Can AZ salvage brodalumab against next-gen psoriasis field?

Amgen R&D chief Sean Harper

Looks like the crowded next-gen psoriasis landscape may lose a contender, now that Amgen has bailed out of its brodalumab pact with AstraZeneca ($AZN). And if the British pharma decides to go it alone, it'll face plenty of contenders--not to mention reports of side effects--that could make building market share an uphill battle.

Friday, Amgen ($AMGN) unexpectedly announced it would pull out of a long-running collaboration the IL-17 med brodalumab, a new-age skin treatment previously expected to reach blockbuster heights. After assessing reports of suicidal thoughts in some study patients, Amgen concluded the side effect would cap the prospect's commercial potential.

"During our preparation process for regulatory submissions, we came to believe that labeling requirements likely would limit the appropriate patient population for brodalumab," Amgen R&D chief Sean Harper said in a statement.

Now, it'll be up to AZ--which has so far shouldered the bulk of the drug's financial burden--to decide which path to take. If it does push forward, AstraZeneca could be handicapped by that labeling burden in a tough fight against a slate of heavyweight rivals.

Novartis Pharma Chief David Epstein

Joining the AZ therapy in the pipeline are Eli Lilly's ($LLY) ixekizumab, Merck & Co.'s ($MRK) MK-3222 and Johnson & Johnson's IL-23 inhibitor guselkumab. But all of those already have Novartis' Cosentyx--approved in January--waiting for them at the finish line. And as Novartis pharma chief David Epstein noted on the Swiss drugmaker's Q1 call, that treatment isn't facing brodalumab's struggles.

"I don't want to comment on other companies' side effects," he told investors. "Suffice to say we do not see those issues with our product, and we've done a very thorough review."

- read Amgen's release
- read FierceBiotech's take
- see Novartis' call transcript

Special Report: The 25 most influential people in biopharma in 2015 - David Epstein - Novartis