely was not anticipated to be a major flop. In 2012, AstraZeneca and its partner earned an approximate $2 billion worldwide, setting the bar high for this experimental drug.
So how did this drug take such a turn for the worse? How did this drug have billion dollar companies worried, take a flop that could be detrimental to Pfizer’s 2014 growth?
Cory Renauer from the Motley Fool reports, “The problem with the drug wasn't safety or response rates, but long term survival. In the ARCHER 1009 trial, about 800 patients were given either Tarceva or dacomitinib. After 10 months the patients given dacomitinib did not show significant improvement in progression-free survival compared to patients that received Tarceva.
The answer in plain terms: the drugs improved short-term health, but in terms of long-term survival the drug recurrently failed. As stated before, the short-term results beat of Tarceva from Roche, thus accounting for the earlier promise associated with this new drug, but then when it was monitored over a 10-month period, the amount of patients who were administered Dacomitinib had a survival rate similar to those who took the placebo pills.
“In the BR.26 trial, advanced lung cancer patients that had been treated previously with either Tarceva or Iressa, were given placebo or dacomitinib. At three and a half years, the overall survival rate of patients given dacomitinib was not significantly higher than those given placebo.”
Birdie aims to reinvent elderly care with tech
British startup Birdie has announced it has raised £8.2 million to invest in innovation and scale up the business.
The company's announcement is timely as it follows the criticism of the UK government over their lack of a plan for social care, despite acknowledging the sector is in crisis - around a quarter of the UK's home care providers are on the brink of bankruptcy due to a lack of funds and staffing.
Birdie was born with a mission to "radically improve the lives of millions of older adults", by using app-based solutions, IoT and machine learning to put preventative care at the forefront. The company was founded by Max Parmentier, after experiencing his own frustrations with the care system - his grandfather struggled with the impact of life in a care home, but lacked any other option.
In 2017 Parmentier partnered with venture builder Kamet Ventures to set up Birdie, in a bid to fix this problem. Since then, Birdie has partnered with almost 500 providers across the UK, and supports more than 20,000 older people every week. In the past 12 months alone the number of people Birdie supports has got six times greater.
Birdie’s solution is an app to help care providers deliver more coordinated, personalised and preventative care, by giving them access to digital assessments, medication scheduling and planning tools. By using digital tools to take care of admin, staff have more time to spend with their care recipients.
The new investment will be used to fund Birdie’s next phase of growth in the UK, as the company scales to meet the rapidly growing demand of the aging population. The company will also invest in product innovation, creating new features to address customer requests.
In addition, Birdie is piloting new care models, including partnering with the NHS to identify COVID-19 symptoms, building predictive pharmacy models with AI, and helping health authorities to detect early warning signs of patients’ health risks.
Internally, Birdie is committed to having a progressive company ethos. All salaries are transparent, and staff work asynchronously to maximise flexibility and equity. Staff members also volunteer in their local community during office hours, and the company offsets all its emissions.
These efforts have led to numerous awards, including having the best SME culture in the UK, an Honorable Mention in the Health category of Fast Company’s 2021 World Changing Ideas Awards, and innovation in care at the LangBuisson awards.
“We believe the future of care for older people should be helping them to live at home for as long as possible through the delivery of personalised and preventative care" Parmentier said.
"Birdie is already the partner of choice for caregivers up and down the UK, and this new funding will help us rapidly increase the number we partner with and what we can offer them - meaning more people benefiting from more affordable, quality care. We’re proud of our mission and the values we embody to pursue it.”