Why doesn’t Vertex get any credit in pain?
Vertex Pharmaceuticals has spent the last two years trying to convince the world that it has a bright future treating chronic pain. The world, by and large, has been unmoved.
Yesterday, the company disclosed that its lead drug in the space, meant to flip a molecular switch that controls pain, met its main goal in a mid-stage trial. The drug reduced pain by about 30 percent from baseline for patients with a form of neuropathy, and the FDA conferred its breakthrough designation on the program.
You might think, with the escalating opioid crisis underlining the need for non-addictive pain medicines, that Vertex’s news would be well-received. And yet the company’s shares fell about 2 percent, down in sympathy with biotech as a whole.
The issue could be that investors have heard this story before. Vertex’s drug is meant to relieve pain by targeting a protein key to neurological signaling. Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson tried the same thing for years and got nowhere. Most recently, a similar project from Biogen flamed out in Phase 2.
Believing Vertex can succeed where others failed requires buying that the company simply has a better drug or a smarter approach to clinical trials, and that's apparently too big an ask at this point.