Distribution of Anemia Drug through Dialysis Centers

Vifor Pharma, a global specialty pharmaceuticals company in Zurich, Switzerland, that develops its own products and also partners with other companies, in May 2017 agreed to invest in and sell Akebia Therapeutics’ Phase 3 anemia drug vadadustat through its network of dialysis centers. Vadadustat is an oral hypoxia-inducible factor (HIF) stabilizer in development for treatment of anemia associated with chronic kidney disease (CKD).

According to Fierce Biotech, Vifor is making a $50 million (€45 million) investment in Akebia (in Cambridge, MA) at $14 a share to secure the right to exclusively distribute vadadustat in the US through its network of Fresenius Medical Care dialysis facilities.

Akebia and Vifor will share the profits. The FDA still needs to approve vadadustat, and the drug also must be included in a bundled reimbursement model in order for Akebia to receive a $20 million payment from Vifor.

The agreement gives Vifor another potential source of revenue at a time when it is trying to organize as an independent company, Fierce Biotech reports, citing “three years of intense investment to cement its position.”

“Vadadustat could represent a significant advancement in the treatment of renal anemia with the potential to establish a new treatment paradigm and overcome the limitations of current therapies for patients with chronic kidney disease,” Vifor COO Stefan Schulze said. Schulze also foresees vadadustat as a therapy in hyporesponding patients, those for whom erythropoiesis-stimulating agents are ineffective.

The agreement with Akebia follows deals Vifor completed to add OPKO’s Rayaldee (see above), Relypsa’s Veltassa (a hyperkalemia treatment), and other drugs to its pipeline, Fierce Biotech notes.

Akebia is racing against FibroGen (San Francisco) to bring a HIF drug to market. In early June, Akebia prevailed over two patent claims made by FibroGen in the Opposition Division (OD) of the European Patent Office.

July 2017 (Vol. 9, Number 6)