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Pfizer Steps Out Of Johnson & Johnson’s Shadow To Get A Tan
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Johnson & Johnson’s decision to drop fulranumab leaves Pfizer’s tanezumab as the lone anti-nerve growth factor antibody in late-stage development. Bringing non-opioid painkillers to market has proven all but impossible over the years, and the canning of fulranumab ups the stakes: success for this project appears even less likely, but if it does succeed the rewards will be that much greater.

Pfizer is maximizing tanezumab’s chances by studying it in several conditions, from osteoarthritis to cancer pain. The first of its phase III trials to read out will be Tango, in chronic low back pain, nearly a year hence, and the amount of money Pfizer is throwing at development means that it needs a hit to justify the expense.

While J&J has made it clear that it is not discontinuing fulranumab in osteoarthritis pain because of any concerns about safety, instead citing “strategic portfolio prioritization”, worries that there could be read-through of some sort to tanezumab will surely linger.

The partial clinical hold on tanezumab, imposed in 2010 after cases of suspected osteonecrosis, was lifted last year, but investors are still wary of NGFs, as their limited sales forecasts show (Tanezumab’s return shows pharma has held its nerve, March 24, 2015).

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