Be Involved in a Meeting with FDA on CF!

On October 29th, individuals with cystic fibrosis and their families will have a unique and pivotal opportunity to share their experiences with representatives of the FDA during a live-streamed interactive meeting.

CFRI is very honored to host an Externally-Led Patient-Focused Drug Development Meeting on Cystic Fibrosis with the FDA on Monday, October 29th. This is an amazing and singular opportunity to share the patient experience with FDA representatives. They want and need to know the impacts and burden of the disease, your hopes for new therapies, and what you are willing to go through to find these new drugs.

PLEASE register to participate in this free live-streamed meeting! We need your input and participation You will have the opportunity to participate in live polling, and to email and call in to share your experiences. Those who do not have CF/a family member with CF should also feel free to join us.

You can register and log in for any or all of the day’s presentations and discussions. The day begins at 9:45 am. Please note: all times listed are East Coast time, as the meeting will be held at the College Park Marriott Hotel and Conference Center in Hyattsville, Maryland.

Here is the link:  http://cfri.org/advocacy/advocacy-events/

Speakers/Panelists
Jen Caruso
Lise-Courtney D’Amico
Boomer Esiason
Gunnar Esiason
Joseph Klausing, JD
Emily Kramer-Golinkoff
Robert Lim, MD
Jane Mitchell
Anna Payne
Kat Quinn Porco, MS
Tejashri Purohit-Sheth, MD
Arek Puzia, CPA, MBA
Emily Schaller
Isa Stenzel Byrnes, LCSW, MPH
Ahmet Uluer, DO, MPH
James Valentine, JD, MHS

Thank you for having an impact upon those who are assessing the safety and efficacy of new CF therapies, and making recommendations for their movement to market. 

Your voices matter!

I’m Drowning – A researcher-patient’s plea for broader inclusion in cystic fibrosis trials

By: Ella Balasa

I’ve always known cystic fibrosis (CF) is a progressive disease; it destroys lung cells, tightens the small airways in the bottom of my chest, and each day takes me closer to the time when it will have ravaged my lungs. I had never really questioned if there was some way this process could be altered. I accepted that it couldn’t.

Recently, however, this has changed. The epicenter of new CF research is the development of medications that will slow, stop, and hopefully even reverse the effects and damage that CF inflicts on the body. The possibility of the cells in my lungs functioning to their full potential — with CF transmembrane conductance regulator protein function restored and working correctly, expelling chloride out of my cells, hydrating the surface of my lungs, and halting the thick sticky mucus that has caused my airways to be enveloped in a suffocating cloak for all these years — is like a feeling of being rescued when you are drowning.

Unfortunately, I am still drowning.

“I’m very sorry, Ms. Balasa, but you will not be able to be a participant in this clinical trial.” This was the response I received during one of my searches for these drug trials. Excited by the possibility of participating, finding one recruiting at my local adult clinic, I reached out to study coordinators and was informed that I met all but one criterion to participate in the studies. This specific criterion has prevented me from prior trial participation involving other investigational medications treating the symptoms of CF, including anti-infectives and anti-inflammatories.

Most CF studies, including phase I, II, and III trials, require a lung function minimum of at least 40% FEV1 (forced expiratory volume in one second). My FEV1 is 25%, so I am excluded from these trials. Many patients face a similar situation. The 40% threshold biases samples toward a young patient population, as this degenerative condition causes steadily decreasing lung function with time. Furthermore, as CF treatment has rapidly progressed and increased patients’ life expectancies, there are now more adults with CF in the U.S. than children, according to the CF Foundation Patient Registry.

As a patient who works in the science field, I started to ask myself: Where does that number come from? Should this one variable be such a deciding factor? Are we getting comprehensive results from these studies if a subset of patients is omitted? Are investigators using eligibility criteria from a prior study without determining whether the exclusions are scientifically justifiable?

To continue reading, please visit MedPage Today.

Telavancin Promising Potential Treatment Option for MRSA in Cystic Fibrosis Patients

By Kristi Rosa

Responsible for several issues ranging from skin infections and sepsis to pneumonia and bloodstream infections, methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus continues to plague patients in the health care and community setting, as well as the providers who treat them.

When acquired in patients with cystic fibrosis, clinical outcomes are known to be even worse, affecting several organs—primarily the lungs—and resulting in an increased rate of declined respiratory function as well as infections that can have severe, and sometimes deadly, consequences.

Now, however, for the first time, investigators have found that telavancin—a drug that is currently used to treat skin infections and hospital-acquired pneumonia—has potent in vitro activity and low resistance development potential when used against S aureus isolates in patients with cystic fibrosis, making it a promising potential treatment option for this population.

“Telavancin (TLV) is a lipoglycopeptide antibiotic approved by the US Food and Drug Administration in 2009 for the treatment of complicated skin and skin structure infections and in 2013 for the treatment of cases of nosocomial pneumonia, however its application for the treatment of CF-MRSA pneumonia infections was not known, so our studies are contributing to extending the application of TLV for CF treatment,” Adriana E. Rosato, PhD, associate professor in the department of Pathology and Genomic Medicine at Houston Methodist Research Institute told Contagion®. “We were also inspired by the fact that CF patients have a short life time—until 40 to 50 [years]—so our priority is to contribute to better treatment in this patient population.”

Dr. Rosato and her team hypothesized that TLV might be a promising treatment option for CF-patient-derived MRSA and MSSA infections, as in vitro studies have shown that TLV has activity against MRSA.

To prove this, the investigators screened a total of 333 strains of CF patient-derived S aureus of the wild-type or small-colony-variant phenotype, collected from both adults and children at 3 different cystic fibrosis centers: Houston Methodist Research Institute, UW Health and the Center for Global Infectious Disease Research. TLV was found to display activity against all 333 strains collected.

When testing the activity of the drug against 23 MRSA strains, the investigators observed intermediate resistance to ceftaroline (CPT)—a new beta-lactam antibiotic that targets PBP 2a in MRSA—in 20 of the strains, and high-level resistance to CPT in 3 of the strains. The authors note that although high levels of resistance to CPT is rare, intermediate resistance is more common in patients who have chronic infections.

“Among all strains, the TLV MIC90 was 0.06 mg/liter, i.e. 8-fold lower than the daptomycin (DAP) and CPT MIC90 and 25-fold lower than the linezolid (LZD) and vancomycin (VAN) MIC90,” the authors write.

Using time-kill experiments, the investigators assessed the in vitro effectiveness of TLV compared with DAP, VAN, and CPT. They found that TLV showed activity against all tested strains and displayed rapid bactericidal activity as well. The activity profile for the drug at a free serum concentration of 8 mg/liter showed that TLV performed better than VAN (16 mg/liter), LZD (10.4 mg/liter), and CPT (16 mg/liter).

The investigators also set out to determine the fate of mutation selection that could be projected by the potential prolonged use of TLV in patients with cystic fibrosis. To do this they looked at 3 specific strains: AMT 0114-48, WIS 664, and TMH 5007. They found that due to the ease of mutation selection which had been noted in control strains, TLV mutant resistance is independent of the CF patient background of the strains.

“We demonstrated that TLV has bactericidal activity against the S aureus strains tested, including those against which CPT and LZD displayed reduced activity, which might provide TLV a significant advantage over the drugs currently used to eradicate those strains and prevent future exacerbations,” the study authors write.

A clinical trial is currently underway to assess the pharmacokinetic profile of TLV in patients with cystic fibrosis, who usually need dose adjustment because of an increase in the volume of distribution and clearance.

“[The next step for our research is] to perform in-vivo analyses studies that could lead to translational application/clinical trial,” Dr. Rosato added. “However, we are limited in research funds to continue our investigations.”

Original article here.

Patients Will Test Digital Platform to Manage CF-Related Diabetes (CFRD)

By Janet Stewart

Attain Health will partner with DarioHealth, a digital health and big data solutions company, to test its Dario Engage platform to monitor blood sugar levels in cystic fibrosis (CF) patients with CF-related diabetes (CFRD). Attain Health provides integrative health coaching for CF patients.

CFRD is an unusual form of diabetes estimated to affect some 30,000 CF patients in the United States and 70,000 worldwide. Experts say that the hyperglycemia (high blood sugar levels) seen in CFRD patients results in higher rates of bacterial lung infections, and an increased risk of death.

“Effective diabetes management in cystic fibrosis patients is critical, as there is a sixfold increase in mortality among cystic fibrosis patients who have diabetes as compared to those who don’t. The increased risk of mortality from lung infections is correlated with hyperglycemic events,” Kat Quinn Porco, founder of Attain Health, said in a press release.

The three-month pilot study will include real-time tracking of 12 patients with CFRD using the Dario Engage digital platform, which includes a blood sugar monitoring device that transmits readings to the clinic. Attain Health will pay for access to the Dario Engage Dashboard to monitor participants.

The app is designed to help clinics detect blood sugar trends that could lead to disease progression. Disease management is also expected to be improved by DarioHealth’s ability to provide health education content via the app.

“We are very excited to move forward with DarioHealth in exploring the benefits of digital health solutions for patients living with cystic fibrosis. We chose to work with DarioHealth because of their platform’s patient-centric approach, ease of use, real-time actionable data, and their very favorable reputation in the diabetes market,” Porco said.

The companies plan to jointly present preliminary findings at the North American Cystic Fibrosis Conference Oct.18-20 in Denver. Final results are expected in December.

Attain Health plans to obtain grant money for continuous use of the DarioEngage program with up to 200 patients a year.

“By piloting this study in partnership with Attain Health, DarioHealth is taking a leadership position in addressing CFRD by deploying what we believe are the best digital health management tools on the market today. This agreement and pilot study mark DarioHealth’s foray into chronic disease treatment markets that overlap with and expand beyond the treatment of diabetes, our company’s first treatment indication,” said Erez Raphael, president and CEO of DarioHealth.

Original article here.

Pushing Through the Fear – Guest Blog By Andrea Eisenman

By Andrea Eisenman

So many fears, where do I begin. Let’s start with my impending trip to Seattle from NYC. I like to travel but it gets complicated. How much room in my suitcase do I have to pack my myriad of machines and meds? And how much will I forget, despite my thorough list? I learned I had to put obvious things on my list like a hairbrush after I forgot that a few times. But when it is easily purchased at a drug store, no biggy. When it is my immune suppressants or a nebulizer, that is harder to replace.

I now have a lot more machinery to tote around when I leave home. I have my CPAP, my percussor and my inhalation machine and a facial steamer for my sinuses, plus my Neti pot for nasal lavage. These things become cumbersome and traveling light is not an option, I have to check my bag. So, planning is key for several days prior to take off. I am in that phase now. Packing it all. I bring enough meds for twice my travel time. My last trip to Seattle happened during 9/11. I could not fly home for a week. Luckily, I had an extra 10 days of medications to cover me.

My dad asked if I was up to the flight, it is a longer one than I have taken in many years. My answer is, I don’t know. I am fearful as I know I have lymphedema and even though I wear compression tights when I fly, it is less than comfy and I will swell in my upper body. I do have a compression machine for upper body swelling but it is way too big to bring. Will I be ok not using it for a few days? I am hoping the answer is yes. But because I do not know these things for certain, I have anxiety. And I worry I might get sick either from the flight or anytime during my trip. I do wear a mask in flight and try to stay as hydrated as possible in order to keep well. And of course, I will wipe down the area near my seat with cleaning wipes.

But in order to live a life, I have to take some risks. I had wanted to go to Seattle for a few years. It is therapeutic to get away once in a while and I had not traveled too far from home while my mom was alive. I wanted to be near enough if she needed me. I no longer have that worry. And maybe I used that as an excuse so I am now pushing myself to go on this trip. I know I can be resourceful and my doctors are only a phone call away if I get sick. There is a great CF center there and my friend is sensitive to my CF needs. When we were in college together she gave my CPT when I let her.

I find that when I push myself beyond my fears, I feel triumphant and am happy that I conquered them. Sometimes one has to get out of their comfort zone, even if it means wearing horribly tight pantyhose for six hours on a flight! I know it will be worth it and I can bond with my friend. I will feel like I accomplished something worthwhile. Maybe my next trip will be to Europe.

Vertex Pharmaceuticals opens expanded San Diego research center with focus on cystic fibrosis

By Bradley J. Fikes

Vertex Pharmaceuticals opened its new San Diego research center Monday, starting a new chapter in a decades-long quest to not only treat but cure cystic fibrosis.

In 18 years, three drugs for the lung-ravaging disease have emerged from Vertex’s San Diego center and more are in the pipeline.

The first, Kalydeco, was approved in 2012. It is the first drug that treats the underlying cause of the disease. The second, Orkambi, was approved three years later. And the third, Symdeko, was approved in February.

These drugs can benefit about half of all patients with the incurable disease. In the next several years, Boston-based Vertex hopes its drugs can help nearly all patients live longer, healthier lives.

Cystic fibrosis is caused by a genetic defect that allows a buildup of thick mucus in the lungs, and other internal organs. This mucus clogs airways and promotes the growth of bacteria. The average lifespan of patients is 37 years, up from 20 years in 1980. Treatments include antibiotics to fight lung infections and mucus-thinning drugs.

The new 170,000 square-foot building on Torrey Pines Mesa more than doubles the company’s space. The center includes cell culturing equipment to grow lung cells from patients, to be used for drug screening. A 4,000 square-foot incubator suite will serve outside collaborators.

Asides from cystic fibrosis, the staff will work on other serious diseases.

Among the speakers Monday morning was a veteran in the fight against cystic fibrosis: Jennifer Ferguson, who has two children with the disease, Ashton and Lola. Both her children are taking Vertex drugs, and both were present with her at the event.

With these drugs and the promise of better therapies ahead, she says Ashton and Lola have a good chance of growing up and leading their own lives. She urged all Vertex employees to think of themselves as part of a team to cure the disease.

Ferguson, of San Diego, found out about the work from the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation. The foundation had invested $30 million in startup Aurora Biosciences to find therapies.

In 2001, Vertex purchased Aurora for $592 million in stock, the same year Ashton was diagnosed. The research went on under Vertex, and Ferguson became quite familiar with the research team.

“The Cystic Fibrosis Foundation asked me to come speak, to show them what it’s like to have a little child with CF,” she said. “So I came here about 17 years ago with him as a 6-month-old.”

At that time, many cystic fibrosis patients never reached adulthood.

“I had a hard time keeping it together,” Ferguson told the audience of that long-ago visit.

“But I looked in the staff’s faces — and some of you are still here — and I thought, I’m going to put my faith and trust in your hands, in your brains. And I was able to let go of my worry, because you were on the case.”

Ferguson started visiting every few years to check on what progress was being made, first with Ashton, and later including Lola. She also raises money for the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation.

Both her children have shown improvement since starting the Vertex drugs, Ferguson said. But they still need to go through a daily regimen of clearing out their lungs.

From medications, the research frontier has advanced to investigations into a cure. That means fixing the genetic defect, which can come in several variations, inside living patients.

That cure might come from the hot new gene editing technology called CRISR. In 2015, Vertex allied with startup CRISPR Therapeutics to develop curative therapies.

This post was originally published on The San Diego Union-Tribune

A Drug Costs $272,000 a Year. Not So Fast, Says New York State.

From The New York Times:

A Drug Costs $272,000 a Year. Not So Fast, Says New York State.

New York’s Medicaid program says Orkambi, a new drug to treat cystic fibrosis, is not worth the price. The case is being closely watched around the country.

A wave of breakthrough drugs is transforming the medical world, offering hope for people with deadly diseases despite their dizzying price tags.

But what if it turns out that some of these expensive new drugs don’t work that well?

That’s the quandary over Orkambi, a drug that was approved in 2015 for cystic fibrosis and was only the second ever to address the underlying cause of the genetic disease. Orkambi, which is sold by Vertex Pharmaceuticals, costs $272,000 a year, but has been shown to only modestly help patients.

Now, in a case that is being closely watched around the country, New York state health officials have said Orkambi is not worth its price, and are demanding that Vertex give a steeper discount to the state’s Medicaid program. The case is the first test of a new law aimed at reining in skyrocketing drug costs in New York’s Medicaid program.

The high price of prescription drugs has ignited a populist furor, and in May, the Trump administration unveiled a set of proposals to address the issue. But while the ideas at the federal level are still mostly theoretical, some states have begun tackling the issue themselves. Earlier this year, Massachusetts asked the federal government for permission to limit its coverage of drugs in an effort to secure larger discounts from drug makers. Other states, like California and Vermont, have passed laws requiring drug companies to turn over certain financial details if they raise prices significantly.

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“There’s a number of states that are really trying to push forward and say, we need to be thinking very differently about how we’re paying for drugs,” said Matt Salo, the executive director of the National Association of Medicaid Directors. “We need the ability to say that there are some drugs that are just not priced in a rational way.”

Orkambi held great promise for people with cystic fibrosis when it was approved three years ago. A similar drug, Kalydeco, approved in 2012, was viewed as groundbreaking because it was the first to try to counteract the genetic defect that causes cystic fibrosis. The disease, which affects about 30,000 Americans, leads to a buildup of sticky mucus in the lungs and can lead to death by respiratory failure by the time many people are 40.

But while Kalydeco, also known as ivacaftor, was found to be effective, it was only approved for a sliver of patients with the disease — those who had certain genetic mutations. Orkambi, which combines ivacaftor and another drug, lumacaftor, was approved for mutations that covered nearly half of cystic fibrosis patients, but studies showed it was not as effective as Kalydeco.

Since Orkambi’s approval, several countries have balked at paying for it, including Britain, France and Canada.

In the United States, private insurers and Medicare plans have generally covered Orkambi. Medicaid programs, which cover health insurance for the poor, are required to cover all drugs.

Still, many insurers require patients to pay thousands of dollars out of pocket, and even though Vertex offers assistance, not everyone qualifies.

Lora Moser, 40, is covered by Medicare because she is disabled, and said she had to stop taking Orkambi in January because she could not afford the first month’s payment of more than $3,000 required by her insurer, Humana. A spokeswoman for Humana said that for high-cost drugs like Orkambi, the insurer helps patients identify outside assistance programs to cover out-of-pocket costs.

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Ms. Moser said a nonprofit group that had provided financial assistance declined to renew her grant because, she said she was told, her annual household income was too high.CreditTamir Kalifa for The New York Times

A nonprofit group that had provided assistance the previous year to Ms. Moser declined to renew her grant because, she said she was told, her annual household income was too high. She said her income is about $600 above their limit.

“I’ve never felt more destitute and hopeless as I do right now, from a medical standpoint,” Ms. Moser said.

A spokeswoman for Vertex, Heather Nichols, said more than 99 percent of cystic fibrosis patients who are eligible to take Orkambi in the United States have “broad access” to the drug.

“Vertex has a longstanding commitment to supporting access for all eligible patients, and we will continue to oppose any attempts to restrict patient access to these transformative medicines,” Ms. Nichols said.

Despite its lukewarm reception, Orkambi has been a boon for Vertex. In 2017, the drug was its top-selling product, bringing in about $1.3 billion in sales, a considerable sum for a product that is only approved to treat about 28,000 people worldwide.

Dr. Steven D. Pearson, the president of the Institute for Clinical and Economic Review, which evaluates the cost-effectiveness of drugs, said the problem is that in the United States, drug companies control the prices, especially in the case of newly approved drugs like Orkambi.

“Our system is set up not to distinguish very well between those drugs that are fairly priced and those that are not,” he said. Dr. Pearson’s institute concluded that Vertex’s cystic-fibrosis drugs should be discounted by as much as 77 percent. “That gives the incentive to the company to overreach, and that’s part of why our system is so out of whack,” he said.

In April, Orkambi became the test case for the New York law when a state board ruled that the drug was not worth its cost, recommending that it be discounted from the list price by roughly 70 percent — an amount that was influenced by work done by Dr. Pearson’s institute. New York’s law, passed in 2017, allows the state to ask manufacturers for a deeper discount if the state’s Medicaid drug budget exceeds a certain amount.

Under federal law, state Medicaid programs get a rebate of at least 23 percent. New York officials said that they identified 30 drugs this year that were priced too high, and that those products’ manufacturers agreed to deeper discounts, resulting in about $60 million in annual savings. Vertex, which is based in Boston, was the only company that refused, the state said. New York officials did not identify the manufacturers that agreed to steeper discounts.

For now, at least, Vertex appears to have the upper hand because federal law requires the state to cover Orkambi, although the state can limit its use. Under its new law, New York could also demand that Vertex disclose details about how it sets its price, including how much goes toward research and development or to other areas, like marketing. But even if Vertex complied, that information would not be made public because it is considered proprietary.

Ms. Nichols, the Vertex spokeswoman, said the company had no plans to agree to a discount below the 23 percent required by law.

And Donna Frescatore, the director of New York’s Medicaid program, said she was reluctant to limit the use of Orkambi for those who need it. “It’s certainly a balance with our ability to get fair pricing for this medication,” she said.

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Ms. Moser prepares to administer medication through a nebulizer at her home in Leander, Tex. CreditTamir Kalifa for The New York Times

But despite the impasse, Mr. Salo said big states like New York are major buyers of prescription drugs, and companies may see an interest in taking those states seriously. “I see this as being of very, very widespread interest,” he said. “A lot of other states are kind of watching and saying, ‘How is that going to work?’”

The debate over Orkambi may soon become moot — earlier this year, the Food and Drug Administration approved a new cystic fibrosis drug, also made by Vertex. Symdeko, as the drug is called, treats a similar population as Orkambi, but has been proven to be more effective. It carries a list price of $292,000 a year, and some analysts, including Geoffrey Porges, of Leerink, say they believe Symdeko will eventually replace Orkambi.

Given the arrival of Symdeko, some analysts said New York would be smart to negotiate a package deal for all three of Vertex’s cystic fibrosis drugs, similar to a deal recently made with Ireland. Ms. Frescatore said that’s an approach that she would consider.

“You don’t want a patient being forced to take Orkambi because it’s cheaper,” Mr. Porges said. “You want the right patient to get the right medicine.”

Katie Thomas covers the business of health care, with a focus on the drug industry. She started at The Times in 2008 as a sports reporter. @katie_thomas

Vertex Employees Donate $1M to CF and Other Communities via Matching Gift Program

By Carolina Henriques

Vertex Pharmaceuticals employees have raised more million $1 million  using  the Vertex Foundation‘s matching gift program in a show of commitment to causes that include the cystic fibrosis (CF) community, a company press release states.

The dollar-for-dollar matching gift program is being run through the nonprofit Vertex Foundation, established by the company in November 2017 as part of it’s charitable giving goal of donating $500 million to qualified nonprofits and other causes worldwide over 10 years.

To date, more than 500 Vertex employees have used the program to support 753 charities around the globe working to advance work in areas that include healthcare, human services, education, and disaster relief.

Vertex’s charitable commitment has four primary goals: supporting CF patients and caregivers worldwide, including enabling access to Vertex’s medicines; helping underserved students and young women with STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and math) education; supporting young doctors and scientists; and strengthening and fostering innovation in local communities through health and wellness programs.

“Giving back is in our DNA at Vertex, and our employees have a long history of going the extra mile to improve the lives of patients, students and their neighbors,” Jeffrey Leiden, president, chairman and chief executive officer of Vertex, said in the release. “I’m proud that The Vertex Foundation is able to help extend the impact of our employees’ giving and look forward to seeing the reach of these investments in the causes they care about most.”

Also as part of its 10-year commitment, Vertex awarded $400,000 in scholarships to eligible CF patients and their family members in May as part of its second “All in for CF” scholarship program. In total, 80 scholarships worth $5,000 each were awarded for the upcoming academic year.

Vertex, which specializes in cystic fibrosis, has three approved CF therapies: Kalydeco (ivacaftor), Orkambi (lumacaftor/ivacaftor), and Symdeko (tezacaftor/ivacaftor).

The company is also testing potential triple combination treatments for CF.

For the rest of this article, click here.

Antioxidant Supplement Helps Cystic Fibrosis Patients, Study Finds

By Carolina Henriques

A special formulation of an antioxidant-enriched multivitamin helped decrease the frequency of pulmonary exacerbations in patients with cystic fibrosis (CF), according to a new study.

The findings, by researchers at Children’s Hospital Colorado and the University of Colorado School of Medicine, were published in the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine under the title “Effects of an Antioxidant-enriched Multivitamin in Cystic Fibrosis: Randomized, Controlled, Multicenter Trial.”

Inflammation is an important contributor to lung damage and to progressive lung function decline in CF. In the study, researchers looked at the effects of a “cocktail” of multiple antioxidants on inflammation and health outcomes in CF patients.

“Single oral antioxidant formulations have been tested previously in CF with mixed results. However, there had not been a well-designed, randomized controlled trial of an antioxidant ‘cocktail’ that included multiple antioxidants in a single formulation,” Scott Sagel, MD, PhD, said in a University of Colorado news story. Sagel is the study’s first author and a pediatric pulmonologist at Children’s Colorado.

The 16-week study (NCT01859390) was conducted from September 2013 to October 2015 at 15 U.S. CF centers affiliated with the CF Foundation’s Therapeutics Development Network.

The study included 73 pancreatic-insufficient CF patients, 10 years and older (average age 22), who could not adequately absorb important dietary antioxidants such as beta-carotene, coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10), tocopherols (vitamin E), and selenium, which help neutralize inflammation in the body.

Participants received either capsules of antioxidant-enriched multivitamins, or control multivitamins without antioxidant enrichment. The capsules were designed specifically for people with difficulties in absorbing fats and proteins, like CF patients.

The investigational antioxidant-enriched multivitamin supplement, called AquADEKs-2, contains standard amounts of fat-soluble vitamins (A, D, E, K) plus several antioxidants, including beta-carotene, mixed tocopherols, CoQ10, mixed carotenoids (lutein, lycopene and zeaxanthin), and the minerals zinc and selenium.

Sagel and his team found that the antioxidant-enriched multivitamin supplement increased the concentration of antioxidants in the bloodstream, and temporarily reduced inflammation at four weeks, even though these results were not sustained through the end of the 16 weeks of the study.

In addition, antioxidant supplementation was found safe and well-tolerated by study participants.

Researchers also observed that antioxidant treatment appeared to prolong the time to the first pulmonary exacerbation requiring antibiotics, and also to reduce the frequency of pulmonary exacerbations altogether.

For the full article, please visit CF News Today.

CF Foundation ‘Venture Philanthropy’ Model Crucial to CF Breakthroughs

By Larry Luxner

When the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation (CFF) was established in 1955, most people with cystic fibrosis (CF) didn’t make it to their sixth birthday. Today, the average life expectancy of a CF patient is 47 years.

To date, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved 12 CF therapies. Three of them are CFTR modulators that treat the basic disease-causing defect, benefiting 60 percent of all patients, and more therapies are on the way.

Preston W. Campbell III, the CFF’s president and CEO, directly attributes this dramatic improvement to the foundation’s philosophy of “venture philanthropy.”

“We are now in Phase 3 CFTR trials that, if successful, will mean that as early as next year, more than 90 percent of all individuals with CF will have a highly effective therapy targeting CF’s basic defect,” he said. “More therapies that treat the complications of CF are in the pipeline than ever before.

“It begs the question: how did all of this happen?”

Campbell answered that during his March 26 presentation, “Patient advocates taking a real stand in drug development: How the CFF worked with biotech and pharma to find a cure,” at the 2018 World Orphan Drug Congress USA in Oxon Hill, Maryland.

Back in 1960, the Bethesda, Maryland-based foundation broke ground by establishing a Care Center Network to provide multidisciplinary care. Within five more years, it had formed a patient registry.

With only $400,000 in the bank, it would also commit $11 million to research, Campbell said. “Five years later, in 1985, the basic CF defect was identified, and in 1989, the CFTR gene was discovered. That opened the floodgates,” he added.

Campbell’s predecessor, Robert J. Beall, created the Therapeutics Development Program — now called its Venture Philanthropy Model — in 1998 to entice industry to focus on CF, and specifically on CFTR as a target. Its three components were financial assistance, research tools and scientific advice, and a clinical trials network.

“We would lower the risk for industry to come into the CF space. We also made our research tools and scientific advice freely available, and we also embedded the best scientists in the world in these industry programs,” said Campbell, who took over from Beall as head of the CFF in January 2016. “Finally, in order to make sure clinical trials were safely and efficiently done, we created a clinical trials network that originally had seven centers and now has 89.”

In the beginning, CFF’s investments were typically in the $1.5 million range. Ultimately, the foundation invested more than $100 million in Aurora and its successor, Vertex Pharmaceuticals, whose headquarters are in Boston.

To date, the FDA has approved three Vertex CFTR modulators: Kalydeco (ivacaftor) for patients with the G551D mutation in the CFTR gene (2012); Orkambi (lumacaftor/ivacaftor)for patients who are homozygous for F508del, the most common mutation in the CFTR gene (2015); and Symdeko (tezacaftor/ivacaftor) for homozygous F508del patients as well as others (2018).

“Payments are milestone-based, so we pay for success,” Campbell said. “A scientific advisory committee determines if milestones are met and if the project should continue. Successful programs offer a return on our investment, so if the program is foundering, we shake hands and walk away.”

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