SECURITIES AND EXCHANGE COMMISSION
WASHINGTON, DC 20549
|☒||ANNUAL REPORT PURSUANT TO SECTION 13 OR 15(d) OF THE SECURITIES EXCHANGE ACT OF 1934|
For the fiscal year ended December 31, 2020
|☐||TRANSITION REPORT PURSUANT TO SECTION 13 OR 15(d) OF THE SECURITIES EXCHANGE ACT OF 1934|
For the transition period from ___________ to ___________
Commission File Number: 001-36152
Aerie Pharmaceuticals, Inc.
(Exact name of registrant as specified in its charter)
|(State or other jurisdiction of|
incorporation or organization)
| ||(IRS Employer|
4301 Emperor Boulevard, Suite 400
Durham, North Carolina 27703
(Address, including zip code, and telephone number, including area code, of registrant’s principal executive offices)
Securities registered pursuant to Section 12(b) of the Act:
|Title of Each Class||Ticker Symbol(s)||Name of Each Exchange on Which Registered|
|Common Stock, $0.001 par value per share||AERI||NASDAQ Global Market|
Securities registered pursuant to Section 12(g) of the Act: None
Indicate by check mark if the registrant is a well-known seasoned issuer, as defined in Rule 405 of the Securities Act. Yes ☒ No ☐
Indicate by check mark if the registrant is not required to file reports pursuant to Section 13 or 15(d) of the Act. Yes ☐ No ☒
Indicate by check mark whether the registrant (1) has filed all reports required to be filed by Section 13 or 15(d) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 during the preceding 12 months (or for such shorter period that the registrant was required to file such reports), and (2) has been subject to such filing requirements for the past 90 days. Yes ☒ No ☐
Indicate by check mark whether the registrant has submitted electronically every Interactive Data File required to be submitted pursuant to Rule 405 of Regulation S-T during the preceding 12 months (or for such shorter period that the registrant was required to submit such files): Yes ☒ No ☐
Indicate by check mark whether the registrant is a large accelerated filer, an accelerated filer, a non-accelerated filer, a smaller reporting company, or an emerging growth company. See the definitions of “large accelerated filer,” “accelerated filer,” “smaller reporting company,” and “emerging growth company” in Rule 12b-2 of the Exchange Act.
|Large accelerated filer|| |
| ||Accelerated filer|| |
|Non-accelerated filer|| |
| ||Smaller reporting company|| |
|Emerging growth company|
If an emerging growth company, indicate by check mark if the registrant has elected not to use the extended transition period for complying with any new or revised financial accounting standards provided pursuant to Section 13(a) of the Exchange Act. ☐
Indicate by check mark whether the registrant has filed a report on and attestation to its management’s assessment of the effectiveness of its internal control over financial reporting under Section 404(b) of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act (15 U.S.C. 7262(b)) by the registered public accounting firm that prepared or issued its audit report. ☒
Indicate by check mark whether the registrant is a shell company (as defined in Rule 12b-2 of the Act). Yes ☐ No ☒
The aggregate market value of the voting stock held by non-affiliates of the registrant on June 30, 2020, based upon the closing price of $14.76 of the registrant’s common stock as reported on The NASDAQ Global Market, was $671,924,115.
As of February 19, 2021, the registrant had 46,917,133 shares of common stock, $0.001 par value, issued and outstanding.
DOCUMENTS INCORPORATED BY REFERENCE
Portions of the registrant’s definitive proxy statement (the “Proxy Statement”) for the 2021 Annual Meeting of Stockholders are incorporated by reference into Part III of this Annual Report on Form 10-K. The Proxy Statement will be filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission (the “SEC”) within 120 days of the registrant’s fiscal year ended December 31, 2020.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
Unless otherwise indicated or the context requires, the terms “Aerie,” “Company,” “we,” “us” and “our” refer to Aerie Pharmaceuticals, Inc. and its subsidiaries. References to “products” mean products approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (“FDA”) or other regulatory authorities; references to “product candidates” mean products that are in development but not yet approved by the FDA or other regulatory authorities; references to “future product candidates” mean products that have not yet been developed.
SPECIAL NOTE REGARDING FORWARD-LOOKING STATEMENTS
This report contains forward-looking statements within the meaning of Section 27A of the Securities Act of 1933, as amended (the “Securities Act”), and Section 21E of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, as amended (the “Exchange Act”). We may, in some cases, use terms such as “predicts,” “believes,” “potential,” “proposed,” “continue,” “estimates,” “anticipates,” “expects,” “plans,” “intends,” “may,” “would,” “could,” “might,” “will,” “should,” “exploring,” “pursuing” or other words that convey uncertainty of future events or outcomes to identify these forward-looking statements.
Forward-looking statements appear in a number of places throughout this report and include statements regarding our intentions, beliefs, projections, outlook, analyses or current expectations concerning, among other things:
•the broad impact of the coronavirus (“COVID-19”) pandemic on our business;
•the sales of Rhopressa® (netarsudil ophthalmic solution) 0.02% (“Rhopressa®”) or of Rocklatan® (netarsudil and latanoprost ophthalmic solution) 0.02%/0.005% (“Rocklatan®”), in the United States, and the potential future sales in the United States of any product candidates or future product candidates, if approved;
•the potential future sales in jurisdictions outside of the United States of Rhopressa®, named Rhokiinsa® (netarsudil ophthalmic solution) 0.02% (“Rhokiinsa®”) in Europe, or Rocklatan®, named Roclanda® (netarsudil and latanoprost ophthalmic solution) 0.02%/0.005% (“Roclanda®”) in Europe, or their equivalents, and those of any product candidates or future product candidates;
•our commercialization, marketing, manufacturing and supply management capabilities and strategies in and outside of the United States;
•third-party payer coverage and reimbursement for our products and product candidates and any future product candidates, if approved;
•the glaucoma patient market size and the rate and degree of market adoption of our products and product candidates and any future product candidates, if approved, by eye-care professionals and patients;
•the timing, cost or other aspects of the commercial launch of our products and product candidates and any future product candidates, if approved;
•the success, timing and cost of our ongoing and anticipated preclinical studies and clinical trials for our product candidates and any future product candidates, including statements regarding the timing of initiation and completion of the studies and trials;
•our expectations regarding the effectiveness of our products, product candidates and any future product candidates and our expectations regarding the results of any clinical trials and preclinical studies;
•the timing of and our ability to request, obtain and maintain FDA or other regulatory authority approval of, or other action with respect to our products, product candidates and any future product candidates in the United States, Europe, Japan and elsewhere, including the expected timing of, and regulatory and/or other review of, filings for such products, product candidates and any future product candidates;
•our expectations related to the use of proceeds from our financing activities;
•our estimates regarding anticipated operating expenses and capital requirements and our needs for additional financing;
•our plans to pursue development of additional product candidates and technologies in ophthalmology, including development of our products or product candidates for additional indications, and our preclinical retinal programs and other therapeutic opportunities;
•the potential advantages of our products, product candidates and any future product candidates;
•our ability to protect our proprietary technology and enforce our intellectual property rights; and
•our expectations regarding existing and future collaborations, licensing, acquisitions and strategic operations, including our ability to in-license or acquire additional ophthalmic products, product candidates or technologies.
By their nature, forward-looking statements involve risks and uncertainties because they relate to events, competitive dynamics, industry change and other factors beyond our control, and depend on regulatory approvals and economic and other environmental circumstances that may or may not occur in the future or may occur on longer or shorter timelines than anticipated. We discuss many of these risks in greater detail under the heading “Risk Factors” in Part I, Item 1A of this report and elsewhere in this report.
In particular, FDA approval of Rhopressa® and Rocklatan® do not constitute FDA approval of our product candidates or any future product candidates in the United States, and there can be no assurance that we will receive FDA approval for our product candidates or any future product candidates. In addition, the European Commission (“EC”) grant of a Centralised Marketing Authorisation (“Centralised MA”) for Rhokiinsa® and Roclanda® do not constitute European Medicines Agency (“EMA”) approval of our product candidates or any future product candidates in Europe, and there can be no assurance that we will receive EMA approval for our product candidates or any future product candidates. FDA and EMA approval of Rhopressa® and Rocklatan® do not constitute regulatory approval of these products in jurisdictions outside of the United States or Europe and there is no assurance that we will receive regulatory approval for Rhopressa® and Rocklatan® in such jurisdictions. In addition, the clinical trials discussed in this report are preliminary and the outcome of such clinical trials may not be predictive of the outcome of later clinical trials. Any future clinical trial results may not demonstrate safety and efficacy sufficient to obtain regulatory approval related to the clinical trials findings discussed in this report, and we may suspend or discontinue research programs at any time for any reason.
You should not rely upon forward-looking statements as predictions of future events. Although we believe that we have a reasonable basis for each forward-looking statement contained in this report, we caution you that forward-looking statements are not guarantees of future performance and that our actual results of operations, financial condition and liquidity, and the development of the industry in which we operate, may differ materially from the forward-looking statements contained in this report. In addition, even if our results of operations, financial condition and liquidity, and events in the industry in which we operate, are consistent with the forward-looking statements contained in this report, they may not be predictive of results or developments in future periods.
Any forward-looking statements that we make in this report speak only as of the date of this report. Except as required by law, we are under no duty to update or revise any of the forward-looking statements, whether the result of new information, future events or otherwise, after the date of this report.
ITEM 1. BUSINESS
We are an ophthalmic pharmaceutical company focused on the discovery, development and commercialization of first-in-class therapies for the treatment of patients with open-angle glaucoma, ocular surface diseases and retinal diseases.
Our strategy is to successfully commercialize our U.S. Food and Drug Administration (“FDA”) approved glaucoma franchise products, Rhopressa® (netarsudil ophthalmic solution) 0.02% (“Rhopressa®”) and Rocklatan® (netarsudil/latanoprost ophthalmic solution) 0.02%/0.005% (“Rocklatan®”) in the United States. Both Rhopressa® and Rocklatan® are being sold to national and regional U.S. pharmaceutical distributors, and patients have access to them through pharmacies across the United States. We have obtained formulary coverage for Rhopressa® and Rocklatan® for the majority of lives covered under commercial plans and Medicare Part D plans. Our commercial team responsible for sales of Rhopressa® and Rocklatan® is targeting eye-care professionals throughout the United States, and with the addition of a contract sales organization and a separate telesales team, we are able to reach over 16,000 eye-care professionals.
U.S. Commercial Products
Rhopressa® is a once-daily eye drop designed to reduce elevated intraocular pressure (“IOP”) in patients with open-angle glaucoma or ocular hypertension. Rhopressa® is taken in the evening and has shown in preclinical and clinical trials to be effective in reducing IOP, with a favorable safety profile.
The active ingredient in Rhopressa®, netarsudil, is an Aerie-owned Rho kinase (“ROCK”) inhibitor. Rhopressa® increases the outflow of aqueous humor through the trabecular meshwork (“TM”), which accounts for approximately 80% of fluid drainage from the healthy eye and is the diseased tissue responsible for elevated IOP in glaucoma. Using this mechanism of action (“MOA”), we believe that Rhopressa® represents the first of a new drug class for reducing IOP in patients with glaucoma in over 20 years.
Rocklatan® is a once-daily fixed-dose combination of Rhopressa® and latanoprost, the most commonly prescribed drug for the treatment of patients with open-angle glaucoma. Rocklatan® is also taken in the evening, and similar to Rhopressa®, has shown in preclinical and clinical trials to be effective in reducing IOP, with a favorable safety profile.
Based on our clinical data, we believe that Rocklatan® has the potential to provide a greater IOP-reducing effect than any glaucoma medication currently marketed in the United States. We also believe that Rocklatan® competes with both prostaglandin analog (“PGA”) and non-PGA therapies and may over time become the product of choice for patients requiring maximal IOP reduction, including those with higher IOPs and those who present with significant disease progression despite using currently available therapies.
Outside the United States
Our strategy also includes developing our business opportunities outside the United States, including successfully commercializing Rhopressa® and Rocklatan® in Europe and obtaining regulatory approval in Japan and other countries in Asia, and our globalization plan is well underway.
In Europe, Rhokiinsa® (marketed as Rhopressa® in the United States) was granted a Centralised Marketing Authorisation (“Centralised MA”) by the European Commission (“EC”) in November 2019. Further, Roclanda® (marketed as Rocklatan® in the United States) was granted a Centralised MA by the EC in January 2021, which followed the European Medicines Agency’s (“EMA”) Committee for Medicinal Products for Human Use (“CHMP”) adopting a positive opinion recommending approval of the Marketing Authorisation Application (“MAA”) for Roclanda® in November 2020.
We reported positive interim topline 90-day efficacy data in September 2020 for our Phase 3b clinical trial for Roclanda®, named Mercury 3, which we believe is important to the execution of our strategy in Europe. As a result of the positive Mercury 3 results and the Roclanda® approval in Europe, third parties have expressed interest in a potential commercialization partnership in and potentially beyond Europe. We are currently engaged in discussions with potential partners.
In Japan, we entered into a Collaboration and License Agreement (the “Santen Agreement”) with Santen Pharmaceuticals Co., Ltd. (“Santen”) in October 2020 to advance our clinical development and ultimately commercialize Rhopressa® and Rocklatan® in Japan and eight other countries in Asia. We initiated a Rhopressa® Phase 3 clinical trial in December 2020, the first of three expected Phase 3 clinical trials in Japan. Clinical trials for Rocklatan® have not yet begun.
Glaucoma Product Manufacturing
We have a sterile fill production facility in Athlone, Ireland, for the production of our FDA approved products and clinical supplies with the goal of having the Athlone manufacturing plant supply our ophthalmic products in all markets for which we received regulatory approval and are commercialized. The Athlone manufacturing plant began manufacturing commercial supplies of Rocklatan® in the first quarter of 2020 and Rhopressa® in the third quarter of 2020 for distribution to the United States. Shipments of commercial supply of Rocklatan® and Rhopressa® from the Athlone manufacturing plant to the United States commenced in the third quarter of 2020 and in the fourth quarter of 2020, respectively. The Athlone manufacturing plant has also manufactured clinical supplies of Rhopressa® for the Phase 3 clinical trials in Japan. As the Athlone manufacturing plant commenced operations in 2020, it has not yet reached full capacity. We expect that the Athlone manufacturing plant will have adequate capacity to produce Rhopressa® and Rocklatan® for the United States as well as the European and Japanese commercial markets. We expect that in 2021 the Athlone manufacturing plant will manufacture most of our needs for Rhopressa® and Rocklatan® in the United States. We may continue to use contract manufacturers to produce commercial supplies of Rhopressa® and Rocklatan® for distribution in the United States, but at reduced levels compared to before the Athlone manufacturing plant was operational.
Product Candidates and Pipeline
Our strategy also includes enhancing our longer-term commercial potential by identifying and advancing additional product candidates through our internal discovery efforts, our entry into potential research collaborations or in-licensing arrangements or our acquisition of additional ophthalmic products, technologies or product candidates that complement our current product portfolio.
As discussed in “—Product Candidates and Pipeline Opportunities” below, AR-15512 is our product candidate for the treatment of dry eye disease, which we acquired from Avizorex Pharma S.L. (“Avizorex”) in late 2019, and for which we initiated a large Phase 2b clinical trial in October 2020. Furthermore, we are developing three sustained-release implants focused on retinal diseases, AR-1105, AR-13503 SR and AR-14034 SR. For AR-1105, we successfully completed a Phase 2 clinical trial for patients with macular edema due to retinal vein occlusion (“RVO”) in July 2020, which indicates sustained efficacy of up to six months, an important achievement in validating the potential capabilities of Aerie’s sustained release platform. With respect to future plans for AR-1105, we are currently evaluating next steps regarding advancement into a Phase 3 clinical trial along with commercialization prospects in both Europe and the United States. For AR-13503 SR, we initiated a first in-human clinical safety study in the third quarter of 2019 for the treatment of wet age-related macular degeneration (age-related macular degeneration, “AMD”) and diabetic macular edema (“DME”), which is currently ongoing. For preclinical AR-14034 SR, we anticipate filing an Investigational New Drug Application (“IND”) with the FDA in the second half of 2022 to evaluate its potential as a treatment for wet AMD and DME.
We discovered and developed the active ingredient in Rhopressa® and Rocklatan®, netarsudil, and AR-13503 internally through a rational drug design approach that coupled medicinal chemistry with high content screening of compounds in proprietary cell- based assays. We selected and formulated netarsudil for preclinical in vivo testing following a detailed characterization of over 3,000 synthesized ROCK inhibitors, a number that has since grown to approximately 4,000.
Intellectual Property Portfolio
We own the worldwide rights for Rhopressa® and Rocklatan®. We have patent protection for Rhopressa® and Rocklatan® in the United States and internationally through early 2034, and have filed for patent protection in the United States and internationally through 2037. In addition, through the acquisition of Avizorex, we are the exclusive licensee through 2031 of issued U.S. patents providing patent protection for pharmaceutical compositions comprising AR-15512 and methods of its use for ophthalmic uses. The Avizorex acquisition also enabled us to be the exclusive licensee of pending foreign counterparts to the issued U.S. patents regarding AR-15512. Should these foreign counterparts issue such patents, they will provide patent protection for pharmaceutical compositions in such jurisdictions comprising AR-15512 and methods of its use, including
ophthalmic uses, through 2031. Furthermore, we have an issued U.S. patent covering our AR-1105 implant, which provides patent protection for AR-1105 in the United States through 2036, as well as pending foreign counterparts that upon issuance will provide patent protection internationally through 2036. We also have patent protection for AR-13503 in the United States and internationally, which extends to 2030, and have filed for patent protection in the United States and internationally through dates ranging from 2030 to 2037. Our intellectual property portfolio contains patents and pending patent applications related to composition of matter, pharmaceutical compositions, methods of use and synthetic methods.
Our goal is to become a leader in the discovery, development and commercialization of first-in-class therapies for the treatment of patients with open-angle glaucoma, ocular surface diseases and retinal diseases. We believe Rhopressa® and Rocklatan® have the potential to address many of the unmet medical needs in the glaucoma market, AR-15512 in the ocular surface disease market, and clinical implants AR-1105 and AR-13503 SR and preclinical implant AR-14034 SR in the retinal disease market.
Key elements of our strategy are to:
•Successfully commercialize Rhopressa® and Rocklatan® in the United States.
Our sales organization, along with the addition of a contract sales organization and telesales team, is targeting approximately 16,000 of the highest prescribing eye-care professionals in the United States, and sales volumes have grown consistently since the launch of each product.
•Advance the development of Rhopressa® and Rocklatan® in jurisdictions outside the United States to regulatory approval and commercialize in Europe, Japan and other countries in Asia.
In Europe, we reported positive interim topline 90-day efficacy data for Mercury 3, which we deem to be an important determinant as we evaluate the commercialization and profitability potential of Rhokiinsa®, and particularly Roclanda®, in Europe. Roclanda® achieved non-inferiority to a fixed-dose combination in Europe (Ganfort®). As a result we have received interest from third parties interested in a potential collaboration partnership, with whom we are currently engaged, while we are simultaneously preparing on our own for pricing discussions in Germany.
We entered into the Santen Agreement in October 2020 to advance our clinical development and ultimately commercialize Rhopressa® and Rocklatan® in Japan and other countries in Asia. We initiated a Rhopressa® Phase 3 clinical trial in Japan in December 2020. For additional product and trial information see “—Our Products, Product Candidates and Pipeline” below.
•Supply all clinical and commercial ophthalmic products from the Athlone manufacturing plant for all markets in which we plan to commercialize, while maintaining our secondary suppliers.
We have a sterile fill production facility in Athlone, Ireland, for the production of our FDA approved products and clinical supplies with the goal of having the Athlone manufacturing plant supply our ophthalmic products in all markets for which we receive regulatory approval and are commercialized. For additional information see “—Manufacturing” below.
•Expand our product candidate portfolio and pipeline through internal discovery efforts, research collaboration arrangements and in-licensing or acquisitions of additional product candidates, products or technologies.
We continue to seek to discover and develop new compounds in our research laboratories focused on ophthalmic opportunities. In addition, we may enter into additional research collaborations or license arrangements or complete additional acquisitions to broaden our presence in ophthalmology, as we continually explore and discuss potential additional opportunities for new ophthalmic products, delivery alternatives and new therapeutic areas.
Through business development activities, we have acquired the clinical-stage dry eye product candidate AR-15512 from Avizorex, worldwide ophthalmic rights to a bio-erodible polymer technology from DSM and PRINT® implant manufacturing technology from Envisia. With respect to research collaborations, in connection with entering into the Santen Agreement and the positive topline Mercury 3 results, we have received interest from third parties for a potential collaboration for the clinical development and potential future commercialization of Rhopressa® and Rocklatan® in Europe and potentially elsewhere. We have commenced such discussions with various potential collaborators.
With respect to product candidates, we have commenced a U.S. Phase 2b clinical trial of AR-15512, our dry eye product candidate, we are evaluating the path to a Phase 3 clinical trial for sustained-release retinal implant AR-1105 in both the United States and Europe and our first-in-human clinical trial for sustained-release retinal implant AR-13503 SR is ongoing. With respect to AR-1105, in addition to pursuing next steps regarding clinical advancement, we are also evaluating commercialization prospects in both Europe and the United States. We are in the process of meeting with regulatory agencies in order to harmonize development plans across both Europe and the United States. We believe that the commercial prospects for AR-1105 in Europe are potentially greater than for the Aerie glaucoma franchise in Europe and as a result, we expect to ultimately commercialize this product candidate, if approved, on our own or with a partner. We are also working to advance our preclinical sustained-release retinal implant, AR-14034 SR, for which we anticipate filing an IND with the FDA in the second half of 2022.
•Continue to leverage and strengthen our intellectual property portfolio.
We believe we have a strong intellectual property position based upon issued patents and pending applications in the United States and internationally, including in Europe and Japan, relating to Rhopressa® and Rocklatan®. Moreover, patents for AR-1105 in the United States provides protection through 2036, and we continue to pursue patent protection for it internationally. If successful, AR-1105 is expected to have international patent protection to 2036. In addition, regarding AR-15512, the Avizorex acquisition has provided us with patent protection in the United States through 2031, and we are pursuing international patent protection that upon issuance is expected to provide patent protection through 2031. We also continue to pursue efforts to strengthen our intellectual property portfolio regarding AR-13503 in the United States and internationally. Our intellectual property portfolio contains U.S. and foreign patents and pending U.S. and foreign patent applications related to composition of matter, pharmaceutical compositions, methods of use and synthetic methods.
Status, Achievements and Regulatory Approvals
The following table summarizes each of our current products and product candidates, their MOA(s) and their status.
|Region||Name and Mechanism|| ||Key Dates|| ||Status|
| ||April 2018 Commercial Launch|| |
(ROCK inhibitor and latanoprost, a PGA)(1)
| ||May 2019 Commercial Launch|| |
Rhokiinsa® (ROCK inhibitor)(1)
Centralised MA granted by the EC
|Region||Name and Mechanism|| ||Key Dates|| ||Status|
Roclanda® (ROCK inhibitor and latanoprost, a PGA)(1)
Centralised MA granted by the EC
EMA’s CHMP adopted positive opinion recommending approval
Reported positive topline data from the Mercury 3 Phase 3 clinical trial, in which Roclanda® achieved non-inferiority to a fixed-dose combination in Europe (Ganfort®)
|Japan and Other Asian Countries|
Rhopressa® (ROCK inhibitor)(1)
Executed the Santen Agreement for the development and commercialization of Rhopressa® and Rocklatan® in Japan and eight other Asian countries
|Japan and Other Asian Countries|
Rocklatan® (ROCK inhibitor and latanoprost, a PGA)(1)
|Japan and Other Asian Countries|
Rhopressa® (ROCK inhibitor)(1)
Initiated the first Phase 3 clinical trial in Japan
Held a meeting with the Japanese PMDA to discuss Phase 3 clinical trial designs in Japan, in which we expect to have three Phase 3 clinical trials, two of which will be 28-day trials and one of which will be a 12-month safety trial
Athlone, Ireland Manufacturing Plant
Rhopressa® (ROCK inhibitor)(1)
Fourth quarter of 2020
Shipments of commercial supply from the Athlone manufacturing plant to the United States commenced
Third quarter of 2020
Manufactured clinical supplies of Rhopressa® for the upcoming Phase 3 clinical trials in Japan
Received FDA approval for production for commercial distribution in the United States.
Athlone, Ireland Manufacturing Plant
Rocklatan® (ROCK inhibitor and latanoprost, a PGA)(1)
Third quarter of 2020
Shipments of commercial supply from the Athlone manufacturing plant to the United States commenced
Received FDA approval for production for commercial distribution in the United States
Product Candidates and Pipeline
AR-15512 (TRPM8 agonist)(2)
Third quarter of 2021
Expected readout of COMET-1 topline results
Initiated Phase 2b clinical trial, named COMET-1
IND for AR-15512 eye drop for dry eye became effective
|Region||Name and Mechanism|| ||Key Dates|| ||Status|
AR-1105 implant (dexamethasone steroid)(3)
Completed and reported topline results for Phase 2 clinical trial in patients with macular edema due to RVO, indicating 6-month efficacy
AR-13503 SR implant (ROCK and Protein kinase C inhibitor)(1)
Third quarter of 2019
First-in-human clinical safety study commenced
|IND for AR-13503 SR became effective, allowing the initiation of human studies in the treatment of wet AMD and DME|
AR-14034 SR implant (pan-VEGF-R inhibitor)(1)
|Second half of 2022||Anticipate filing of an IND for preclinical AR-14034 SR to potentially allow initiation of human studies in the treatment of wet AMD and DME |
(2)Wholly-owned; acquired from Avizorex
(3)Wholly-owned; acquired from Envisia
Our Products, Product Candidates and Pipeline
Rhopressa® is the first of a new class of glaucoma drug products that was discovered by our scientists. It was approved by the FDA in December 2017 for the reduction of elevated IOP in patients with open-angle glaucoma or ocular hypertension. It was also granted a Centralised MA by the EC in November 2019. Our key target markets outside the United States include Europe and Japan and other countries in Asia.
The active ingredient in Rhopressa®, netarsudil, is an Aerie-owned ROCK inhibitor. ROCK is a protein kinase, which is an enzyme that modifies other proteins by chemically adding phosphate groups to them. Specifically, ROCK regulates actin and myosin, which are proteins that are responsible for cellular contraction. ROCK activity also promotes the production of extracellular matrix proteins. ROCK inhibitors block cell contraction in the TM outflow pathway and reduce the production of extracellular matrix, thereby improving TM fluid outflow and consequently reducing IOP.
Rhopressa® is competing primarily in the adjunctive therapy market, which represents approximately one-half of the U.S. glaucoma prescription market, which in aggregate totaled approximately 36 million prescriptions and 55 million units in 2019 according to IQVIA. Healthcare professionals most frequently prescribe Rhopressa® as a concomitant therapy to prostaglandins or non-PGA medications when additional IOP reduction is desired. We believe Rhopressa® is primarily competing with other non-PGA products, due to its targeting of the diseased TM, its demonstrated ability to reduce IOP at consistent levels across tested baselines, its preferred once-daily dosing relative to other currently marketed non-PGA products, and its safety profile. Currently marketed therapies that are used adjunctively to PGAs are older generation products that are generally dosed between two and three times a day, have MOA(s) focused on reducing fluid production, often have lower efficacy levels and have systemic side effects. Rhopressa® provides eye-care professionals with a valuable alternative therapy to what has been historically available. We believe that Rhopressa® may also become a preferred therapy where PGAs are contraindicated, for patients who do not respond to PGAs and for patients who choose to avoid the cosmetic issues associated with PGA products. In November 2019, we released topline data from our Phase 4 Multi-center Open-label study (“MOST”) trial, which observed Rhopressa® efficacy in various real-world clinical settings, including as an adjunctive therapy and monotherapy. The results indicated positive IOP reduction in all settings along with a favorable tolerability profile.
Rhopressa® in the United States
We launched Rhopressa® in the United States in April 2018. It is being sold to national and regional U.S. pharmaceutical distributors, and patients have access to Rhopressa® through pharmacies across the United States. We have obtained formulary coverage for Rhopressa® for the majority of lives covered under commercial and Medicare Part D plans.
Rhopressa® Outside of the United States
In Europe, in November 2019, the EC granted a Centralised MA for Rhokiinsa®.
In support of a potential regulatory submission for Rhopressa® in Japan, we conducted a Phase 1 clinical trial, a successful pilot Phase 2 clinical study in the United States on Japanese and Japanese-American subjects, as well as a successful Phase 2 clinical trial conducted in Japan. In July 2019, we completed enrollment of a Phase 2 clinical trial in Japan and topline results were released in November 2019. These studies were designed in accordance with the requirements of the PMDA on Japanese patients in Japan to support subsequent Phase 3 registration trials have recently commenced in Japan. Topline results of the Phase 2 clinical trial indicated positive efficacy and tolerability results for the patient population. We held a meeting with the Japanese PMDA in April 2020 to discuss Phase 3 clinical trial designs for Rhopressa®, while continuing to prepare for the trials. We initiated the first Rhopressa® Phase 3 clinical trial in Japan in the fourth quarter of 2020. We expect to have three Phase 3 clinical trials, two of which will be 28-day trials and one of which will be a 12-month safety trial. Further, in October 2020, we entered into the Santen Agreement to advance our clinical development and ultimately commercialize Rhopressa® and Rocklatan® in Japan and eight other countries in Asia.
Rocklatan® is a once-daily fixed-dose combination of Rhopressa® and latanoprost, the most commonly prescribed drug for the treatment of patients with open-angle glaucoma or ocular hypertension, and was approved by the FDA in March 2019. Based on our clinical data, we believe that Rocklatan® has the potential to provide a greater IOP-reducing effect than any glaucoma medication currently marketed in the United States. We also believe that Rocklatan® competes with both PGA and non-PGA therapies for patients requiring maximal IOP reduction, including those with higher IOPs and those who present with significant disease progression despite using currently available therapies.
Rocklatan® in the United States
We launched Rocklatan® in the United States in May 2019. Rocklatan® is now being sold to national and regional U.S. pharmaceutical distributors, and patients have access to Rocklatan® through pharmacies across the United States. We have obtained formulary coverage for Rocklatan® for the majority of lives covered under commercial and Medicare Part D plans.
Rocklatan® Outside of the United States
In Europe, the clinical trials Mercury 1 and Mercury 2 represent the basis for European approval of Roclanda®. We also initiated a Phase 3b clinical registration trial for Roclanda®, named Mercury 3, in Europe during the third quarter of 2017. Mercury 3, a six-month efficacy and safety trial, is designed to compare Roclanda® to Ganfort®, a fixed-dose combination product marketed in Europe consisting of bimatoprost (a PGA) and timolol (a beta blocker). In September 2020, we read out interim topline 90-day efficacy data for Mercury 3. The results indicated Roclanda® met the overall trial objective by demonstrating non-inferiority to Ganfort® across nine of nine timepoints over 90 days. Roclanda® also demonstrated consistent IOP reduction throughout the day, with the IOP reductions observed in Mercury 3 exceeding those from both Mercury 1 and Mercury 2. Mercury 3 was not required for regulatory approval; it was designed to gauge the commercialization prospects in Europe. We deemed the Mercury 3 results to be an important determinant as we evaluated the commercialization and profitability potential of Rhokiinsa®, and particularly Roclanda®, in Europe.
In December 2019, the MAA for Roclanda® was accepted for review by the EMA and in November 2020, we received a positive opinion from the CHMP for the MAA for Roclanda®. In January 2021, Roclanda® was granted a Centralised MA by the EC. Since Roclanda® is a fixed-dose combination product that includes Rhokiinsa®, the MAA submission for Roclanda® was predicated on the receipt of a Centralised MA for Rhokiinsa®, which the EC granted in November 2019. In Japan, clinical trials for Rocklatan® have not yet begun.
As a result of the positive Mercury 3 results, third parties have expressed interest in a commercialization partnership in Europe, while we are simultaneously preparing on our own for pricing discussions in Germany. Some third parties have stated potential interest in a commercialization partnership beyond just Europe and discussions are underway. According to IQVIA, it is estimated that the European glaucoma market for the five largest European national markets represented approximately $1 billion in sales with 105 million units in 2019, compared to approximately 55 million units in the United States. We would pursue manufacturing rights with any collaboration and source product from our manufacturing facility in Athlone, Ireland.
Product Candidates and Pipeline Opportunities
To complement our internal research through business development opportunities, we obtained the clinical-stage dry eye product candidate AVX-012 (now named AR-15512) through the acquisition of Avizorex in late 2019. Furthermore, we have also acquired worldwide ophthalmic rights to a bio-erodible polymer technology from DSM and PRINT® implant manufacturing technology, which is a proprietary technology capable of creating precisely-engineered sustained-release products utilizing fully-scalable manufacturing processes, from Envisia. Using these technologies, we have created a sustained-release ophthalmology platform and are currently developing three sustained-release implants focused on retinal diseases, AR-1105, AR-13503 SR and AR-14034 SR, and in the future we believe this technology may be useful as we explore additional sustained-release applications.
AR-15512 (TRPM8 receptor)
In December 2019, we acquired Avizorex, a Spanish ophthalmic pharmaceutical company developing therapeutics for the treatment of dry eye disease. Avizorex completed a Phase 2a study in dry eye subjects in 2019 for its lead product candidate AVX-012 (now named AR-15512). The active ingredient in AR-15512 is a potent and selective agonist of the TRPM8 ion channel, a cold sensor and osmolarity sensor that regulates tear production and blink rate. In addition, activating the TRPM8 receptor may reduce ocular discomfort by promoting a cooling sensation. By stimulating these processes in a physiological manner, TRPM8 agonists have the potential to restore tear film stability and reduce discomfort in patients with dry eye. Positive results from the Phase 2a study support the therapeutic potential of AR-15512 to treat signs and symptoms of dry eye. We met with the FDA in June 2020 and are planning to test two concentrations of AR-15512 in a 90-day Phase 2b clinical trial with 360 subjects, which could potentially be considered pivotal. For this upcoming trial, known as COMET-1, we expect the primary endpoints to be ocular discomfort and tear production. The Investigational New Drug Application (“IND”) for AR-15512 eye drop for dry eye became effective in September 2020, allowing Aerie to initiate clinical studies in the treatment of dry eye. We initiated COMET-1 in October 2020 and a topline readout is expected in the third quarter of 2021.
AR-1105 Implant (dexamethasone steroid)
In October 2017, we acquired the rights to use PRINT® technology in ophthalmology and certain other assets from Envisia. In addition, we acquired Envisia’s intellectual property rights relating to a preclinical dexamethasone steroid implant using a biodegradable polymer-based drug delivery system that is comprised of a blend of different polymers and PRINT® technology for the potential treatment of macular edema due to RVO and diabetic retinopathy (“DR”), which we refer to as AR-1105. We submitted the IND for AR-1105 in December 2018 and the IND became effective in January 2019. We initiated a Phase 2 clinical trial of AR-1105 in patients with macular edema due to RVO during March 2019 and completed enrollment in October 2019. In July 2020, we reported topline results of the Phase 2 clinical trial for AR-1105 indicating sustained efficacy of up to six months, an important achievement in validating the potential capabilities of Aerie’s sustained release platform.
With respect to future plans for AR-1105, we are currently evaluating next steps regarding advancement towards Phase 3 clinical trials along with commercialization prospects in both Europe and the United States. We are in the process of meeting with regulatory agencies in order to harmonize development plans across both Europe and the United States. According to IQVIA, the market for retinal diseases therapeutics totaled nearly $7 billion in the United States and $4 billion in Europe in 2019, yet the injectable steroid market component is in fact currently higher in Europe than in the United States. We believe AR-1105, with the six-month sustained release efficacy profile demonstrated in the Phase 2 data, may be able to further expand the injectable steroid market in both the United States and Europe. The closest competitive product currently generates approximately $100 million in annual net sales in the United States and $300 million in Europe and generally in practice is injected once every two to three months. We believe that the commercial prospects for AR-1105 in Europe are potentially greater than for the Aerie glaucoma franchise in Europe and as a result we expect to ultimately commercialize this product candidate, if approved, on our own or with a partner.
AR-13503 SR Implant (ROCK and Protein kinase inhibitor)
Our owned small molecule, AR-13503, is a ROCK and Protein kinase C inhibitor and is the active ingredient in our AR-13503 sustained-release implant. AR-13503 SR has potential for the treatment of DME, wet AMD and other diseases of the retina. AR-13503, which has the active metabolite of Rhopressa®, has been shown to reduce lesion size in an in vivo preclinical model of wet AMD at levels similar to the current market-leading wet AMD anti-VEGF product. Since AR-13503 is a small molecule with a short half-life when injected into the back of the eye, and the aforementioned diseases are located in the back of the eye, a delivery mechanism was needed to deliver the molecule to the back of the eye for a sustained delivery period. Using our licensed technology from DSM, AR-13503 has been combined with a polyesteramide polymer to produce an injectable, thin fiber implant that is minute in size. Preclinical experiments with the AR-13503 SR implant have demonstrated linear, sustained elution rates over several months and achievement of target retinal drug concentrations.
When used in combination preclinically with the market-leading anti-VEGF product, AR-13503 produced greater lesion size reduction than the anti-VEGF product alone in a model of proliferative DR. Pending additional studies, AR-13503 may have the potential to provide an entirely new mechanism and pathway to treat DME, wet AMD and related diseases of the retina, potentially as an adjunctive therapy to current anti-VEGF therapies. The IND for AR-13503 SR became effective in April 2019, allowing us to initiate human studies in the treatment of wet AMD and DME. We initiated a first-in-human clinical safety study for AR-13503 SR in the third quarter of 2019, which is currently ongoing.
AR-14034 SR Implant (pan-VEGF receptor inhibitor)
The active ingredient in our preclinical AR-14034 sustained-release implant is axitinib, a small molecule kinase inhibitor of VEGF receptors. Axitinib is currently approved by the FDA in the United States for the treatment of renal cell carcinoma. AR-14034 SR may have the potential to treat wet AMD, DME and other diseases of the retina. Unlike the anti-VEGF products currently approved for wet AMD and DME that inhibit only one or two of the four known VEGFs, studies have shown axitinib inhibits signaling from all four VEGFs by inhibiting all known VEGF receptors. Based on preclinical data, axitinib has been shown to inhibit choroidal neovascularization and to reduce vessel leakage in preclinical models of wet AMD and DME. Axitinib has been formulated with a proprietary blend of polymers to produce an injectable, bioerodible implant that, based on preclinical data, has the potential to sustain effective retinal drug concentrations for up to 12 months following a single intravitreal injection in patients.
Pending additional studies, AR-14034 SR may have the potential to provide a once per-year injection to treat DME, wet AMD and related diseases of the retina, which has the potential to greatly reduce the treatment burden for patients and their physicians. We anticipate filing the IND for AR-14034 SR with the FDA in the second half of 2022, which if accepted, would allow us to initiate human studies in the treatment of wet AMD and DME.
Other Pipeline Opportunities
We continue to leverage the use of the PRINT® technology platform to evaluate the sustained-release of additional small molecule therapies for other ophthalmic indications. We commenced operation of our current Good Manufacturing Practices (“cGMP”)-validated manufacturing facility for production of ophthalmic implants using PRINT® technology in our Durham, North Carolina, facility in October 2018.
We may continue to enter into research collaboration arrangements, license, acquire or develop additional product candidates and technologies to broaden our presence in ophthalmology, and we continually explore and discuss potential additional opportunities for new ophthalmic products, delivery alternatives and new therapeutic areas with potential partners and on our own.
We own over 4,000 ROCK inhibitor molecules, some of which have additional features including the inhibition of other kinases such as Janus kinase and those in the IĸB family and we evaluate this library on an ongoing basis for additional development opportunities. Early stage evaluations of these molecules are underway for other ophthalmic indications. We continue to evaluate outside business development opportunities to provide access to technologies developed outside of Aerie to complement our internal research.
Glaucoma Market Overview
Glaucoma is one of the largest segments in the global ophthalmic market. In 2019, branded and generic glaucoma product sales were approximately $5.0 billion in the United States, the top five national markets in Europe and Japan in aggregate, according to IQVIA. Prescription volume in 2019 for glaucoma products in the United States alone was 36 million, representing 55 million bottles, and is expected to grow, driven in large part by the aging population.
The PGA and non-PGA market segments each represent approximately one-half of the prescription volume in the United States glaucoma market, as shown in the following chart, which is based on IQVIA data.
According to the National Eye Institute, it is estimated that over 2.7 million people in the United States suffer from glaucoma, a number that is expected to reach approximately 4.3 million by 2030. Furthermore, The Eye Diseases Prevalence Research Group has estimated that only half of the U.S. glaucoma sufferers know that they have the disease. Glaucoma is a progressive and highly individualized disease, in which elevated levels of IOP are associated with damage to the optic nerve, resulting in irreversible vision loss and potentially blindness. Patients may suffer the adverse effects of glaucoma across a wide range of IOP levels. There are multiple factors that can contribute to an individual developing glaucoma, including, but not limited to, age, family history and ethnicity. Glaucoma is treated by the reduction of IOP, which has been shown to slow the progression of vision loss. In a healthy eye, fluid is continuously produced and drained in order to maintain pressure equilibrium and provide nutrients to the eye tissue. The FDA recognizes sustained reduction of IOP as the primary clinical endpoint for the approval of drugs to treat patients with glaucoma or ocular hypertension. The primary drainage mechanism of the eye is the TM, which accounts for approximately 80% of fluid drainage in a healthy eye, while the secondary drainage mechanism, the uveoscleral pathway, is responsible for the remaining drainage. In glaucoma patients, damage to the TM results in insufficient drainage of fluid from the eye, which causes increased IOP and damage to the optic nerve.
Once glaucoma develops, it is a chronic condition that requires life-long treatment. The initial treatment for glaucoma patients is typically the use of prescription eye drops. PGAs have become the most widely prescribed glaucoma drug class. The most frequently prescribed PGA is once-daily latanoprost. The most commonly prescribed non-PGA drugs belong to the beta blocker class. The most frequently prescribed beta blocker is twice-daily timolol. Other non-PGA drug classes include the alpha agonists and carbonic anhydrase inhibitors. When PGA monotherapy is insufficient to control IOP or contraindicated due to concerns about side effects, non-PGA products are used either as add-on therapy to the PGA or as an alternative monotherapy. It is estimated that up to 50% of glaucoma patients receiving PGA monotherapy require add-on therapy within two years of initial prescription of such PGA monotherapy to maintain adequate control of IOP.
We believe there are significant unmet needs in the glaucoma market as is evident by the degree of use of multiple therapies to treat patients with the disease and understand that eye-care professionals are eager for new therapy choices, as we have seen with the launch-to-date volume growth in the United States for both Rhopressa® and Rocklatan®. PGAs have side effects, contraindications and reduced efficacy in patients with low to moderately elevated IOPs relative to patients with higher IOPs. Other currently marketed non-PGAs are less efficacious than PGAs, have more serious and a greater number of side effects and
contraindications, and require multiple daily doses. As a result, we believe there is a significant unmet need in both the PGA and non-PGA market segments, each of which represents approximately one-half of the U.S. and European glaucoma market based on prescription volumes, according to IQVIA. Despite the limitations of existing glaucoma drugs, Xalatan® (latanoprost), the best-selling PGA, together with Xalacom®, its fixed-dose combination with a beta blocker, which is not available in the United States, generated peak annual global revenues of approximately $1.7 billion prior to the introduction of their generic equivalents, and the most commonly prescribed non-PGA drugs each generated peak annual global revenues of over $400 million prior to the introduction of their generic equivalents. Rhopressa® is the first of a new class of glaucoma drug products and may be prescribed by eye-care professionals as a preferred adjunctive therapy for patients taking PGAs, due to its IOP-reducing ability, more convenient dosing and better tolerability profile compared to other currently marketed non-PGA adjunctive products. Based on our clinical data, we believe that Rocklatan®, a fixed-dose combination of Rhopressa® and latanoprost, has the potential to provide a greater IOP-reducing effect than any glaucoma medication currently marketed in the United States. We also believe that Rocklatan® competes with both PGA and non-PGA therapies for patients requiring maximal IOP reduction, including those with higher IOPs and those who present with significant disease progression despite use of currently available therapies.
Glaucoma Medical Overview
Glaucoma is generally characterized by relatively high IOP as a result of impaired drainage of fluid, known as aqueous humor, from the eye. The FDA recognizes sustained reduction of IOP, measured in terms of millimeters of mercury (“mmHg”), as the primary clinical endpoint for regulatory approval, making clinical trials for this indication relatively straight-forward due to easily measured objective parameters.
In a healthy eye, aqueous humor is continuously produced and drained from the eye in order to maintain pressure equilibrium and provide micronutrients to various tissues in the eye. An insufficient drainage of fluid can increase IOP above normal levels, which can eventually cause damage to the optic nerve. The normal range of IOP is generally between 10 and 21 mmHg. Several studies have demonstrated that the significant majority of glaucoma patients have IOPs between 21 and 26 mmHg at the time of diagnosis. Once damaged, the optic nerve cannot regenerate and thus damage to vision is permanent.
The most common form of glaucoma is open-angle glaucoma, which is characterized by abnormally high IOP as a result of impaired drainage of fluid from the eye’s primary drain, the TM. Open-angle glaucoma is a progressive disease leading to vision loss and blindness for some patients as a result of irreversible damage to the optic nerve.
Studies of the disease have demonstrated that reducing IOP in patients with glaucoma can help slow or halt further damage to the optic nerve and help preserve vision. Once diagnosed, glaucoma requires life-long treatment to maintain IOP at lower levels based on the individual patient’s risk of disease progression. Ophthalmologists will routinely determine a target IOP, which represents the desired IOP level to achieve with glaucoma therapy for an individual patient. Further IOP reduction may be required to prevent additional damage to the optic nerve and further vision loss should the disease progress despite achieving the initial target IOP. This may require reducing IOP until it is in the so-called “low normal range” of 12 mmHg to 14 mmHg to protect the optic nerve from further damage.
There are multiple factors that can contribute to an individual developing open-angle glaucoma, including, but not limited to, age, family history and ethnicity. For example, there generally is a higher incidence and severity of the disease in African-American and Hispanic populations.
Some patients with high IOP are diagnosed with a condition known as ocular hypertension. Patients with ocular hypertension have high IOP without the loss of visual fields or observable damage to the optic nerve and are at an increased risk of developing glaucoma. These patients are commonly treated in the same manner as glaucoma patients.
The following diagram illustrates how increased IOP eventually leads to increased pressure on the optic nerve, resulting in gradual loss of vision and ultimately visual disability and blindness.
The ciliary body in the eye is the tissue that produces aqueous humor, the production of which is commonly referred to as fluid inflow. The fluid leaves the eye primarily through the TM, the process of which is commonly referred to as fluid outflow. The healthy eye maintains a state of IOP homeostasis through a constant physiological process of aqueous humor production and drainage. The deteriorating function of the TM in glaucoma leads to increased resistance to fluid outflow and higher IOP. There is also a secondary drain for the fluid in the eye known as the uveoscleral pathway, which is typically responsible for approximately 20% of fluid drainage in a healthy eye.
In addition to aqueous humor production and drainage through the TM and uveoscleral pathway, episcleral venous pressure (“EVP”) plays a significant role in the regulation of IOP. EVP represents the pressure of the blood in the episcleral veins of the eye which are the site of drainage of eye fluid into the bloodstream. Historical studies have shown that EVP accounts for approximately 8 mmHg to 10 mmHg of IOP, or approximately one-half of IOP in patients with pressures near the normotensive level of 21 mmHg, and approximately one-third of IOP in patients with pressures of 24 mmHg to 30 mmHg. When EVP is reduced, aqueous humor is able to flow more freely from the eye.
Patients are diagnosed through measurements of IOP using Goldmann applanation tonometry, the standard device used by clinicians to measure IOP, along with an evaluation of visual fields and observing the appearance of the optic nerve. These tests are routinely carried out by eye-care professionals. The initial treatment for patients diagnosed with open-angle glaucoma or ocular hypertension is typically a PGA eye drop. PGAs are designed to reduce IOP by increasing outflow through the eye’s secondary fluid drain. An eye-care professional will then measure a patient’s response to the drug over the first few months. It has been shown that up to 50% of glaucoma patients require more than one drug to treat their IOP. This may occur as early as three to six months after initiating treatment with a PGA. The eye-care professionals may then add a second drug from one of the non-PGA classes, to be used together with the initial drug, or switch to a fixed-dose combination of two drugs in a single eye drop, or select an alternative single treatment. The reason so many patients eventually need more than one drug is generally considered to be a reflection of the progressive nature of the disease at the TM.
In severe glaucoma cases, patients may need to undergo an invasive surgical procedure. Trabeculectomy is the most common glaucoma-related surgical procedure, also referred to as filtration surgery, in which a piece of tissue in the drainage angle of the eye is removed, creating an opening to the outside of the eye. The opening is partially covered with a scleral flap, the white part of the eye, and the conjunctiva, the thin membrane covering the sclera. This new opening allows fluid to drain out of the eye, bypassing the clogged drainage channels of the TM to maintain a reduced IOP. There are also laser surgeries which apply laser energy to the eye’s drainage tissue to improve the outflow of fluid. Devices called shunts are used in glaucoma surgery to divert fluid in a controlled manner from the inside of the eye to the subconjunctival space bypassing the blocked TM. Generally, the shunts reduce IOP to the extent that the use of drops can be reduced, but often not completely eliminated. Many patients continue to require eye drops even following surgery.
Ocular Surface Diseases Overview
Dry eye is a multifactorial, symptomatic disorder of the ocular surface and tear film. Dry eye has been associated with either decreased tear production, increased tear evaporation, or a combination of both. Symptoms of dry eye include ocular discomfort, dryness, and visual disturbance. Dry eye has been shown to contribute to difficulties with everyday activities, including reading, using a computer and driving. Artificial tears are the most common initial treatment for dry eye disease, but artificial tears often fail to adequately address the signs and symptoms of dry eye.
The U.S. dry eye disease market was approximately $1.6 billion in 2019, according to third-party sources and internal estimates. It is estimated that there are approximately 30 million dry eye sufferers in the United States with approximately 10 percent currently being treated. Currently marketed prescription products often lack efficacy and also have a significant number of treatment burdens, including significant instillation site discomfort, delayed onset of efficacy up to twelve weeks, taste altering effects, and hence relatively low persistence rates. We believe that the dry eye space remains a very large and underserved market. These unmet needs generated our interest in proceeding with the acquisition of Avizorex, a Spanish ophthalmic pharmaceutical company developing therapeutics for the treatment of dry eye disease. AR-15512 has a novel MOA whereby corneal TRPM8 receptors are modulated, improving signs of dry eye by stimulating basal tear production, and symptoms of dry eye by providing a cooling sensation upon instillation.
Retinal Diseases Overview
The U.S. market for wet AMD, DR and RVO was approximately $6.8 billion in 2019, according to IQVIA. AMD is the leading cause of irreversible vision loss in individuals over 50 years of age in developed countries. Clinically, it manifests in two forms: wet AMD and dry AMD. Wet AMD is responsible for a rapid and substantial vision decline characterized by abnormal growth and leakage of blood vessels that breaks through the Bruch’s membrane into the subretinal pigment epithelium space and/or the subretinal space, leading to exudation, hemorrhage, retinal edema, pigment epithelial detachment and fibrous scarring.
DR is the leading cause of vision loss among working age individuals in developed countries and DME is a common cause of vision loss associated with DR. DME occurs due to retinal microvasculature damage, increase in vascular permeability and loss of blood-retinal barrier leading to interstitial fluid accumulation in the retina, particularly in the region of the macula.
RVO is the second-most common sight-threatening vascular disorder of the retina after DR. Current estimates put global prevalence at approximately 16 million people affected with the disease in one or both eyes and approximately 520 new cases per million are reported each year.
In wet AMD, DME and RVO, vascular permeability, angiogenesis and inflammation play an important role and VEGF has shown to be a key mediator that has been found to be upregulated. Currently, the standard of care for treating these diseases is intravitreal (“IVT”) injection of VEGF inhibitors (“anti-VEGF”). In addition, an alternative therapeutic approach for DME and RVO is IVT injection of corticosteroids.
Existing anti-VEGF agents have similar safety and efficacy profiles. Three are the most widely used: bevacizumab, ranibizumab and aflibercept. Although anti-VEGF agents have shown a well-established efficacy profile in wet AMD and DME, a downside of these treatments is that some patients have poor response, experience a loss of efficacy after repeated injections over time or require frequent injections to maintain complete resolution of the exudation/edema. Thus, the need for alternative treatment options with prolonged treatment duration to reduce treatment burden of repeat injections and different mechanism of action to target refractory or non-response to anti-VEGF agents leaves a considerable unmet need. We are developing AR-13503 SR implant to address these unmet needs.
Our drug-eluting implants for retinal disease have the potential to address these unmet needs. AR-1105 has the potential to provide a longer duration therapy for patients with DME or RVO. AR-1105 is designed to be injected once every six months, whereas the currently available dexamethasone implant, OZURDEX®, typically requires injections approximately once every three months. As a longer duration dexamethasone implant, AR-1105 has the potential to provide the benefit of reducing the treatment burden on patients while treating the inflammatory components of macular edema that are not addressed by inhibition of VEGF. Additionally, since AR-1105 delivers a smaller dose of dexamethasone, there exists the potential for reduced corticosteroid-related adverse events such as cataract formation and increased IOP.
The AR-13503 SR implant potentially addresses the need for new therapies that act differently from the anti-VEGF and corticosteroid products. As an inhibitor of the kinases ROCK and protein kinase c, AR-13503 has the potential to provide an entirely new mechanism and pathway to treat DME, wet AMD and related diseases of the retina, potentially as an adjunctive therapy in patients who do not respond adequately to anti-VEGF monotherapy. Since the AR-13503 SR implant is designed to
be injected once every six months, it also has the potential to reduce treatment burden on patients, especially those who may require multiple therapies to adequately treat their disease.
The AR-14034 SR implant potentially addresses the need to reduce the injection frequency of anti-VEGF therapies. The AR-14034 SR implant is designed to reduce the treatment burden on patients and physicians by providing a once per-year anti-VEGF injection. The active ingredient, axitinib, has been shown to provide a blockade of all VEGF signaling pathways, which has the potential to provide greater efficacy than current products that block only one or two of the four VEGFs related to retinal disease.
The pharmaceutical industry is characterized by rapidly advancing technologies, intense competition and a strong emphasis on proprietary products. While we believe that our experience and scientific knowledge provide us with competitive advantages, we face competition from established branded and generic pharmaceutical companies, for example, Bausch Health Companies Inc., Novartis International AG, AbbVie Inc., Santen Pharmaceutical Co., Ltd. and smaller biotechnology and pharmaceutical companies as well as from academic institutions, government agencies and private and public research institutions, which may in the future develop products or technologies to treat glaucoma or other diseases of the eye. Products that we successfully develop and commercialize will compete with existing therapies and new therapies that may become available in the future. We believe that the key competitive factors affecting the success of Rhopressa® and Rocklatan®, are likely to be efficacy and their respective MOA(s), safety, convenience, price, tolerability and the availability of reimbursement from government and other third-party payers. In addition, our segment of the industry is highly competitive and is currently dominated by generic drugs, such as latanoprost and timolol, in the case of glaucoma treatment, and additional products are expected to become available on a generic basis over the coming years. Our ability to compete may be affected because in many cases insurers or other third-party payers encourage the use of generic products. Further, surgical advances, including devices and implants designed to reduce IOP, may have a longer-term effect on the glaucoma eye drop market. We currently expect to compete directly against companies producing existing and future glaucoma treatment products. The most commonly approved classes of eye drops to reduce IOP in glaucoma are discussed below:
PGA Drug Class
•Prostaglandin Analogues (“PGAs”). Most PGAs are once-daily dosed eye drops generally prescribed as the initial drug to reduce IOP by increasing fluid outflow through the eye’s secondary drain. PGAs represent approximately one-half of the U.S. and European prescription volume for the treatment of glaucoma.
Xalatan® (latanoprost), the best-selling PGA, together with Xalacom®, its fixed-dose combination with a beta blocker, which is not available in the United States, had worldwide peak sales of approximately $1.7 billion before its patent expired in 2012, according to publicly reported sales. The adverse effects of PGAs include conjunctival hyperemia, or eye redness, irreversible change in iris color, discoloration of the skin around the eyes, and droopiness of eyelids caused by the loss of orbital fat. PGAs should be used with caution in patients with a history of intraocular inflammation.
Non-PGA Drug Class
•Beta Blockers. Beta blockers, most commonly prescribed as drugs to treat hypertension, are also prescribed for glaucoma. With their MOA designed to inhibit aqueous production, are one of the oldest approved drugs for the reduction of IOP. The most commonly used drug in this class is timolol. Beta blockers are less effective than PGAs in terms of IOP reduction and are typically used twice daily. Beta blockers are the most commonly used non-PGA drug. They are used as an initially prescribed monotherapy and as an adjunctive therapy to PGAs when the efficacy of PGAs is insufficient. Beta blocker eye drops have contraindications in their label as a result of potential systemic exposures from the topical application of the eye drops, potentially leading to cardio-pulmonary events such as bronchospasm, arrhythmia and heart failure.
•Topical Carbonic Anhydrase Inhibitors. Carbonic anhydrase inhibitors, with their MOA designed to inhibit aqueous production, are less effective than PGAs and are required to be dosed three times daily in order to obtain the desired IOP reduction. In published clinical studies of carbonic anhydrase inhibitors, the most frequently reported adverse events reported were blurred vision and bitter, sour or unusual taste. Carbonic anhydrase inhibitors are sulfonamides and, as such, systemic exposure increases risk of adverse responses such as Stevens Johnson syndrome and blood dyscrasias.
•Alpha Agonists. Alpha agonists, with their MOA designed to inhibit aqueous production plus their effect on uveoscleral outflow, are less effective than PGAs and need to be dosed three times daily in order to obtain the desired IOP reduction. In clinical studies, the most frequently reported adverse reactions that occurred in individuals receiving brimonidine ophthalmic solution, a commonly prescribed alpha agonist, included allergic conjunctivitis, conjunctival hyperemia, eye pruritus, burning sensation, conjunctival folliculosis, hypertension, ocular allergic reaction, oral dryness and visual disturbance.
Despite their modest efficacy, safety and tolerability profiles, the requirement for two to three doses per day, and the fact that they do not target the diseased tissue in glaucoma, beta blocker, carbonic anhydrase inhibitor and alpha agonist products account for up to one-half of the total prescription volume for the treatment of glaucoma based on historical prescription patterns, with beta blocker timolol being the most widely prescribed non-PGA drug. This is driven by the PGA products not being sufficiently effective as monotherapy for up to half of all glaucoma patients. Fixed-dose combination glaucoma products are also currently marketed in the United States, including Cosopt®, the combination of a beta blocker with a carbonic anhydrase inhibitor, and Combigan®, the combination of a beta blocker with an alpha agonist. There are no fixed-dose combinations of PGAs with other glaucoma drugs currently available in the United States.
New eye drops for the treatment of glaucoma continue to be developed by our competitors. The following table outlines publicly disclosed development programs for the treatment of glaucoma of which we are aware:
|Brand|| ||MOA / Dosing|| ||Status|
| ||ROCK inhibitor (qd)|| |
United States: Marketed; launched in April 2018
Europe: Centralised MA granted in November 2019
Japan: Phase 3
| ||ROCK inhibitor + PGA (qd)|| |
United States: Marketed; launched in May 2019
Europe: Centralised MA granted in January 2021
|Brand|| ||MOA / Dosing|| ||Status|
|NO donating latanoprost (qd)|
United States: Marketed
|Latanoprost, without BAK (qd)|
United States: Marketed
|DE-117 (Santen)||EP2 agonist (qd)|
United States: Phase 3
Japan: launched in November 2018
|DE-126 (Santen)||FP/EP3 agonist (qd)|
United States and Japan: Phase 2b
|NCX-470 (Nicox)||NO donating bimatoprost (qd)|
United States: Phase 3
(1)Not usable as add-on therapy to current PGAs.
Many of our competitors have significantly greater financial resources and expertise in research and development, manufacturing, preclinical testing, conducting clinical trials, obtaining regulatory approvals and marketing approved products than we do. Early-stage companies are also developing treatments for open-angle glaucoma, ocular surface diseases and retinal diseases and may prove to be significant competitors. We expect that our competitors will continue to develop new treatments for open-angle glaucoma, ocular surface diseases and retinal diseases, which may include eye drops, oral treatments, surgical procedures, implantable devices or laser treatments. Alternative treatments beyond eye drops continue to develop.
Early-stage companies may also compete through collaborative arrangements with large and established companies. Mergers and acquisitions in the pharmaceutical and biotechnology industries may result in even more resources being concentrated among a smaller number of our competitors. These competitors also compete with us in recruiting and retaining qualified scientific, commercial and management personnel and establishing clinical trial sites and patient registration for clinical trials, as well as in acquiring technologies complementary to, or necessary for, our programs.
Our commercial opportunity could be reduced or eliminated if our competitors develop and commercialize products that are safer, more effective, have fewer adverse effects, are more convenient or are less expensive than any products that we may develop. Our competitors also may obtain FDA or other regulatory approval for their products more rapidly than we may obtain approval for ours.
Sales and Marketing
We have commercialized Rhopressa® and Rocklatan® in the United States with our own focused, specialized sales force. Our commercial team responsible for the sales of Rhopressa® and Rocklatan® includes approximately 100 sales representatives targeting eye-care professionals throughout the United States, and with the addition of a contract sales organization and a separate telesales team, we are able to reach over 16,000 eye-care professionals.
We have obtained formulary coverage for the majority of lives covered for our glaucoma products under commercial plans and Medicare Part D plans. Product affordability for the patient drives consumer acceptance, and this is generally managed through coverage by third-party payers, such as government or private healthcare insurers and pharmacy benefit managers (“Third-party Payers”) and such product may be subject to rebates and discounts payable directly to those Third-party Payers.
Outside of the United States we may enter into a collaboration agreement to commercialize Rhokiinsa® and Roclanda® in Europe. We are currently engaged in discussions with potential partners for Europe and potentially other geographies with various potential partners, while we are simultaneously preparing on our own for pricing discussions in Germany. In October 2020, we entered into the Santen Agreement to advance our clinical development and ultimately commercialize Rhopressa® and Rocklatan® in Japan and eight other countries in Asia.
For the year ended December 31, 2020, a significant percentage of our sales of Rhopressa® were to three large wholesale drug distributors. Sales to McKesson Corporation, Cardinal Health, Inc. and AmerisourceBergen Corporation accounted for 37.4%, 32.4% and 28.8% of total revenues, respectively, for the year then ended.
We currently rely on our manufacturing plant in Athlone, Ireland, and our current contract manufacturers to produce commercial supplies of Rhopressa® and Rocklatan® and currently rely on our third-party manufacturers to produce the API. We may rely on a combination of internal manufacturing and third-party manufacturers for our product candidates and future product candidates.
The commercial production of the final drug product is supported by a combination of internal and outsourced manufacturing. In the second quarter of 2019, we completed the build-out of our own manufacturing plant in Athlone, Ireland, for commercial production of Rocklatan® and Rhopressa®. In January 2020, we received FDA approval to produce Rocklatan® at the Athlone manufacturing plant for commercial distribution in the United States. This approval follows a successful pre-approval inspection of the plant and FDA review of the Prior Approval Supplement (“PAS”), which added the Athlone manufacturing plant as a drug product manufacturer for Rocklatan®. The manufacturing plant began production of commercial supplies of Rocklatan® during the first quarter of 2020. Shipments of commercial supply of Rocklatan® from the Athlone manufacturing plant to the United States commenced in the third quarter of 2020. We filed a PAS with the FDA in the second quarter of 2020 and received FDA approval to produce Rhopressa® at the Athlone manufacturing plant in September 2020. The Athlone manufacturing plant commenced shipping commercial supply of Rhopressa® to the United States during the fourth quarter of 2020 and has also manufactured clinical supplies of Rhopressa® for the Phase 3 clinical trials in Japan. We also expect the Athlone manufacturing plant will have adequate capacity to produce Rhopressa® and Rocklatan® for the United States as well as both the European and Japanese commercial markets. We may continue to use contract manufacturers to produce commercial supplies of Rhopressa® and Rocklatan® for distribution in the United States, but at reduced levels compared to before the Athlone manufacturing plant was operational.
In addition to our current contract manufacturers, we have also obtained FDA approval for an additional Rhopressa® drug product contract manufacturer in the first quarter of 2019, which began to supply commercial product in the second quarter of 2019. Further, we have obtained FDA approval for an additional API contract manufacturer, which began to supply commercial API in the second quarter of 2019. We have also received FDA approval of an additional Rocklatan® drug product contract manufacturer in January 2020, which began to supply commercial product in the first quarter of 2020. Latanoprost, used in the manufacture of Rocklatan®, is available in commercial quantities from multiple reputable third-party manufacturers. We expect that in 2021 the Athlone manufacturing plant will manufacture most of our needs for Rhopressa® and Rocklatan® in the United States.
We expect to continue to develop product candidates that can be produced cost-effectively at contract manufacturing facilities. However, should a supplier or manufacturer on which we have relied to produce Rhopressa®, Rocklatan®, Rhokiinsa®, Roclanda® or any current or future product candidate provides us with a faulty product or such product is later recalled, we would likely experience reputational harm, delays and additional costs, each of which could be significant.
As demand for Athlone sourced products grows, we may need to continue to use product sourced from our contract manufacturers when the manufacturing plant in Athlone, Ireland, is fully operational. We need to continue to hire and train qualified employees to staff this facility. The management and operation of a pharmaceutical manufacturing facility requires the implementation and development of procedures that are compliant with the quality and other regulations dictated by regulatory authorities in the jurisdictions for which product is produced. Failure to maintain such compliance could cause us to experience delays in production, reputational harm and could negatively affect our commercial operations.
We own the worldwide rights to all indications for Rhopressa® and Rocklatan®. We have obtained patent protection for Rhopressa® and Rocklatan® (patent protection for Rocklatan® includes patent protection we have secured for Rhopressa®), in the United States and foreign jurisdictions, including in, but not limited to, Europe and Asia, and will seek and are seeking patent protection in additional foreign jurisdictions from time to time as we deem appropriate. We intend to maintain and defend our patent rights to protect our technology, inventions, processes and improvements that are commercially important to the development of our business. Our commercial success depends on the viability of our existing, future developed or future acquired intellectual property to be useful to provide protection to our products and also depends in part on our non-infringement of the patents or proprietary rights of third parties. For a more comprehensive discussion of the risks related to our intellectual property, see “Risk Factors—Risks Related to Intellectual Property.”
Our intellectual property portfolio consists of patents and pending patent applications related to the compositions of matter, pharmaceutical compositions, methods of use and synthetic methods. We have patent protection for Rhopressa® and Rocklatan® in the United States through early 2034. Additionally, we hold patents for composition of matter, pharmaceutical compositions and method of use in certain foreign jurisdictions for Rhopressa® and Rocklatan® through 2034 and have filed for patent protection in the United States and internationally through 2037.
With respect to our product candidates, through the acquisition of Avizorex, we are the exclusive licensee through 2031 of issued U.S. patents providing patent protection for pharmaceutical compositions comprising AR-15512 (previously named AVX-012) and methods of its use, including ophthalmic uses. The Avizorex acquisition also enabled Aerie to be the exclusive licensee of pending foreign counterparts to the issued U.S. patents regarding AR-15512. Should these foreign counterparts issue such patents, they will provide patent protection for pharmaceutical compositions in such jurisdictions comprising AR-15512 and methods of its use, including ophthalmic uses, through 2031. Furthermore, we have an issued U.S. patent for AR-1105, which provides patent protection for AR-1105 in the United States through 2036, as well as pending foreign counterparts that upon issuance will provide patent protection internationally through 2036. We also have patent protection for AR-13503 in the United States and internationally, which extends to 2030, and have filed for patent protection in the United States and internationally through dates ranging from 2030 to 2037.
We also hold patents and have pending patent applications for other ROCK inhibitor molecules.
The following table summarizes the status of our patent portfolio as of December 31, 2020 setting forth the number of existing issued patents and pending patent applications, as well as their respective estimated expiration date ranges:
|Country||Number of Issued Patents||Number of Pending Patents||Estimated Expiration Date Range|
|United States||43||24||2026 - 2039|
|Australia||13||10||2026 - 2039|
|Brazil||0||5||2036 - 2038|
|Canada||4||12||2026 - 2039|
|China||0||9||2034 - 2038|
2026 - 2039(1)
|Hong Kong||1||11||2030 - 2039|
|India||0||5||2035 - 2038|
|Japan||5||18||2026 - 2039|
|Mexico||0||5||2026 - 2038|
|Patent Cooperation Treaty||0||9||2020 - 2022|
|Singapore||0||4||2036 - 2038|
|South Korea||0||7||2035 - 2038|
(1) Includes patent protection in Belgium (3 issued patents), France (10 issued patents), Germany (10 issued patents), Great Britain (10 issued patents), Ireland (1 issued patent), Italy (10 issued patents), Netherlands (3 issued patents), Spain (11 issued patents) and Switzerland (3 issued patents).
(2) All of the European patents have the same expiration date range in the individual countries of 2026 - 2039, with the exception of Ireland, which has one issued patent expiring in 2030.
Aerie®, Rhopressa® and Rocklatan® are registered U.S. trademarks of ours. In Europe, Rhokiinsa® and Roclanda® are registered trademarks of ours. We also have other pending trademark applications and registered trademarks in the United States and foreign jurisdictions.
FDA Regulation and Marketing Approval
In the United States, the FDA regulates drugs under the FDCA and related regulations. Drugs are also subject to other federal, state and local statutes and regulations. Failure to comply with the applicable United States regulatory requirements at any time during the product development process, approval process or after approval may subject an applicant to administrative or judicial sanctions and non-approval of product candidates. These sanctions could include the imposition by the FDA or an institutional review board (“IRB”) of a clinical hold on trials, the FDA’s refusal to approve pending applications or related supplements, withdrawal of an approval, untitled or warning letters, product recalls, product seizures, total or partial suspension of production or distribution, injunctions, fines, restitution, disgorgement, civil penalties or criminal prosecution. Such actions by government agencies could also require us to expend a large amount of resources to respond to the actions. Any agency or judicial enforcement action could have a material adverse effect on us.
The FDA and comparable regulatory agencies in state and local jurisdictions and in foreign countries impose substantial requirements upon the research, clinical development, manufacture and marketing of pharmaceutical products.
These agencies and other federal, state and local entities regulate research and development activities and the testing, manufacture, quality control, safety, effectiveness, labeling, packaging, storage, distribution, record keeping, approval, post-approval monitoring, advertising, promotion, sampling and import and export of our products. Our drugs must be approved by the FDA through the New Drug Application (“NDA”) process before they may be legally marketed in the United States. See “—The NDA Approval Process” below.
The process required by the FDA before drugs may be marketed in the United States generally involves the following:
•completion of non-clinical laboratory tests, animal studies and formulation studies conducted according to Good Laboratory Practices or other applicable regulations;
•submission of an IND, which allows clinical trials to begin unless the FDA objects within 30 days;
•adequate and well-controlled human clinical trials to establish the safety and efficacy of the proposed drug for its intended use or uses conducted in accordance with FDA regulations, Good Clinical Practices (“GCP”), which are international ethical and scientific quality standards meant to assure the rights, safety and well-being of trial participants are protected and to define the roles of clinical trial sponsors, investigators, administrators, and monitors;
•pre-approval inspection of manufacturing facilities and clinical trial sites; and
•FDA approval of an NDA, which must occur before a drug can be marketed or sold.
IND and Clinical Trials
Prior to commencing the first clinical trial, drug developers must submit an initial IND to the FDA, which contains the results of preclinical tests along with other information, such as information about product chemistry, manufacturing and controls and a proposed protocol. The IND automatically becomes effective 30 days after receipt by the FDA unless the FDA raises concerns or questions about the conduct of the clinical trial within the 30-day time period. In such a case, the IND sponsor must resolve any outstanding concerns with the FDA before the clinical trial may begin. The sponsor must make a separate submission to the existing IND for each successive clinical trial to be conducted during product development. Further, an independent IRB for each site proposing to conduct the clinical trial must review and approve the plan for any clinical trial before it commences at that site. Each trial subject must also provide informed consent. Regulatory authorities, including the FDA, an IRB, a data safety monitoring board or the sponsor, may suspend or terminate a clinical trial at any time on various grounds, including a finding that the participants are being exposed to an unacceptable health risk or that the clinical trial is not being conducted in accordance with FDA requirements.
For purposes of NDA approval, human clinical trials are typically conducted in sequential phases that may overlap:
•Phase 1—the drug is initially given to healthy human subjects or patients and tested for safety, dosage tolerance, absorption, metabolism, distribution and excretion. These trials may also provide early evidence of effectiveness. During Phase 1 clinical trials, sufficient information about the investigational drug’s pharmacokinetics and pharmacologic effects may be obtained to permit the design of well-controlled and scientifically valid Phase 2 clinical trials.
•Phase 2—trials are conducted in a limited number of patients in the target population to identify possible adverse effects and safety risks, to evaluate the efficacy of the product for specific targeted diseases and to determine dosage tolerance and optimal dosage. Multiple Phase 2 clinical trials may be conducted by the sponsor to obtain information prior to beginning larger and more expensive Phase 3 registration trials.
•Phase 3—when Phase 2 evaluations demonstrate that a dosage range of the product appears effective and has an acceptable safety profile, and provide sufficient information for the design of Phase 3 registration trials, Phase 3 registration trials are undertaken to provide statistically significant evidence of clinical efficacy and to further test for safety in an expanded patient population at multiple clinical trial sites. They are performed after preliminary evidence suggesting effectiveness of the drug has been obtained, and are intended to further evaluate dosage, effectiveness and safety, to establish the overall benefit-risk relationship of the investigational drug and to provide an adequate basis for product labeling and approval by the FDA. In most cases, the FDA requires two adequate and well-controlled Phase 3 clinical trials to demonstrate the efficacy of the drug.
All clinical trials must be conducted in accordance with FDA regulations, GCP requirements and their protocols in order for the data to be considered reliable for regulatory purposes.
In addition, the manufacturer of an investigational drug in a Phase 2 or Phase 3 clinical trial for a serious or life-threatening disease is required to make available, such as by posting on its website, its policy on evaluating and responding to requests for expanded access to such investigational drug.
An investigational drug product that is a combination of two different drugs in the same dosage form must comply with an additional rule that requires that each component make a contribution to the claimed effects of the drug product. This typically
requires larger studies that test the drug against each of its components. In addition, typically, if a drug product is intended to treat a chronic disease, as is the case with our products, safety and efficacy data must be gathered over an extended period of time, which can range from six months to three years or more. Government regulation may delay or prevent marketing of product candidates or new drugs for a considerable period of time and impose costly procedures upon our activities.
Disclosure of Clinical Trial Information
Sponsors of clinical trials of FDA-regulated products, including drugs, are required to register and disclose certain clinical trial information. Information related to the product, patient population, phase of investigation, study sites and investigators, and other aspects of the clinical trial is then made public as part of the registration. Sponsors are also obligated to disclose the results of their clinical trials after completion. Disclosure of the results of these trials can be delayed in certain circumstances for up to two years after the date of completion of the trial. Competitors may use this publicly available information to gain knowledge regarding the progress of development programs.
The NDA Approval Process
In order to obtain approval to market a drug in the United States, a marketing application must be submitted to the FDA that provides data establishing to the FDA’s satisfaction the safety and effectiveness of the investigational drug for the proposed indication. Each NDA submission requires a substantial user fee payment (currently exceeding $2.8 million for fiscal year 2021) unless a waiver or exemption applies. The application must include all relevant data available from pertinent non-clinical, preclinical and clinical trials, including negative or ambiguous results as well as positive findings, together with detailed information relating to the product’s chemistry, manufacturing, controls and proposed labeling, among other things. Data can come from company-sponsored clinical trials intended to test the safety and effectiveness of a use of a product, or from a number of alternative sources, including studies initiated by investigators that meet GCP requirements.
During the development of a new drug, sponsors are given opportunities to meet with the FDA at certain points. These points may be prior to submission of an IND, at the end of Phase 2, and before an NDA is submitted. Meetings at other times may be requested. These meetings can provide an opportunity for the sponsor to share information about the data gathered to date, for the FDA to provide advice and for the sponsor and the FDA to reach agreement on the next phase of development. Sponsors typically use the end of Phase 2 meetings to discuss their Phase 2 clinical results and present their plans for the pivotal Phase 3 registration trial that they believe will support approval of the new drug.
Concurrent with clinical trials, companies usually complete additional animal safety studies and must also develop additional information about the chemistry and physical characteristics of the drug and finalize a process for manufacturing the product in accordance with cGMP requirements. The manufacturing process must be capable of consistently producing quality batches of the drug candidate and the manufacturer must develop methods for testing the identity, strength, quality and purity of the final drugs. Additionally, appropriate packaging must be selected and tested, and stability studies must be conducted to demonstrate that the drug candidate does not undergo unacceptable deterioration over its shelf-life.
The results of product development, non-clinical studies and clinical trials, along with descriptions of the manufacturing process, analytical tests conducted on the chemistry of the drug, proposed labeling and other relevant information are submitted to the FDA as part of an NDA requesting approval to market the product. An NDA must also contain data to assess the safety and effectiveness of the product for the claimed indication in all relevant pediatric populations. The FDA may grant deferrals for submission of pediatric data or full or partial waivers. The FDA reviews all NDAs submitted to ensure that they are sufficiently complete for substantive review before it files them. It may request additional information rather than accept an NDA for filing. In this event, the NDA must be resubmitted with the additional information. The resubmitted application also is subject to review before the FDA files it. The FDA has 60 days from its receipt of an NDA to conduct an initial review to determine whether the application will be filed based on the agency’s threshold determination that the application is sufficiently complete to permit substantive review. If the NDA submission is filed, the FDA reviews the NDA to determine, among other things, whether the proposed product is safe and effective for its intended use, and whether the product is being manufactured in accordance with cGMP to assure and preserve the product’s identity, strength, quality and purity. The FDA has agreed to specific performance goals on the review of NDAs and seeks to review standard NDAs in 12 months from submission of the NDA. The review process may be extended by the FDA for three additional months to consider certain late submitted information or information intended to clarify information already provided in the submission. After the FDA completes its initial review of an NDA, it will communicate to the sponsor that the drug will either be approved, or it will issue a complete response letter to communicate that the NDA will not be approved in its current form and inform the sponsor of changes that must be made or additional clinical, non-clinical or manufacturing data that must be received before the application can be approved, with no implication regarding the ultimate approvability of the application or the timing of any such approval, if ever. If, or when, those deficiencies have been addressed to the FDA’s satisfaction in a resubmission of the NDA, the FDA will issue an approval letter. FDA has committed to reviewing such resubmissions in two to six months depending on the type of
information included. The FDA may refer applications for novel drug products or drug products that present difficult questions of safety or efficacy to an advisory committee, typically a panel that includes clinicians and other experts, for review, evaluation and a recommendation as to whether the application should be approved and, if so, under what conditions. The FDA is not bound by the recommendations of an advisory committee, but it considers such recommendations carefully when making decisions.
Before approving an NDA, the FDA typically will inspect the facilities at which the product is manufactured. The FDA will not approve the product unless it determines that the manufacturing processes and facilities are in compliance with cGMP requirements and adequate to assure consistent production of the product within required specifications. Additionally, before approving an NDA, the FDA may inspect one or more clinical sites to assure compliance with GCP. If the FDA determines the application, manufacturing process or manufacturing facilities are not acceptable, it typically will outline the deficiencies and often will request additional testing or information. This may significantly delay further review of the application. If the FDA finds that a clinical site did not conduct the clinical trial in accordance with GCP, the FDA may determine the data generated by the clinical site should be excluded from the primary efficacy analyses provided in the NDA. Additionally, notwithstanding the submission of any requested additional information, the FDA ultimately may decide that the application does not satisfy the regulatory criteria for approval.
The FDA may require, or companies may pursue, additional clinical trials after a product is approved. These so-called Phase 4 trials may be made a condition to be satisfied for continuing drug approval. The results of Phase 4 trials may confirm the effectiveness of a product candidate and can provide important safety information. In addition, the FDA has express statutory authority to require sponsors to conduct post-marketing trials to specifically address safety issues identified by the agency after approval. The FDA has recently taken the position that under this authority it can require studies with efficacy endpoints in certain circumstances, if, for example, such a study is appropriate to further assess whether a potential lack of expected pharmacological effect, including reduced effectiveness, may result in a serious adverse drug experience. See “—Post-Marketing Requirements” below.
The FDA also has authority to require a Risk Evaluation and Mitigation Strategy (“REMS”) from manufacturers to ensure that the benefits of a drug outweigh its risks. A sponsor may also voluntarily propose a REMS as part of the NDA submission. The need for a REMS is determined as part of the review of the NDA. Based on statutory standards, elements of a REMS may include “dear doctor letters,” a medication guide, more elaborate targeted educational programs, and in some cases elements to assure safe use (“ETASU”). ETASU can include, but are not limited to, special training or certification for prescribing or dispensing, dispensing only under certain circumstances, special monitoring and the use of patient registries. These elements are negotiated as part of the NDA approval, and in some cases if consensus is not obtained until after the PDUFA review cycle, the approval date may be delayed. Once adopted, REMS are subject to periodic assessment and modification.
Changes to some of the conditions established in an approved application, including changes in indications, labeling, manufacturing processes or facilities, require submission and FDA approval of a new NDA or NDA supplement before the change can be implemented. An NDA supplement for a new indication typically requires clinical data similar to that in the original application, including relevant pediatric data, and the FDA uses the same procedures and actions in reviewing NDA supplements as it does in reviewing NDAs.
Even if a product candidate receives regulatory approval, the approval may be limited to specific disease states, patient populations and dosages, or might contain significant limitations on use in the form of warnings, precautions or contraindications, or in the form of onerous risk management plans, restrictions on distribution, or post-marketing trial requirements. Further, even after regulatory approval is obtained, later discovery of previously unknown problems with a product or problems the extent or severity of which were unknown may result in restrictions on the product or even complete withdrawal of the product from the market. We cannot predict what adverse governmental regulations may arise from future U.S. or foreign governmental action.
Adverse Event Reporting
The FDA requires reporting of certain information on side effects and adverse events reported during clinical studies and after marketing approval. Non-compliance with FDA safety reporting requirements may result in FDA regulatory action that may include civil action or criminal penalties. Side effects or adverse events that are reported during clinical trials can delay, impede or prevent marketing approval. Similarly, adverse events that are reported after marketing approval can result in additional limitations being placed on the product's use, require labeling changes, and, potentially, withdrawal or suspension of the product from the market.
The Hatch-Waxman Amendments
Under the Drug Price Competition and Patent Term Restoration Act of 1984, referred to as the Hatch-Waxman Amendments, a portion of a product’s U.S. patent term that was lost during clinical development and regulatory review by the FDA may be restored. The Hatch-Waxman Amendments also provide a process for listing patents pertaining to approved products in the FDA’s Approved Drug Products with Therapeutic Equivalence Evaluations (commonly known as the “Orange Book”) and for a competitor seeking approval of an application that references a product with listed patents to make certifications pertaining to such patents. In addition, the Hatch-Waxman Amendments provide for a statutory protection, known as non-patent exclusivity, against the FDA’s acceptance or approval of certain competitor applications.
Patent Term Extension
Patent Term Extension (“PTE”) in the United States can compensate for lost patent grant time during product development and the regulatory review process for a patent that covers a new product or its use. This PTE period is generally one-half the time between the effective date of an IND (falling after issuance of the patent) and the submission date of an NDA, plus the time between the submission date of an NDA and the approval of that application, provided the sponsor acted with diligence. PTEs that can be obtained are for up to five years beyond the expiration of the patent or 14 years from the date of product approval, whichever is earlier. Only one patent applicable to an approved drug may be extended and the extension must be applied for prior to expiration of the patent. The USPTO, in consultation with the FDA, reviews and approves the application for any patent term extension or restoration.
Orange Book Listing
In seeking approval for a drug through an NDA, applicants are required to list with the FDA each patent with claims covering the applicant’s product or method of using the product. Upon approval of a drug, each of the patents identified in the application for the drug are then published in the FDA’s Orange Book. Drugs listed in the Orange Book can, in turn, be cited by potential generic competitors in support of approval of an abbreviated new drug application (“ANDA”). An ANDA provides for marketing of a drug product that has the same active ingredients in the same strengths and dosage form as the listed drug and has been shown to be bioequivalent to the listed drug. Other than the requirement for bioequivalence testing, ANDA applicants are not required to conduct, or submit results of, preclinical or clinical tests to prove the safety or effectiveness of their drug product. Drugs approved in this way are commonly referred to as “generic equivalents” to the listed drug and can often be substituted by pharmacists under prescriptions written for the original listed drug.
The ANDA applicant is required to certify to the FDA concerning any patents listed for the approved product in the FDA’s Orange Book. Specifically, the applicant must certify that: (i) the required patent information has not been filed; (ii) the listed patent has expired; (iii) the listed patent has not expired, but will expire on a particular date and approval is sought after patent expiration; or (iv) the listed patent is invalid or will not be infringed by the new product. The ANDA applicant may also elect to submit a Section VIII statement certifying that its proposed ANDA labeling does not contain (or carves out) any language regarding the patented method-of-use rather than certify to a listed method-of-use patent. If the applicant does not challenge the listed patents, the ANDA application will not be approved until all the listed patents claiming the referenced product have expired.
A certification that the new product will not infringe the already approved product’s listed patents, or that such patents are invalid, is called a Paragraph IV certification. If the ANDA applicant has provided a Paragraph IV certification to the FDA, the applicant must also send notice of the Paragraph IV certification to the NDA and patent holders once the ANDA has been filed with and accepted by the FDA. The NDA and patent holders may then initiate a patent infringement lawsuit in response to the notice of the Paragraph IV certification. The filing of a patent infringement lawsuit within 45 days of the receipt of a Paragraph IV certification automatically prevents the FDA from approving the ANDA until the earlier of 30 months, expiration of the patent, settlement of the lawsuit or a decision in the infringement case that is favorable to the ANDA applicant.
An applicant submitting an NDA under Section 505(b)(2) of the FDCA, which permits the filing of an NDA where at least some of the information required for approval comes from studies not conducted by, or for, the applicant and for which the applicant has not obtained a right of reference, is required to certify to the FDA regarding any patents listed in the Orange Book for the approved product it references to the same extent that an ANDA applicant would.
Market exclusivity provisions under the FDCA also can delay the submission or the approval of certain applications. The FDCA provides a five-year period of non-patent marketing exclusivity within the United States to the first applicant to gain approval of an NDA for a new chemical entity (“NCE”). A drug is entitled to NCE exclusivity if it contains a drug substance no
active moiety of which has been previously approved by the FDA. This means that, in the case of a fixed-dose combination product, the FDA makes the NCE exclusivity determination for each drug substance in the drug product and not for the drug product as a whole. During the exclusivity period, the FDA may not accept for review an ANDA or a 505(b)(2) NDA submitted by another company for another version of such drug where the applicant does not own or have a legal right of reference to all the data required for approval. However, an application may be submitted after four years if it contains a Paragraph IV certification. For a drug that has been previously approved by the FDA, the FDCA also provides three years of marketing exclusivity for an NDA, 505(b)(2) NDA or supplement to an existing NDA if new clinical investigations, other than bioavailability studies, that were conducted or sponsored by the applicant are deemed by the FDA to be essential to the approval of the application, for example, for new indications, dosages or strengths of an existing drug. This three-year exclusivity covers only the new conditions of use and does not prohibit the FDA from approving ANDAs for drugs for the original conditions of use, such as the originally approved indication. Five-year and three-year exclusivity will not delay the submission or approval of a full NDA; however, an applicant submitting a full NDA would be required to conduct or obtain a right of reference to all of the non-clinical studies and adequate and well-controlled clinical trials necessary to demonstrate safety and effectiveness.
Following approval of a new product, a pharmaceutical company and the approved product are subject to continuing regulation by the FDA, including, among other things, monitoring and recordkeeping activities, reporting to the applicable regulatory authorities of adverse experiences with the product, providing the regulatory authorities with updated safety and efficacy information, product sampling and distribution requirements, and complying with promotion and advertising requirements, which include, among others, standards for direct-to-consumer advertising, restrictions on promoting drugs for uses or in patient populations that are not described in the drug’s approved labeling (known as “off-label use”), limitations on industry-sponsored scientific and educational activities and requirements for promotional activities involving the internet. Although physicians may prescribe legally available drugs for off-label uses, manufacturers may not market or promote such off-label uses. Modifications or enhancements to the product or its labeling or changes of the site of manufacture are often subject to the approval of the FDA and other regulators, who may or may not grant approval or may include in a lengthy review process.
Advertising and Distribution
Prescription drug advertising is subject to federal, state and foreign regulations. In the United States, the FDA regulates prescription drug promotion, including direct-to-consumer advertising. Prescription drug promotional materials must be submitted to the FDA in conjunction with their first use. Any distribution of prescription drug products and pharmaceutical samples must comply with the U.S. Prescription Drug Marketing Act (“PDMA”), a part of the FDCA. In addition, Title II of the Federal Drug Quality and Security Act of 2013, known as the Drug Supply Chain Security Act or the DSCSA, has imposed new “track and trace” requirements on the distribution of prescription drug products by manufacturers, distributors, and other entities in the drug supply chain. These requirements are being phased in over a ten-year period. Unless the products were packaged prior to November 27, 2018, the DSCSA requires product identifiers (i.e., serialization) on prescription drug products in order to establish an electronic interoperable prescription product system to identify and trace certain prescription drugs distributed in the United States. The DSCSA replaced the prior drug “pedigree” requirements under the PDMA and preempts existing state drug pedigree laws and regulations. The DSCSA also establishes new requirements for the licensing of wholesale distributors and third-party logistic providers. These licensing requirements preempt states from imposing licensing requirements that are inconsistent with, less stringent than, directly related to, or otherwise encompassed by standards established by FDA pursuant to the DSCSA. Until FDA promulgates regulations to address the DSCSA’s new national licensing standard, current state licensing requirements typically remain in effect.
In the United States, once a product is approved, its manufacture is subject to comprehensive and continuing regulation by the FDA. The FDA regulations require that products be manufactured in specific facilities and in accordance with cGMP. cGMP regulations require among other things, quality control and quality assurance as well as the corresponding maintenance of records and documentation and the obligation to investigate and correct any deviations from cGMP. Drug manufacturers and other entities involved in the manufacture and distribution of approved drugs are required to register their establishments with the FDA and certain state agencies and are subject to periodic unannounced inspections by the FDA and certain state agencies for compliance with cGMP and other laws. Accordingly, manufacturers must continue to expend time, money and effort in the area of production and quality control to maintain cGMP compliance. These regulations also impose certain organizational, procedural and documentation requirements with respect to manufacturing and quality assurance activities. We currently rely, and expect to continue to rely, on third parties for the production of clinical and commercial quantities of our products in accordance with cGMP regulations. NDA holders using contract manufacturers, laboratories or packagers are responsible for
the selection and monitoring of qualified firms, and, in certain circumstances, qualified suppliers to these firms. These firms and, where applicable, their suppliers are subject to inspections by the FDA at any time, and the discovery of violative conditions, including failure to conform to cGMP, could result in enforcement actions that interrupt the operation of any such product or may result in restrictions on a product, manufacturer, or holder of an approved NDA, including, among other things, recall or withdrawal of the product from the market. In addition, the applicant under an approved NDA is subject to an annual program fee, currently exceeding $330,000 per prescription drug product for fiscal year 2021.
The FDA also may require post-marketing testing, also known as Phase 4 testing, REMS to monitor the effects of an approved product or place conditions on an approval that could restrict the distribution or use of the product. Discovery of previously unknown problems with a product or the failure to comply with applicable FDA requirements can have negative consequences, including adverse publicity, judicial or administrative enforcement, untitled or warning letters from the FDA, mandated corrective advertising or communications with doctors, withdrawal of approval, and civil or criminal penalties, among others. Newly discovered or developed safety or effectiveness data may require changes to a product’s approved labeling, including the addition of new warnings and contraindications, and also may require the implementation of other risk management measures. Also, new government requirements, including those resulting from new legislation, may be established, or the FDA’s policies may change, which could delay or prevent regulatory approval of our products under development.
Reimbursement, Anti-Kickback and False Claims Laws and Other Regulatory Matters
In the United States, the research, manufacturing, distribution, sale and promotion of drug products and medical devices are potentially subject to regulation by various federal, state and local authorities in addition to the FDA, including the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (“CMS”), other divisions of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (e.g., the Office of Inspector General), the Drug Enforcement Administration, the Consumer Product Safety Commission, the Federal Trade Commission, the Occupational Safety & Health Administration, the Environmental Protection Agency, state Attorneys General and other state and local government agencies. For example, sales, marketing and scientific/educational grant programs must comply with the Federal Anti-Kickback Statute, the False Claims Act, as amended, the privacy regulations promulgated under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (“HIPAA”), as amended, and similar state laws. Pricing and rebate programs must be considered in price reports in order to comply with the Medicaid Drug Rebate Program requirements of the Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1990, as amended, and the Veterans Health Care Act of 1992, as amended. If products are made available to authorized users of the Federal Supply Schedule of the General Services Administration, additional laws and requirements apply. The handling of any controlled substances must comply with the U.S. Controlled Substances Act and Controlled Substances Import and Export Act. Products must meet applicable child-resistant packaging requirements under the U.S. Poison Prevention Packaging Act. All of these activities are also potentially subject to federal and state consumer protection and unfair competition laws.
The Medicare Prescription Drug, Improvement, and Modernization Act of 2003 (“MMA”), established the Medicare Part D program to provide a voluntary prescription drug benefit to Medicare beneficiaries. Under Part D, Medicare beneficiaries may enroll in prescription drug plans offered by private entities which will provide coverage of outpatient prescription drugs. Unlike Medicare Part A and B, Part D coverage is not standardized. Part D prescription drug plan sponsors are not required to pay for all covered Part D drugs, and each drug plan can develop its own drug formulary that identifies which drugs it will cover and at what tier or level. However, Part D prescription drug formularies must include drugs within each therapeutic category and class of covered Part D drugs, though not necessarily all the drugs in each category or class. Any formulary used by a Part D prescription drug plan must be developed and reviewed by a pharmacy and therapeutic committee. Government payment for some of the costs of prescription drugs may increase demand for products for which we receive regulatory approval. However, any negotiated prices for our products covered by a Part D prescription drug plan will likely be lower than the prices we might otherwise obtain. Moreover, while the MMA applies only to drug benefits for Medicare beneficiaries, private payers often follow Medicare coverage policy and payment limitations in setting their own payment rates. Any reduction in payment that results from the MMA may result in a similar reduction in payments from non-government payers.
The distribution of pharmaceutical products is subject to additional requirements and regulations, including extensive record-keeping, licensing, storage and security requirements intended to prevent the unauthorized sale of pharmaceutical products.
The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 provides funding for the federal government to compare the effectiveness of different treatments for the same illness. A plan for the research will be developed by the Department of Health and Human Services, the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality and the National Institutes for Health, and periodic reports on the status of the research and related expenditures will be made to Congress. Although the results of the comparative effectiveness studies are not intended to mandate coverage policies for public or private payers, it is not clear what effect, if any, the research will have on the sales of our products, if any such products or the condition that it is intended to treat is the
subject of a trial. It is also possible that comparative effectiveness research demonstrating benefits in a competitor’s product could adversely affect the sales of our products. If third-party payers do not consider our products to be cost-effective compared to other available therapies, they may not cover our products after approval as a benefit under their plans or, if they do, the level of payment may not be sufficient to allow us to sell our products on a profitable basis.
In addition, in some foreign countries, the proposed pricing for a drug must be approved before it may be lawfully marketed. The requirements governing drug pricing vary widely from country to country. For example, the European Union provides options for its member states to restrict the range of medicinal products for which their national health insurance systems provide reimbursement and to control the prices of medicinal products for human use. A member state may approve a specific price for the medicinal product, or it may instead adopt a system of direct or indirect controls on the profitability of the company placing the medicinal product on the market. There can be no assurance that any country that has price controls or reimbursement limitations for pharmaceutical products will allow favorable reimbursement and pricing arrangements for any of our potential products. Historically, products launched in the European Union do not follow price structures of the United States and generally tend to be significantly lower.
As noted above, in the United States, we are subject to complex laws and regulations pertaining to healthcare “fraud and abuse,” including, but not limited to, the Federal Anti-Kickback Statute, the Federal False Claims Act, and other state and federal laws and regulations. The Federal Anti-Kickback Statute makes it illegal for any person, including a prescription drug manufacturer (or a party acting on its behalf) to knowingly and willfully solicit, receive, offer, or pay any remuneration that is intended to induce the referral of business, including the purchase, order, or prescription of a particular drug, for which payment may be made under a federal healthcare program, such as Medicare or Medicaid. Violations of this law are punishable by up to five years in prison, criminal fines, administrative civil money penalties, and exclusion from participation in federal healthcare programs. In addition, many states have adopted laws similar to the Federal Anti-Kickback Statute. Some of these state prohibitions apply to the referral of patients for healthcare services reimbursed by any insurer, not just federal healthcare programs such as Medicare and Medicaid. Due to the breadth of these federal and state anti-kickback laws, the absence of guidance in the form of regulations or court decisions, and the potential for additional legal or regulatory change in this area, it is possible that our future sales and marketing practices and/or our future relationships with eye-care professionals might be challenged under anti-kickback laws, which could harm us. Because we intend to commercialize products that could be reimbursed under a federal healthcare program and other governmental healthcare programs, we have developed a comprehensive compliance program that establishes internal controls to facilitate adherence to the rules and program requirements to which we will or may become subject.
The Federal False Claims Act prohibits anyone from knowingly presenting, or causing to be presented, for payment to federal programs (including Medicare and Medicaid) claims for items or services, including drugs, that are false or fraudulent, claims for items or services not provided as claimed, or claims for medically unnecessary items or services. Although we would not submit claims directly to payers, manufacturers can be held liable under these laws if they are deemed to “cause” the submission of false or fraudulent claims by, for example, providing inaccurate billing or coding information to customers or promoting a product off-label. In addition, our future activities relating to the reporting of wholesaler or estimated retail prices for our products, the reporting of prices used to calculate Medicaid rebate information and other information affecting federal, state and third-party reimbursement for our products, and the sale and marketing of our products, are subject to scrutiny under this law. For example, pharmaceutical companies have been found liable under the Federal False Claims Act in connection with their off-label promotion of drugs. Penalties for a False Claims Act violation include three times the actual damages sustained by the government, plus mandatory civil penalties of between $10,000 and $25,000 for each separate false claim, the potential for exclusion from participation in federal healthcare programs, and, although the Federal False Claims Act is a civil statute, conduct that results in a False Claims Act violation may also implicate various federal criminal statutes. If the government were to allege that we were, or convict us of, violating these false claims laws, we could be subject to a substantial fine and may suffer a decline in our stock price. In addition, private individuals have the ability to bring actions under the Federal False Claims Act and certain states have enacted laws modeled after the Federal False Claims Act.
There are also an increasing number of state laws with requirements for manufacturers and/or marketers of pharmaceutical products. Some states require the reporting of expenses relating to the marketing and promotion of drug products and the reporting of gifts and payments to individual healthcare practitioners in these states. Other states prohibit various marketing-related activities, such as the provision of certain kinds of gifts or meals. Still other states require the reporting of certain pricing information, including information pertaining to and justification of price increases. In addition, states such as California, Connecticut, Nevada, and Massachusetts require pharmaceutical companies to implement compliance programs and/or marketing codes. Many of these laws contain ambiguities as to what is required to comply with the laws. In addition, as discussed in “—Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act” below, a similar federal requirement requires manufacturers to track and report to the federal government certain payments made to physicians and teaching hospitals made in the previous calendar year. These laws may affect our sales, marketing and other promotional activities by imposing administrative and
compliance burdens on us. In addition, given the lack of clarity with respect to these laws and their implementation, our reporting actions could be subject to the penalty provisions of the pertinent state, and soon federal, authorities.
Numerous U.S. federal and state laws, including state security breach notification laws, state health information privacy laws and U.S. federal and state consumer protection laws, govern the collection, use and disclosure of personal information. Other countries also have, or are developing, laws governing the collection, use and transmission of personal information. In addition, most healthcare providers who are expected to prescribe our products and from whom we obtain patient health information, are subject to privacy and security requirements under HIPAA, as amended by the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health Act (“HITECH”) and its implementing regulations, which imposes requirements relating to the privacy, security and transmission of individually identifiable health information. Among other things, HITECH makes HIPAA’s privacy and security standards directly applicable to “business associates,” such as independent contractors or agents of covered entities that receive or obtain protected health information with providing a service on behalf of a covered entity. HITECH also increased the civil and criminal penalties that may be imposed against covered entities and business associates. In addition, HITECH also gave state attorneys general new authority to file civil actions for damages or injunctions in federal courts to enforce the federal HIPAA laws and seek attorney’s fees and costs associated with pursuing these actions. As a result of HIPAA, we could be subject to criminal penalties if we obtain and/or disclose individually identifiable health information from a HIPAA-covered entity, including healthcare providers, in a manner that is not authorized or permitted by HIPAA. In addition, many U.S. states and foreign governments have enacted comparable laws addressing the privacy and security of health information, such as the General Data Protection Regulation (the “GDPR”) enacted by the European Union, some of which are more stringent than HIPAA. The legislative and regulatory landscape for privacy and data protection continues to evolve, and there has been an increasing amount of focus on privacy and data protection issues with the potential to disrupt our operations, including recently enacted laws in a majority of states requiring security breach notification. If there are any violations of these laws, we could face significant administrative and monetary sanctions as well as reputational damage, which may have a material adverse effect on our business.
The failure to comply with regulatory requirements subjects firms to possible legal or regulatory action. Depending on the circumstances, failure to meet applicable regulatory requirements can result in criminal prosecution, fines or other penalties, injunctions, recall or seizure of products, total or partial suspension of production, denial or withdrawal of product approvals, or refusal to allow a firm to enter into supply contracts, including government contracts.
Changes in regulations, statutes or the interpretation of existing regulations could impact our business in the future by requiring, for example: (i) changes to our manufacturing arrangements; (ii) additions or modifications to product labeling; (iii) the recall or discontinuation of our products; or (iv) additional record-keeping requirements. If any such changes were to be imposed, they could adversely affect the operation of our business.
Government Programs for Marketed Drugs
Medicaid, the 340B Drug Pricing Program, and Medicare
Federal law requires that a pharmaceutical manufacturer, as a condition of having its products receive federal reimbursement under Medicaid and Medicare Part B, must pay rebates to state Medicaid programs for all units of its covered outpatient drugs dispensed to Medicaid beneficiaries and paid for by a state Medicaid program under either a fee-for-service arrangement or through a managed care organization. This federal requirement is effectuated through a Medicaid drug rebate agreement between the manufacturer and the Secretary of Health and Human Services. CMS administers the Medicaid drug rebate agreements, which provide, among other things, that the drug manufacturer will pay rebates to each state Medicaid agency on a quarterly basis and report certain price information on a monthly and quarterly basis. The rebates are based on prices reported to CMS by manufacturers for their covered outpatient drugs. For innovator products, that is, drugs that are marketed under approved NDAs, the basic rebate amount is the greater of 23.1% of the average manufacturer price (“AMP”) for the quarter or the difference between such AMP and the best price for that same quarter. The AMP is the weighted average of prices paid to the manufacturer (1) directly by retail community pharmacies and (2) by wholesalers for drugs distributed to retail community pharmacies. The best price is essentially the lowest price available to non-governmental entities. Innovator products are also subject to an additional rebate that is based on the amount, if any, by which the product’s current AMP has increased over the baseline AMP, which is the AMP for the first full quarter after launch, adjusted for inflation. For non-innovator products, generally generic drugs marketed under approved abbreviated new drug applications, the basic rebate amount is 13% of the AMP for the quarter. Non-innovator products are also subject to an additional rebate. The additional rebate is similar to that discussed above for innovator products, except that the baseline AMP quarter is the fifth full quarter after launch (for non-innovator multiple source drugs launched on April 1, 2013 or later) or the third quarter of 2014 (for those launched before April 1, 2013).
The terms of participation in the Medicaid drug rebate program impose an obligation to correct the prices reported in previous quarters, as may be necessary. Any such corrections could result in additional or lesser rebate liability, depending on the direction of the correction. In addition to retroactive rebates, if a manufacturer were found to have knowingly submitted false information to the government, federal law provides for civil monetary penalties for failing to provide required information, late submission of required information, and false information.
A manufacturer must also participate in a federal program known as the 340B drug pricing program in order for federal funds to be available to pay for the manufacturer’s drugs under Medicaid and Medicare Part B. Under this program, the participating manufacturer agrees to charge certain safety net healthcare providers no more than an established discounted price for its covered outpatient drugs. The formula for determining the discounted price is defined by statute and is based on the AMP and the unit rebate amount as calculated under the Medicaid drug rebate program, discussed above. Manufacturers are required to report pricing information to the Health Resources and Services Administration (“HRSA”) on a quarterly basis. HRSA has also issued regulations relating to the calculation of the ceiling price as well as imposition of civil monetary penalties for each instance of knowingly and intentionally overcharging a 340B covered entity.
Federal law also requires that manufacturers report data on a quarterly basis to CMS regarding the pricing of drugs that are separately reimbursable under Medicare Part B. These are generally drugs, such as injectable products, that are administered “incident to” a physician service and are not generally self-administered. The pricing information submitted by manufacturers is the basis for reimbursement to physicians and suppliers for drugs covered under Medicare Part B. As with the Medicaid drug rebate program, federal law provides for civil monetary penalties for failing to provide required information, late submission of required information, and false information.
Medicare Part D provides prescription drug benefits for seniors and people with disabilities. Medicare Part D beneficiaries have a gap in their coverage (between the initial coverage limit and the point at which catastrophic coverage begins) where Medicare does not cover their prescription drug costs, known as the coverage gap. However, beginning in 2019, Medicare Part D beneficiaries pay 25% of brand drug costs after they reach the initial coverage limit - the same percentage they were responsible for before they reached that limit - thereby closing the coverage gap. The cost of closing the coverage gap is being borne by innovator companies and the government through subsidies. Each manufacturer of a drug approved under an NDA is required to enter into a Medicare Part D coverage gap discount agreement and provide a 70% discount on those drugs dispensed to Medicare beneficiaries in the coverage gap, in order for its drugs to be reimbursed by Medicare Part D.
Federal Contracting/Pricing Requirements
Manufacturers are also required to make their covered drugs, which are generally drugs approved under NDAs, available to authorized users of the Federal Supply Schedule (“FSS”) of the General Services Administration. The law also requires manufacturers to offer deeply discounted FSS contract pricing for purchases of their covered drugs by the Department of Veterans Affairs, the Department of Defense (“DoD”), the Coast Guard, and the Public Health Service (including the Indian Health Service) in order for federal funding to be available for reimbursement or purchase of the manufacturer’s drugs under certain federal programs. FSS pricing to those four federal agencies for covered drugs must be no more than the Federal Ceiling Price (“FCP”), which is at least 24% below the Non-Federal Average Manufacturer Price (“Non-FAMP”) for the prior year. The Non-FAMP is the average price for covered drugs sold to wholesalers or other middlemen, net of any price reductions.
The accuracy of a manufacturer’s reported Non-FAMPs, FCPs, or FSS contract prices may be audited by the government. Among the remedies available to the government for inaccuracies is recoupment of any overcharges to the four specified federal agencies based on those inaccuracies. If a manufacturer were found to have knowingly reported false prices, in addition to other penalties available to the government, the law provides for civil monetary penalties of $100,000 per incorrect item. Finally, manufacturers are required to disclose in FSS contract proposals all commercial pricing that is equal to or less than the proposed FSS pricing, and subsequent to award of an FSS contract, manufacturers are required to monitor certain commercial price reductions and extend commensurate price reductions to the government, under the terms of the FSS contract Price Reductions Clause. Among the remedies available to the government for any failure to properly disclose commercial pricing and/or to extend FSS contract price reductions is recoupment of any FSS overcharges that may result from such omissions.
Tricare Retail Pharmacy Network Program
The DoD provides pharmacy benefits to current and retired military service members and their families through the Tricare healthcare program. When a Tricare beneficiary obtains a prescription drug through a retail pharmacy, the DoD reimburses the pharmacy at the retail price for the drug rather than procuring it from the manufacturer at the discounted FCP discussed above. In order for the DoD to realize discounted prices for covered drugs (generally drugs approved under NDAs), federal law requires manufacturers to pay refunds on utilization of their covered drugs sold to Tricare beneficiaries through retail pharmacies in DoD’s Tricare network. These refunds are generally the difference between the Non-FAMP and the FCP and are
due on a quarterly basis. Absent an agreement from the manufacturer to provide such refunds, DoD will designate the manufacturer’s products as Tier 3 (non-formulary) and require that beneficiaries obtain prior authorization in order for the products to be dispensed at a Tricare retail network pharmacy. However, refunds are due whether or not the manufacturer has entered into such an agreement.
Branded Pharmaceutical Fee
A branded pharmaceutical fee is imposed on manufacturers and importers of branded prescription drugs, generally drugs approved under NDAs. In each year between 2011 and 2018, the aggregate fee for all such manufacturers ranged from $2.5 billion to $4.1 billion, and has remained at $2.8 billion in 2019 and subsequent years. This annual fee is apportioned among the participating companies based on each company’s sales of qualifying products to or utilization by certain U.S. government programs during the preceding calendar year. The fee is not deductible for U.S. federal income tax purposes. Utilization of generic drugs, generally drugs approved under ANDAs, is not included in a manufacturer’s sales used to calculate its portion of the fee.
Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act
In March 2010, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (“PPACA”) was enacted, which includes measures that have or will significantly change the way healthcare is financed by both governmental and private insurers. Among the provisions of PPACA of greatest importance to the pharmaceutical industry are the following:
•As discussed above, effective in 2010, PPACA made several changes to the Medicaid Drug Rebate Program, including increasing pharmaceutical manufacturers’ rebate liability by raising the minimum basic Medicaid rebate on most branded prescription drugs and biologic agents to 23.1% of AMP and adding a new rebate calculation for “line extensions” (i.e., new formulations, such as extended release formulations) of solid oral dosage forms of branded products, as well as potentially impacting their rebate liability by modifying the statutory definition of AMP. PPACA also expanded the universe of Medicaid utilization subject to drug rebates by requiring pharmaceutical manufacturers to pay rebates on Medicaid managed care utilization and by expanding the population potentially eligible for Medicaid drug benefits. CMS expanded Medicaid rebate liability to the territories of the United States as well, effective April 1, 2020. As the territories were not prepared to implement these changes, the effective date was extended to April 1, 2022. In addition, PPACA provides for the public availability of retail survey prices and certain weighted average AMPs under the Medicaid program. The implementation of this requirement by the CMS, beginning in April 2016, also provided for the public availability of pharmacy acquisition of cost data, which could negatively impact our sales.
•Effective in 2010, PPACA expanded the types of entities eligible to receive discounted 340B pricing, although, under the current state of the law, with the exception of children’s hospitals, these newly eligible entities will not be eligible to receive discounted 340B pricing on orphan drugs when used for the orphan indication.
•Effective in 2011, PPACA imposed a requirement on manufacturers of branded drugs and biologic agents to provide a 50% discount off the negotiated price of branded drugs dispensed to Medicare Part D patients in the coverage gap (i.e., “donut hole”). The Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018 increased the manufacturer’s subsidy under this program from 50% to 70% of the negotiated price, beginning in 2019.
•Effective in 2011, PPACA imposed an annual, nondeductible fee on any entity that manufactures or imports certain branded prescription drugs and biologic agents, apportioned among these entities according to their market share in certain government healthcare programs, although this fee would not apply to sales of certain products approved exclusively for orphan indications.
•PPACA requires pharmaceutical manufacturers to track certain financial arrangements with physicians and teaching hospitals, including any “transfer of value” made or distributed to such entities, as well as any investment interests held by physicians and their immediate family members. Effective January 1, 2022, we will also be required to report on transfers of value to, among others, physician assistants and nurse practitioners or clinical nurse specialists. The information reported each year is made publicly available on a searchable website.
•As of 2010, a Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute was established pursuant to PPACA to oversee, identify priorities in and conduct comparative clinical effectiveness research, along with funding for such
research. The research conducted by the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute may affect the market for certain pharmaceutical products.
•PPACA created the Independent Payment Advisory Board, which has the authority to recommend certain changes to the Medicare program to reduce expenditures by the program that could result in reduced payments for prescription drugs. Under certain circumstances, these recommendations will become law unless Congress enacts legislation that will achieve the same or greater Medicare cost savings.
•PPACA established the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation within CMS to test innovative payment and service delivery models to lower Medicare and Medicaid spending, potentially including prescription drug spending.
There have been ongoing discussions within the U.S. federal government regarding the future of PPACA. There is uncertainty with respect to the impact these changes, if any, may have, and any changes likely will take time to unfold.
European Union Drug Development
In the European Union, our products and product candidates will also be subject to extensive regulatory requirements. Regulatory laws for pharmaceuticals are largely harmonized throughout the European Union, so that applicable E.U. law is most significant and national laws have less importance. As in the United States, medicinal products can only be marketed if either a Centralised MA has been obtained from the European Medicines Authority (“EMA”) or national authorisations have been obtained from the competent regulatory agencies.
The various phases of preclinical and clinical research in the European Union are subject to significant regulatory controls. Phases 1 to 3 of clinical trials in humans are comparable to those regulated in the United States, and GCP requirements in the European Union for these studies follow internationally accepted standards.
Although the E.U. Clinical Trials Directive 2001/20/EC has sought to harmonize the E.U. clinical trial regulatory framework for pharmaceuticals by setting out common rules for the control and authorization of clinical trials in the European Union, the E.U. Member States have transposed and applied the provisions of the Directive differently. This has led to significant variations in the member state regimes. Under the current regime, before a clinical trial can be initiated it must be approved in each of the E.U. countries where the trial is to be conducted by two distinct bodies: the National Competent Authority (“NCA”) and one or more Ethics Committees (“ECs”). All suspected unexpected serious adverse reactions to the investigated drug that occur during the clinical trial must be reported to the competent authorities of the Member State in which they occurred. All clinical trials must conform to current GCP guidelines issued by the European Union and the International Council on Harmonisation of Technical Requirements for Registration of Pharmaceuticals for Human Use, in particular when the results of such trials are being used in marketing authorisation procedures, and audits by E.U. inspectors on regulatory conformance of such clinical trials are likely.
In 2014, the new E.U. Clinical Trial Regulation 546/2014 was enacted (the “Regulation”). When it becomes applicable (expected in 2021), it will govern all newly-commenced clinical trials. The new Regulation aims to make more uniform and streamline the clinical trials authorisation process, ensure consistent rules for conducting clinical trials throughout the European Union, increase the efficiency of clinical trials, and increase the transparency of authorization, conduct and results of clinical trials. All clinical trials initiated before the Regulation becomes effective remain subject to the Clinical Trials Directive of 2001.
Generally, in the European Economic Area (“EEA”), for every product candidate, a pediatric investigation plan (“PIP”) will have to be submitted and approval be obtained, unless a waiver is obtained where justified, in addition to clinical trials conducted in adults. The clinical studies that sponsoring companies must carry out on children are to be set out in detail in the PIP where the indication is one found in children. In most cases, the PIP will become a commitment when applying for a marketing authorisation for a product candidate. A PIP may entail significant cost.
European Union Drug Review and Approval
In the EEA, which is currently comprised of the 27 Member States of the European Union plus Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein, medicinal products can only be commercialized after obtaining a Marketing Authorisation (“MA”) which is comparable to an NDA in the United States. There are two types of marketing authorisations in the EEA: the Centralised MA, which is issued by the European Commission through the Centralized Procedure based on the opinion of the CHMP, a body of the EMA, and which is valid throughout the entire territory of the EEA; and the National MA, which is issued by the competent
authorities of each Member State of the EEA and only authorizes marketing in that Member State’s national territory and not in the EEA as a whole.
The Centralized Procedure is mandatory for certain types of products, such as biotechnology medicinal products, orphan medicinal products and medicinal products containing a new active substance indicated for the treatment of AIDS, cancer, neurodegenerative disorders, diabetes, auto-immune and viral diseases. The Centralized Procedure is optional for products containing a new active substance not yet authorized in the EEA, or for products that constitute a significant therapeutic, scientific or technical innovation or which are in the interest of public health in the European Union. The National MA is for products not falling within the mandatory scope of the Centralized Procedure. Where a product has already been authorized for marketing in a Member State of the EEA, this National MA can be recognized in another Member State through the Mutual Recognition Procedure. If the product has not received a National MA in any Member State at the time of application, it can be approved simultaneously in various Member States through the Decentralized Procedure. Under the Decentralized Procedure an identical dossier is submitted to the competent authorities of each of the Member States in which the MA is sought, one of which is selected by the applicant as the Reference Member State (“RMS”). If the RMS proposes to authorize the product, and the other Member States do not raise objections, the product is granted a national MA in all the Member States where the authorization was sought. Before granting the MA, the EMA or the competent authorities of the Member States of the EEA make an assessment of the risk-benefit balance of the product on the basis of scientific criteria concerning its quality, safety and efficacy. A third alternative system is mutual recognition in which member states “mutually recognize” an authorization already granted in another member state, which shortens the application process.
The EMA is responsible for the validation and scientific evaluation of the application but the European Commission will decide upon our application. The EMA's CHMP will carry out a scientific assessment of the application and will give a recommendation on whether the medicine should be authorized or not. A favorable opinion is accompanied by a draft summary of the product's characteristics, the package leaflet and the proposed text for the packaging.
The time limit for the evaluation procedure is 210 days, subject to extensions if additional questions need to be addressed. Within 15 days of the adoption, the EMA will forward its opinion to the European Commission to start the decision-making phase. Within 15 days a draft implementing decision is sent by the Commission to the Standing Committee on Medicinal Products for Human Use, allowing for its scrutiny by E.U. countries. These have 15 days to return their linguistic comments, and 22 days for substantial ones. Once a favorable opinion is reached, the draft decision is adopted via an empowerment procedure. The adoption of the decision should take place within 67 days of the opinion of the EMA. The Commission's Secretariat-General then notifies the marketing authorisation holder of the decision. The decision is subsequently published in the Community Register. In practice, the procedure is expected to take at least one year.
Marketing authorisations are initially valid for five years. Applications for renewal must be made to the EMA at least six months before this five-year period expires. Marketing authorisations lapse if the authorized products are not placed on the market for a period of 3 consecutive years.
In November 2019, we received a Centralised MA for Rhokiinsa®, and in January 2021, we received a Centralised MA for Roclanda®. We will complete a further administrative step to have the Roclanda® authorisation accepted in the United Kingdom, subject to the agreement of the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Authority (“MHRA”).
Files Required for Obtaining an E.U. Marketing Authorisation
Similar to the United States, applications for MAs in the European Union must be supported by an extensive dossier that shows the product candidate has the required quality, efficacy and safety suitable for the intended use, and additional administrative documents. The content and format of the dossier must follow the so-called Common Technical Document (“CTD”) format. Amongst other things, the applicant must submit all relevant data from pharmaceutical, pre-clinical and clinical trials, and all relevant information as regards the composition, quality and manufacturing process of the product. These requirements are laid down in applicable E.U. legislation and very detailed EMA guidelines.
In the course of the MAA process, an inspection of the veracity and the compliance of the clinical trials that form the basis of the MAA may be conducted by E.U. inspectors. If it turns out that a clinical trial does not meet GCP and other applicable regulatory standards, it may not serve as a basis for proving efficacy and safety of the product at issue.
Also, the manufacturing sites for the active ingredients of the product candidate may be inspected by the European Union in order to establish that the manufacturing indeed complies with cGMP standards.
Applicants are responsible for ensuring the safety profile of their medicine is adequately characterized at the time of submitting their MAA. Applicants are required to submit a risk management plan as part of their MAA. Risk management plans describe
existing knowledge on the safety of a medicine and future pharmacovigilance activities designed to further study or monitor the product's safety. Part of that plan will be that a qualified person responsible for pharmacovigilance is being retained.
Post-approval Obligations of an MA Holder in the European Union
Even after approval of a product candidate by the EC, an MA holder will face various ongoing actions and obligations and must ensure that it has a suitable organization in place that is able to meet these obligations.
Reportable suspected adverse events must be reported to competent authorities via EudraVigilance, a centralized European information system of suspected adverse reactions to medicines. EudraVigilance will re-route the case safety reports to E.U. member states. The EMA will make the reports of individual cases of suspected adverse reactions also available to the WHO Uppsala Monitoring Centre. Patients and healthcare professionals will continue to report adverse reactions to national competent authorities.
For public health reasons, the EMA may require the MA holder to provide additional data post-authorization, as necessary to provide additional data about the safety and, in certain cases, the efficacy or quality of authorized medicinal products.
The EMA is responsible for harmonizing and coordinating pharmacovigilance inspections at E.U. level, which involves, among others:
•Preparing a risk-based program of routine pharmacovigilance inspections in relation to centrally authorised products.
•Preparing and developing guidance on pharmacovigilance inspections.
•Coordinating advice on the interpretation of pharmacovigilance requirements and related technical issues.
National competent authorities are responsible for coordinating inspections to verify compliance with cGMP, GCP, good laboratory practice and good pharmacovigilance practice within their own territories, and any other aspects of the supervision of authorized medicinal products, subject to laws and guidance provided by the EMA. Where a manufacturing site outside the European Union supplies product in more than one E.U. country, the EMA facilitates cooperation between those concerned competent authorities.
Member States and the Commission must inform other member states, the EMA and the Commission if concerns result from the evaluation of data from pharmacovigilance activities. This may result in the suspension or revocation of the marketing authorisation.
Member states have systems in place which aim at preventing dangerous medicinal products from reaching the patient and cover the receipt and handling of notifications of suspected falsified medicines or quality defects. Rapid alerts must be sent to all member states and a recall may be initiated if such medicines have already reached patients.
An MA holder must:
•Continuously operate a pharmacovigilance system, part of which requires a permanently and continuously available appropriately qualified person responsible for pharmacovigilance.
•Establish a risk management system, take account of scientific and technical progress and adapt accordingly, and continuously provide the competent authorities with information which might involve amendment of its marketing authorisation.
•Inform the competent authorities of positive and negative results in clinical trials or studies and any defects, and on request have at its disposal details regarding, for example, the volume of sales.
•Ensure that a package information leaflet is made available on request from patients' organizations, in formats appropriate for the blind and partially-sighted.
•Inform the EMA of changes related to the placement of the medicinal product on the market, for example withdrawal or suspension.
Data Exclusivity and Similar Protection in the European Union
An innovator company enjoys a period of “data exclusivity” during which its preclinical and clinical trials data may not be referenced in the regulatory filings of another company (typically a generic company) for the same drug substance.
The period of data exclusivity in Europe has been harmonized as eight years from the date of first authorization in Europe. There is an additional period of two years of “market exclusivity”. This is the period of time during which a generic company may not market an equivalent generic version of the originator's pharmaceutical product (although their application for authorization may be processed during this period, such that they are in a position to market their product on the expiry of this additional two-year period).
After that ten-year period, generic companies can market their “essentially similar” products by referencing the innovator’s data, unless the innovator product qualifies for a further one year of exclusivity. This additional one year may be obtained if the innovator company is granted an MA for a significant new indication for the relevant medicinal product within the first eight years of its marketing. In such a situation, the generic companies can only market their copy products after 11 years from the grant of the innovator company's initial MA.
Separately, the innovator company may be eligible to receive a Supplementary Protection Certificate (“SPC”). This is an intellectual property right that serves as an extension to a patent right within the scope of the marketing authorisation, comparable to a PTE in the United States. SPCs aim to offset the loss of patent protection for pharmaceutical products that occurs due to the compulsory lengthy testing and clinical trials these products require prior to obtaining regulatory marketing approval.
An SPC can extend an eligible patent right for a maximum of five years. An additional six-month extension is available in accordance with Regulation (EC) No 1901/2006 if the SPC relates to a medicinal product for children for which data has been submitted according to a PIP, as outlined above.
Manufacture of pharmaceuticals in the European Union
As a manufacturer of pharmaceutical products in the European Union, we are subject to extensive E.U. and national legislation that intends to ensure that only safe products will come into circulation. As a manufacturer, we have to comply with GMP.
Current GMP describes the minimum standard that medicines manufacturers must meet in their production processes. The EMA coordinates inspections to verify compliance with these standards and plays a key role in harmonizing GMP activities at E.U. level. GMP requires that medicines:
•are of consistent high quality;
•are appropriate for their intended use;
•meet the requirements of the marketing authorisation or clinical trial authorization.
GMP in the European Union is based on several E.U. regulations and directives, as well as on extensive EMA guidance. These GMP guidelines provide interpretation of GMP principles and guidelines, supplemented by a series of annexes that modify or augment the detailed guidelines for certain types of product, or provide more specific guidance on a particular topic.
Manufacturers and importers located in the European Union must hold an authorization issued by the national competent authority of the Member State where they carry out these activities. They must show that they comply with E.U. GMP to obtain a manufacturing authorisation.
In the European Union, national competent authorities are responsible for inspecting manufacturing sites located within their own territories. Competent authorities plan routine inspections following a risk-based approach, or if there is suspicion of non-compliance. After inspecting a manufacturing site, E.U. competent authorities issue a GMP certificate or a non-compliance statement, which is entered in a publicly available database (EudraGMDP).
Reimbursement in the European Union
The European Union does not have a centralized healthcare system. Healthcare is provided through very different systems at the national level. Most E.U. citizens have government-sponsored healthcare coverage. Constant budgeting pressures and the jurisdictional divide may lead to delayed or restricted patient access. Generally, the reimbursement prices must be negotiated with national healthcare carriers on a state-by-state process. Therefore, the receipt of a marketing authorisation will not be equivalent to full market access in all E.U. member states. Reimbursement prices may depend on the level of innovation and improvement of patient care that the product brings about, as evaluated, e.g., by public bodies like the Institute for Quality and Efficiency in Health Care (“IQWiG”) in Germany. It may take one to two years from the issuance of a marketing authorisation before market access in all E.U. member states with full reimbursement is achieved, if at all.
E.U. and national laws impose a number of restrictions on pricing. Directive 89/105/EEC relating to the transparency of measures regulating the prices of medicinal products (“Transparency Directive”) aims to ensure the transparency of national pricing and reimbursement. It sets procedural requirements to help monitor national decisions and their compatibility with pharmaceutical trade in the E.U. internal market. For example, member states must ensure that decisions on prices are made within a certain timeframe and communicated to the applicant with a statement of reason based on objective and verifiable criteria. Member states must also ensure that such decisions are open to an administrative law process for review.
Another important restriction on pricing is Article 102 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (“TFEU”), which prohibits dominant pharmaceutical companies from abusing this dominance in their relevant markets.
E.U. Privacy Laws
The GDPR came into effect in the European Union on May 25, 2018 and has changed the way that personal data can be held and processed. Non-compliance can lead to substantial fines, amounting to up to 4% of annual global revenue or €20 million, whichever is greater.
The GDPR expands and formalizes many rights that existed under former laws. It also requires that organizations inventory their data and document the legal basis for processing personal information. Further, the GDPR provides E.U. data subjects with rights they may exercise in connection with their data such as the “right to be forgotten” and to access to their data.
Generally, personal data of third parties must only be held and used by a company (the “Data Controller”) when covered by an informed consent of the person concerned, or by a legitimate and vital interest, as defined in the GDPR. Any consent must be informed, freely given and specific, and, if applicable, also include the right to transfer personal data to a country outside of the European Union. The Data Controller is responsible for GDPR compliance, but can outsource certain tasks to third parties, so-called “Data Processors”. Affected third parties must be informed in some detail on the storage and use of their data, e.g. as clinical trial subjects, or as prescribers, and have the right to deny their consent.
It is important for companies to ensure they have a nominated data protection officer. They must also brief and train their staff, so they are aware and aligned. Companies should keep records of their approach to GDPR and how they have prepared for it. Preparation should also extend to a response in the event of an access request or complaint from a data subject, or with regards to a GDPR breach.
United Kingdom Drug Review and Approval
In the United Kingdom, the drug approval process is currently very similar to the process in the European Union. The United Kingdom is made up of Great Britain (England, Scotland and Wales) and Northern Ireland. Due to the Northern Ireland Protocol, agreed with the European Union to protect the integrity of trade in the island of Ireland, Northern Ireland is to remain in the E.U. regulatory system for drugs.
The United Kingdom is currently considering how it might develop its regulatory processes since the United Kingdom left the European Union on January 31, 2020 (“Brexit”), with a transition period that ended on December 31, 2020. The MHRA has issued guidance to the effect that products having an E.U. Centralised MA as of the U.K. withdrawal date, i.e. on January 31, 2020, will be grandfathered in the United Kingdom. To this effect and subject to the completion of an administrative process, such E.U. Centralised MAs will be converted by the MHRA into a national U.K. product license. Therefore, we expect Rhokiinsa® will continue to be authorised in the United Kingdom as long as we provide the MHRA with the required additional information.
For products without Centralised MAs as of January 31, 2020, the option in the United Kingdom is to apply for one of three types of National MAs: the United Kingdom as a whole, Great Britain or Northern Ireland. New centralised applications in the European Union are to be notified to the MHRA together with the timetable and a dossier submitted (because the MHRA does not have access to the E.U. regulatory systems). These applications might until December 31, 2022 be used for a procedurally simplified application for a Great Britain MA through what is known as the EC Decision Reliance Procedure. Because the Centralised MA for Roclanda® was received after December 31, 2020, it is subject to this process. The MHRA will review the EMA decision and have the option to reject the application, although the MHRA is not likely to reject many such applications.
The MHRA is obliged under this procedure to make a decision (positive or negative) within 67 days. Alternatively, a separate application might be made to the MHRA for a Great Britain National MA. Similarly, where the mutual recognition or decentralised process is used in the European Union for applications for national marketing authorisations, there is an option in the United Kingdom to apply under a different reliance procedure, which again requires the MHRA to take a decision within 67
days. Alternatively, the application in the United Kingdom (or Great Britain) can be made separately from the one in Europe. There are then two options for Northern Ireland – including it either in a European mutual recognition or decentralised application process or as part of a U.K. national application. The assessment made by the United Kingdom is on the same bases as in the European Union, focusing on quality, safety and efficacy.
Reimbursement in the United Kingdom
Reimbursement in the United Kingdom is determined for new medicinal products by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (“NICE”). NICE reviews health economic data and, in particular, efficacy data in the target population and the cost/ benefit in qualified life years (“QUALY”). If the process runs smoothly there is a 245-day timetable to final decision, although the process can take longer, particularly if there are any appeals. NICE determines whether drug products are recommended for use in the National Health Service (“NHS”) and for which indications and price that the NHS might pay for the product.
The United Kingdom, although no longer covered by GDPR, has included the same rules within its separate national laws.
Right of Reference
In Japan, clinical trial data collected for obtaining an approval in foreign countries can be used for obtaining an approval for a drug in accordance with the requirements stipulated in the notification by Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare (the “MHLW”). The collection of such clinical data and drafting of the submission must meet the requirements under the normal Japanese regulations (Article 43 of the Enforcement Regulations of Pharmaceuticals and Medical Devices Law). The clinical trial data are required to include (i) pharmacodynamics, dose response, efficacy and safety in the foreign countries, (ii) clinical test data clearly exhibiting dose response, efficacy and safety (planned and performed in accordance with Japan rules, such as the Ministerial Ordinance on Good Clinical Practice for Drugs, and GCP; well-managed and using proper test controls; and using proper endpoints, and (iii) pharmacodynamics characteristic in the Japanese population. Further, the MHLW usually requests that a company submit bridging data from testing that is performed in Japan so that the clinical test data in foreign countries are demonstrated to be able to be generalized to the Japanese population. Generally, when the bridging data demonstrate that the dose response, efficacy and safety in Japan are similar to those in the foreign countries, the MHLW recognizes that the test results in the foreign countries can be generalized to the Japanese population. When the dose of the Japanese population in the bridging data is different from that of the test in the foreign countries, the MHLW will request that a company submit pharmacodynamics test results. When the number of samples in the bridging study or studies is limited, the MHLW will request that a company further submit test data demonstrating safety. When the bridging data cannot demonstrate efficacy and safety, the MHLW will request that a company submit clinical test results for the Japanese population.
In practice, there are three basic ways for a non-Japanese company to obtain approval for pharmaceuticals manufactured overseas:
•Option 1—establish a Japanese corporation that obtains the necessary approvals and licenses. This provides the most durable presence in Japan. It also entails high initial time and expense (including hiring staff) and must be done in compliance with the provisions of the Pharmaceuticals and Medical Devices Law.
•Option 2—designate an existing Japanese company to obtain the necessary approvals and licenses. The manufacturing/sales approval for the drug will be registered in the Japanese company's name. This can raise potential problems if the overseas company does not strictly control the Japanese approval holder.
•Option 3—use the designated marketing approval holder (“DMAH”) system under Article 19-2 of the Pharmaceuticals and Medical Devices Law and select a Japanese company approved by the MHLW to act as a DMAH. This option provides several benefits, including the manufacturing/sales approval being held directly by the non-Japanese company. In addition, the costs for obtaining/maintaining drug approval are lower than in the first two options. Since the approval is under the non-Japanese company's name, there are fewer concerns about the Japanese company acting on its own. If there are problems with the DMAH, the non-Japanese company can designate another company as the DMAH. Compared with the first option, the costs for a DMAH are lower, since there is no need to establish a new company. DMAHs are authorized by the MHLW, licensed for manufacture/sales of pharmaceuticals and provide full support in the drug approval process.
Japan Privacy Laws
Japan has regulatory provisions for privacy protection for personal information, including of patients in clinical trials. Most importantly, the Act on the Protection of Personal Information covers the protection of personal information. Personal information as used in the Act means information about a living individual that can identify the specific individual by name, date of birth or other description contained in such information (including such information as will allow easy reference to other information and will thereby enable the identification of the specific individual).
Pharmaceutical companies in Japan typically adopt their own internal privacy policies based on this law. The requirements tend to be general and leave a good deal of discretion to individual companies, but typically pharmaceutical companies establish policies covering appropriate safeguarding of personal information, prior consent for disclosure, and protection of personal data from leaks or other unauthorized access or disclosure.
The Clinical Research Act establishing clinical research guidelines, similarly, requires persons conducting clinical studies to obtain informed consent of participants and protect participants’ personal data.
In addition to regulations in the United States, the European Union, Japan, and potentially the United Kingdom, we will be subject to a variety of regulations in other jurisdictions governing, among other things, clinical trials and any commercial sales and distribution of our potential products. Whether or not we obtain FDA approval of a product, we must obtain the requisite approvals from regulatory authorities in foreign countries prior to the commencement of clinical trials or marketing of the product in those countries. The approval process varies from country to country and the time may be longer or shorter than that required to obtain FDA approval. In addition, the requirements governing the conduct of clinical trials, commercial sales, product licensing, pricing and reimbursement vary greatly from country to country.
We are also subject to numerous federal, state and local laws relating to such matters as safe working conditions, manufacturing practices, environmental protection, fire hazard control and disposal of hazardous or potentially hazardous substances. In addition, our international operations and relationships with partners, collaborators, contract research organizations, vendors and other agents are subject to anti-corruption and anti-bribery laws and regulations, including the U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (“FCPA”), which prohibits U.S. companies and their representatives from engaging in bribery or other prohibited payments to foreign officials for the purpose of obtaining or retaining business. Failure to comply with the FCPA, or similar applicable laws and regulations in other countries, could expose us and our personnel to civil and criminal sanctions. We may incur significant costs to comply with such laws and regulations now or in the future.
Environmental, Social and Governance (“ESG”) and Human Capital
We are dedicated to the principles of environmental stewardship, social responsibility, and good corporate governance. We consider these ESG principles to be among our most important values and therefore integrate them in our ongoing and strategic activities. We believe incorporating these values and practices into our operations not only improves our performance but also creates a sustainable and growth-oriented culture that benefits our employees, our customers and our investors. Our Nominating and Governance Committee of the Board of Directors regularly reviews our operations with senior management to assess our progress in realizing these values. With our Board of Directors’ leadership, we continue to evaluate our practices and will continue to integrate sustainability into our business.
We recognize our responsibility to be environmentally conscious and to contribute to the global effort of tackling climate change, moving toward a low-carbon economy and expanding our renewable energy production. We employ green processes, materials, practices, equipment and technologies where possible throughout our operations to foster conservation and reduce waste.
Renewable energy is an important part of our commitment to sustainability and we are operating our manufacturing facilities using renewable energy through renewable sources. At our manufacturing facility in Durham, North Carolina, we source our energy from Duke Energy, a leader in renewable energy, including solar and wind, and Duke Energy is adding additional renewable solutions such as microgrids and battery storage. At our Athlone manufacturing plant in Ireland we receive 100% of our electricity from renewable sources and the electric supply is 100% carbon neutral.
We minimize energy consumption using various power-saving technologies designed to consume electrical power only when needed. The majority of our office space in the U.S. is Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (“LEED”) Certified, and both our manufacturing plant in Athlone, Ireland, and our implant manufacturing facility in Durham, North Carolina, were built from end-to-end with sustainability and good manufacturing practices in mind. We have also instituted environmentally conscious programs into the work environment for our employees by implementing recycling and composting programs, offering water dispensers to reduce plastic bottle waste, and providing electric automobile charging stations in our employee parking areas, as examples. In 2020, we recycled 63% of the non-hazardous waste produced at our Athlone manufacturing plant. Through these programs and continuous improvement, we strive to reduce our waste while maximizing the proportion that may be recycled. Looking to the future, we plan to continue to further enhance our sustainability posture through detailed monitoring and management.
From a social responsibility perspective, although we have not yet attained profitability as a company, we have donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to causes that we believe are important to society. These donations were directed to support glaucoma research and glaucoma patient education through ongoing collaborations with the Glaucoma Research Foundation, help fund free cataract surgery for 750 indigent patients in the United States over the past three years through a continuing match program with the American Society of Cataract Refractive Surgery Foundation and promote the empowerment of women in ophthalmology as a lead sponsor of Women in Ophthalmology. In addition, these donations were also directed to accelerate treatments and cures for retinal diseases for the next generation through the Foundation Fighting Blindness and expand opportunities for ophthalmology residents from groups that are underrepresented in medicine or who want to work in underserved communities through support of the National Medical Association’s Rabb-Venable Excellence in Ophthalmology Research Program. We have also made other donations as well as supported causes of interest to areas beyond our immediate scope in eye care, such as a long-standing relationship with Northside Center for Child Development (“NCCD”) and their work with New York City children in need. Our Chief Financial Officer, currently President of the Board of NCCD, has served as a Director since 2009. NCCD has become a pioneer of behavioral health programs for low-income children of color and their families located in Harlem, Brooklyn and the Bronx, New York.
We also strive to be socially conscious in our employment practices. We support diversity in our hiring practices and follow a management philosophy that integrates social responsibility and the highest governance standards. We established an Affirmative Action Plan in 2018 as an Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs compliance requirement. We are committed to make a good faith effort to improve the incumbency of targeted areas over time when the opportunity is available. All managers are trained in Equal Employment Opportunity compliant recruiting and interviewing practices. See “Human Capital—Diversity and Inclusion” below.
Our Audit Committee of the Board of Directors has consistently received very high ratings for independence and competency, and our most recent stockholder vote on executive compensation practices received nearly 95% support. As we continue to build our company, we will continue to keep the environment, our social responsibility and governance considerations at top of mind.
In order to successfully attract and retain highly professional and skilled employees, it is crucial that we offer a diverse, inclusive and safe workplace. Our recruitment process begins with hiring individuals that we believe meet our strong culture for respect, commitment, integrity and honesty. We have a philosophy of investing in our employees by providing the necessary resources to grow professionally through our training and development programs, which will ultimately help drive company success. We reward our employees by offering a competitive compensation and benefits package, which includes incentive-based awards, which we believe motivates our employees and drives company performance. We also seek to engage and give back to the community through donations and fundraising for organizations providing help for those with glaucoma, as discussed in “—ESG” above.
As of December 31, 2020, we employed approximately 365 full-time employees, of which 299 were employed in the United States and 66 were outside the United States. The majority of our employees outside of the United States primarily support our manufacturing operations in Athlone, Ireland. Of our total employee population, there were 145 sales force and marketing employees, 111 in research and development and medical affairs, 56 in product manufacturing and 53 in general and administrative support roles such as human resources, finance, legal and information technology. We are committed to providing our employees with a positive work environment that helps them realize their full potential and helps them contribute to the success of our company. None of our employees are represented by any collective bargaining unit. We believe that we maintain good relations with our employees.
Diversity and Inclusion
We have a strong commitment to continue to build a diverse and inclusive work environment that fosters a positive culture. We believe our diverse workforce brings a wide array of skills and experiences that help increase innovation and strategic thinking and ultimately contribute to the success of our company.
Our hiring practices reflect our commitment to increase diversity and inclusion among our employees. We strive to achieve and maintain pay equity for employees of all races and for both female and male employees within our organization. From a governance perspective, our Compensation Committee of the Board of Directors provides oversight of our policies, programs and initiatives focusing on workforce diversity and inclusion. Approximately a third of our employees in the United States identify as a racial or ethnic minority, with the percentage of minority employees in management reflecting the broader employee population in the United States. The female to male ratio for our total employee population is approximately 50:50.
Talent and Development
The success of our company is highly dependent on the performance, skills and industry knowledge of our employees. A significant proportion of our employee base is comprised of professionals who have had prior experience with pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies. In order to attract and retain such highly qualified talent, we invest significant resources to further develop our employees and provide opportunities that help them achieve career goals and lead our organization.
We maintain a robust training curriculum for all our employees and executives based on function. These curricula incorporate training addressing specific regulatory requirements germane to the performance of specific functions. The training for our scientific and quality personnel, for example, includes modules focusing on our good manufacturing and laboratory practices as well as proper documentation and reporting. In addition to specific function-based training, all of our employees are required to regularly train on our Code of Business Conduct and Ethics (the “Code”), receive cyber security training and receive harassment training. We believe a well-trained employee base is the best way to ensure proper business operations and to best ensure the establishment of a collaborative and supportive corporate culture.
For example, in keeping with our commitment to the highest standards of honest and ethical behavior and integrity in carrying out our business activities, all of our employees who interact with health care professionals on behalf of our company are required to be trained in, and knowledgeable of, not only our Code but also our Healthcare Compliance Manual (the “HCM”). The HCM is a compendium of our standards intended to not only help ensure continued compliance with the prevailing laws, regulations and standards of our industry, but also to provide a framework for our expectations for employee behavior, operational excellence and risk mitigation to help us achieve our broader organizational goals of discovering and delivering new technologies and safe and efficacious therapies to those in medical need. The HCM builds on the Code and governs how our employees engage with the healthcare community when conducting promotional activities and scientific exchanges as well as financial interactions. All such employees or those in areas who support those activities are required to follow these policies.
Health and Safety
We are dedicated to creating and maintaining a work environment where are our employees feel safe to carry on their responsibilities. We regularly review health and safety legislation to ensure compliance with current standards, we identify and monitor potential health and safety hazards, we coordinate emergency and fire drills and we train our employees to avoid or minimize any potential risks within the workplace. The health and safety of our employees, patients, prescribers and community are of utmost importance during this time and we are complying with all requirements and mandates from various agencies and governments. We value the patient volunteers who participate in clinical trials and we are committed to protecting their rights and well-being. As such, we have policies and procedures in place to ensure our clinical trial practices comply with laws and regulations in all countries in which we operate clinical trials and meet our high ethical standards. We also have protocols in place to obtain informed consent from patients participating in our clinical trials.
In our research and manufacturing facilities, we maintain a safety culture and seek to eliminate workplace incidents and minimize risks and hazards. We have created and implemented processes to help eliminate safety events by reducing their frequency and severity. These programs include an Illness and Injury Prevention Program and a Safety Committee. We also review and monitor our performance closely. We monitor and constantly seek to reduce safety incidents each year. Through our efforts, we had a recordable incident rate of 1.3 (recordable incidents per 100 employees, as defined by the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration, “OSHA”) at our Athlone manufacturing plant in 2020. This compares to an OSHA incident rate of 1.6 for the U.S. pharmaceutical and medicine manufacturing industry in 2019.
In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, we are taking precautionary measures to protect our employees and our stakeholders by adapting company policy to maintain the continuity of our business. We have adapted our facilities and work practices and implemented all necessary safety controls in line with government health policy guidelines. We have formed interdisciplinary
teams to (i) focus on company-wide communication about the COVID-19 pandemic, including initiatives implemented to address the COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on our business and (ii) discuss, recommend and supervise the implementation of physical measures at our sites to best ensure employee safety. For example, to further support our employees at the Athlone manufacturing plant, we rolled out a Wellbeing Program to boost communication, engagement and wellness initiatives. With precautionary measures implemented company-wide, we continue to operate effectively as most of our manufacturing plant personnel are working on site and the balance of our total workforce is primarily working from home. Especially important in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, we provide all of our employees with excellent healthcare benefits and we make every effort to provide high levels of coverage at the most affordable cost possible.
Compensation and Benefits
To compete in a highly competitive job market and attract, retain and reward outstanding talent, we offer our employees a comprehensive compensation package which includes competitive salaries and benefit programs. Our well-designed compensation package includes salaries, annual bonuses, equity compensation, 401(k) plan with 401(k) plan match, premium health and dental insurance, life insurance, short-term and long-term disability insurance and workers’ compensation insurance. In addition, our generous time off policy includes paid time off, paid sick leave, holidays, personal leave of absence, military leave and family medical leave.
Our equity compensation plans, pursuant to which we may grant stock options, restricted stock and equity-based awards, are designed to align employees’ interests with our stockholders’ interests and motivate effective performance which drives company success. We also adopted an Employee Stock Purchase Plan under which substantially all employees may purchase Aerie common stock through payroll deductions and lump sum contributions at a price equal to 85% of the lower of the fair market value of the stock as of the beginning or end of the offering periods.
Corporate and Available Information
Our principal executive offices are located at 4301 Emperor Boulevard, Suite 400, Durham, North Carolina 27703 and our telephone number is (919) 237-5300. We were incorporated in Delaware in June 2005. Our internet address is www.aeriepharma.com. We make available on our website, free of charge, our Annual Report on Form 10-K, Quarterly Reports on Form 10-Q, Current Reports on Form 8-K and any amendments to those reports filed or furnished pursuant to Section 13(a) or 15(d) of the Exchange Act as soon as reasonably practicable after we electronically file such material with, or furnish it to, the SEC. Our SEC reports can be accessed through the Investors section of our website. The SEC maintains a website that contains reports, proxy and information statements and other information regarding our filings at http://www.sec.gov. The information found on our website is not incorporated by reference into this report or any other report we file with or furnish to the SEC.
ITEM 1A. RISK FACTORS
We operate in an industry that involves numerous risks and uncertainties. The risks and uncertainties described below are not the only ones we face. Other risks and uncertainties, including those that we do not currently consider material, may impair our business. If any of the risks discussed below actually occur, our business, financial condition, operating results or cash flows could be materially adversely affected. This could cause the trading price of our common stock to decline.
Risks Factors Summary
The following is a summary of the principal factors that make an investment in our common stock speculative or risky.
Risks Related to Development and Commercialization
•If we or our collaborators are unable to successfully commercialize our products, or experience significant delays in doing so, our business will be materially harmed.
•If we fail to obtain and sustain market acceptance for our products or an adequate level of coverage and reimbursement for our products, potential future sales would be materially adversely affected.
•We face significant competition, and our operating results will suffer if we fail to compete effectively.
•If clinical trials are unsuccessful, we could be required to abandon development.
•We may not be able to identify additional therapeutic opportunities for our products or to expand our portfolio of product candidates.
•Our products may have undesirable or adverse effects, which may result in the delay, denial or withdrawal of regulatory approval or may limit sales of our products after regulatory approval is received.
Risks Related to Regulation
•Regulatory approval may be substantially delayed or may not be obtained for our products if regulatory authorities require additional time or studies to assess the safety and efficacy.
•Our products subject us to ongoing regulatory requirements and we may face future development, manufacturing and regulatory difficulties.
•Legislation may increase the difficulty and cost of commercialization and affect the prices we may obtain.
•If we face allegations of noncompliance with the law or regulations, our reputation, revenues and liquidity may suffer, and our products could be subject to restrictions or withdrawal from the market. If we or our collaborators are unable to successfully commercialize our products, or experience significant delays in doing so, our business will be materially harmed.
Risks Related to Manufacturing
•We anticipate continued reliance on third-party manufacturers. Production at our suppliers’ facilities could be disrupted, which could prevent us from producing enough of our products to satisfy demand.
Risks Related to Our Reliance on Third Parties
•Any collaboration arrangement that we may enter into may not be successful, which could adversely affect our ability to develop and commercialize our products or to enter new therapeutic areas.
•We currently depend on third parties for portions of our operations, and we may not be able to control their work as effectively as if we performed these functions ourselves. If the third parties fail to comply with regulations, our financial results and financial condition will be adversely affected.
•If we fail to manage an effective distribution process in the United States or establish an effective distribution process in jurisdictions outside the United States, our business may be adversely affected.
Risks Related to Intellectual Property
•If our pending patent applications fail to issue our business will be adversely affected.
•We may not be able to enforce and protect our intellectual property rights and our proprietary technology.
•We may infringe the intellectual property rights of others, which may prevent or delay product development and disrupt the commercialization of or increase the costs of commercializing our products.
•We may be unable to adequately prevent disclosure of trade secrets and other proprietary information.
•We will need to obtain regulatory approval of any proposed product names, and any failure or delay associated with such approval may adversely affect our business.
Risks Related to Our Financial Position and Need for Additional Capital
•We have limited revenue and may never become profitable.
•We may need to obtain additional financing to fund our operations and, if we are unable to obtain such financing, we may be unable to complete the development and commercialization of our products.
•Our indebtedness and liabilities could limit the cash flow available for our operations, expose us to risks that could adversely affect our business, financial condition and results of operations and impair our ability to satisfy our obligations under the Convertible Notes.
•We may be unable to raise the funds necessary to repurchase the Convertible Notes if required or to pay any cash amounts due upon conversion, and the terms of our then-existing borrowing arrangements may limit our ability to repurchase the Convertible Notes or pay cash upon their conversion.
•The capped call transactions may affect the value of our common stock and subject us to counterparty risk.
•We may sell additional debt or equity securities at any time, which may result in dilution to our stockholders, cause our stock price to fall and impose restrictions on our business.
•Our ability to use our net operating loss carryforwards may be limited and changes to U.S. tax laws and tax laws in other jurisdictions could materially impact our financial position and results of operations.
Risks Related to Our Business Operations and Industry
•We depend upon our key personnel and our ability to attract and retain employees. Our employees may engage in misconduct or other improper activities, including noncompliance with regulatory standards and requirements and insider trading, which could significantly harm our business.
•Our business may be negatively impacted by macroeconomic conditions, including a public health crisis.
•If we engage in acquisitions or licenses in the future, we will incur a variety of costs and we may never realize the anticipated benefits of such acquisitions or licenses.
•Business interruptions could delay the development of our potential products and our manufacturing activities, and could disrupt our potential sales. Our reputation, business and operations may suffer in the event of system failures, cyber-attacks or other security breaches or failure to comply with legal obligations related to information security.
•Our disclosure controls and procedures and our systems to implement such disclosure controls and procedures may not prevent or detect all errors or acts of fraud.
•Any litigation could result in substantial damages and may divert management’s time and attention from our business. Any successful litigation may result in the incurrence of substantial liability if our insurance is inadequate.
Risks Related to Ownership of Our Common Stock
•The market price of our common stock has been, and may continue to be, highly volatile.
•Certain of our existing stockholders, executive officers and directors own a significant percentage of our common stock and may be able to influence or control matters submitted to our stockholders for approval.
•As we do not intend to declare cash dividends on our common stock in the foreseeable future, stockholders must rely on appreciation of the value of our common stock for any return on their investment.
•Our charter documents and Delaware law could prevent a takeover that stockholders consider favorable and could also reduce the market price of our stock.
Risks Related to Development and Commercialization
We depend substantially on the success of our products, Rhopressa® and Rocklatan®. If we are unable to successfully commercialize Rhopressa® or Rocklatan®, or experience significant delays in doing so, our business will be materially harmed.
Our business and the ability to generate revenue related to product sales depend on the successful commercialization of our products, Rhopressa® and Rocklatan®, and the successful development, regulatory approval and commercialization of any product candidates or future product candidates for the treatment of patients with open-angle glaucoma, ocular surface diseases and retinal diseases. Rhopressa® and Rocklatan® have been approved by the FDA in the United States, and the EC has granted Centralised MAs for the European Union for Rhopressa® (where it will be marketed as Rhokiinsa®) and for Rocklatan® (where it will be marketed as Roclanda®). Roclanda® will undergo an administrative process to obtain authorization to market in the United Kingdom, but a positive decision is not guaranteed. Neither product has received regulatory approval in any other jurisdiction and no sales can be made in any such jurisdiction unless such approval occurs. Centralized marketing authorisations lapse if the authorized products are not placed on the market for a period of three consecutive years. If we are unable to place our products on the market for a period of three consecutive years, which might occur for a variety of reasons, both practical (manufacturing issues) and regulatory (pricing and reimbursement decisions), then we would lose the right and opportunity to do so and would have to reapply for a marketing authorisation. We have invested a significant portion of our efforts and financial resources in the development of Rhopressa® and Rocklatan®, and our prospects are highly dependent on, and a significant portion of the value of our company relates to, our ability to successfully commercialize these products. The success of Rhopressa®, Rocklatan® and any product candidates or future product candidates depends on factors including:
•successfully completing clinical trials;
•receiving and maintaining current regulatory approvals from applicable regulatory authorities;
•developing and maintaining effective sales, marketing and distribution capabilities;
•establishing adequate manufacturing capacity;
•obtaining and maintaining patent and trade secret protection and regulatory exclusivity;
•establishing commercial markets;
•obtaining coverage and reimbursement from third-party payers at a commercially reasonable price point; and
•successfully competing with other products.
If we do not achieve one or more of these factors in a timely manner or at all, we could experience significant delays or an inability to successfully commercialize Rhopressa®, Rocklatan® or any product candidates or future product candidates or to expand into new markets. This could materially harm our business, and we may not be able to earn sufficient revenues and cash flows to continue our operations.
The commercial success of Rhopressa® and Rocklatan® and any product candidates or future product candidates, if approved, will depend on the degree of market acceptance among eye-care professionals, patients, patient advocacy groups, healthcare payers and the medical community.
The commercial success of Rhopressa® and Rocklatan® in the United States will depend on the degree of market acceptance among eye-care professionals, patients, patient advocacy groups, healthcare payers, including pharmacy benefit managers, and the medical community. Similarly, if Rhopressa® and Rocklatan® are approved in jurisdictions outside the United States and the European Union or any product candidates or future product candidates are approved in any jurisdiction in which they may receive approval, those products may not gain such market acceptance in such jurisdictions. There are a number of available therapies marketed for the treatment of open-angle glaucoma, ocular surface diseases and retinal diseases. Some of these drugs are branded and subject to patent protection, but most others, including latanoprost and many beta blockers, in the case of glaucoma treatment, are available on a generic basis. Many of these approved drugs are well-established therapies and are widely accepted by eye-care professionals, patients and third-party payers. Insurers and other third-party payers may also encourage the use of generic products, either in preference to or prior to the use of brand therapies. The degree of market acceptance of Rhopressa® and Rocklatan® and any product candidates or future product candidates, if approved, will depend on a number of factors, including:
•the market price, affordability and patient out-of-pocket costs, relative to other available products, which are predominantly generics;
•the possibility that third-party payers will not give favorable positions on their formularies or will place restrictions on their use, including through use of step therapy or prior authorization programs;
•the timing of market introduction;
•their effectiveness as compared with currently available products;
•eye-care professional willingness to prescribe and patient willingness to adopt them in place of current therapies;
•varying patient characteristics including demographic factors such as age, health, race and economic status;
•changes in the standard of care for the targeted indications;
•the prevalence and severity of any adverse side effects;
•limitations or warnings contained in labeling;
•limitations in the approved clinical indications and MOA(s);
•our success in demonstrating their benefits including relative convenience and ease of initiation, prescription and administration;
•the strength of our selling, marketing and distribution capabilities;
•the quality of our relationships with eye-care professionals, patient advocacy groups, third-party payers and the medical community;
•the continuous availability of quality manufactured products;
•sufficient third-party coverage or reimbursement; and
•the degree to which the products are subject to material product liability claims.
As we have done with Rhopressa® and Rocklatan®, it is possible that we may find it necessary or desirable to provide rebates on product candidates or future product candidates, if approved, to customers or third-party payers or to implement patient assistance programs, including co-pay assistance programs, which could affect our profitability. In addition, we do not know how eye-care professionals, patients and third-party payers will continue to respond to the pricing of Rhopressa® and Rocklatan® in the United States or how they will respond to their pricing in jurisdictions outside the United States, or the pricing of any product candidates or future product candidates in any jurisdiction, if approved.
The market opportunities for our currently marketed or potential products, if approved, are difficult to precisely estimate. Our estimates of these market opportunities include several key assumptions based on our industry knowledge, industry publications, third-party research reports and other surveys. For example, the Mercury 3 results for Roclanda® are an important determinant as we evaluate the commercialization and profitability potential of Rhokiinsa® and Roclanda® in Europe. While we believe that our internal assumptions are reasonable, independent sources have not verified all of our assumptions. If any of these assumptions prove to be inaccurate and the actual market for any of our products post-regulatory approval is smaller than we expect or if we fail to maintain market acceptance or fail to achieve market acceptance, our potential product revenue may be limited, and it may be more difficult for us to achieve or maintain profitability.
If we fail to obtain and sustain an adequate level of coverage and reimbursement for Rhopressa® or Rocklatan® or any product candidates or future product candidates, if approved, by third-party payers, potential future sales would be materially adversely affected.
The course of treatment for patients with open-angle glaucoma, ocular surface diseases and retinal diseases includes primarily older drugs, and the leading products for the treatment of open-angle glaucoma, ocular surface diseases and retinal diseases currently in the market, including latanoprost and timolol, in the case of glaucoma treatment, are available as generic drugs. Therefore, there will be no commercially viable market for Rhopressa® or Rocklatan® or any product candidates or future product candidates, if approved, without adequate coverage and reimbursement from third-party payers, and any reimbursement policy may be affected by future healthcare reform measures. We have obtained formulary coverage for Rhopressa® and Rocklatan® for the majority of lives covered under commercial plans and Medicare Part D plans. We cannot be certain that those levels of coverage will continue to increase, or that we will be able to maintain those levels of coverage. Further, we cannot be certain that adequate coverage and reimbursement will be available for either of our products in jurisdictions outside the United States or for any product candidates or future product candidates, if approved. Additionally, even if there is a commercially viable market, if the level of coverage or reimbursement is below our expectations, our anticipated revenue and gross margins will be adversely affected.
Third-party payers, such as government or private healthcare insurers and pharmacy benefit managers, carefully review and increasingly question and challenge the coverage of and the prices charged for drugs. Reimbursement rates from private health insurance companies vary depending on the company, the insurance plan and other factors. Reimbursement rates may be based on reimbursement levels already set for lower cost drugs and may be incorporated into existing payments for other services. A current trend in the United States healthcare industry is toward cost containment. Large public and private payers, managed care organizations, group purchasing organizations and similar organizations are exerting increasing influence on decisions regarding the use of, and reimbursement levels for, particular treatments. Such third-party payers, including Medicare, may question the coverage of, and challenge the prices charged for, medical products and services, and many third-party payers limit coverage of or reimbursement for newly approved healthcare products. In particular, third-party payers may limit the covered indications. Cost-control initiatives in the U.S. healthcare industry could decrease the price we have established for Rhopressa®, Rocklatan® or any product candidates or future product candidates, if approved, which could result in product revenues being lower than anticipated. Our products are currently priced higher than existing generic drugs and consistently with current branded drugs. If we are unable to show a significant benefit relative to existing generic drugs, Medicare, Medicaid and private payers may not be willing to reimburse for Rhopressa® or Rocklatan® or any product candidates or future product candidates, if approved, which would significantly reduce the likelihood of them gaining market acceptance. Reimbursement systems in international markets vary significantly by country and by region, and reimbursement approvals must be obtained on a country-by-country basis. In some foreign markets, prescription pharmaceutical pricing remains subject to continuing governmental control even after initial approval is granted.
We believe that U.S. third-party payers consider the efficacy, cost effectiveness, safety and tolerability of Rhopressa® and Rocklatan® and will consider such factors of any product candidates or future product candidates, if approved, and whether use of any such products should be a covered benefit under its health plan in determining whether to approve coverage and reimbursement for such products and at what level. Obtaining these approvals can be a time consuming and expensive process. Our business would be materially adversely affected if we do not maintain approval for reimbursement of Rhopressa® or Rocklatan® or if we do not receive approval for reimbursement of any product candidates or future product candidates, if approved, from third-party payers on a timely or satisfactory basis or if pricing is set at unsatisfactory levels. Limitations on coverage could also be imposed at the local Medicare carrier level or by fiscal intermediaries. Medicare Part D, which provides a pharmacy benefit to Medicare patients as discussed below, does not require participating prescription drug plans to cover all drugs within a class of products. Our business could be materially adversely affected if Part D prescription drug plans were to limit access to or deny or limit reimbursement of any of our approved products.
Reimbursement in the European Union must be negotiated on a country-by-country basis and in many countries the product cannot be commercially launched until reimbursement is approved. Reimbursement in the United Kingdom will also need to be negotiated separately. The negotiation process in some countries can exceed 12 months. To obtain reimbursement or pricing approval in some countries, we or a collaborator may be required to conduct a clinical trial that compares the cost-effectiveness of any of our products, if approved by the appropriate regulatory authorities, to other available therapies. If the prices for any of our products, if approved by the appropriate regulatory authorities, decrease or if governmental and other third-party payers do not provide adequate coverage and reimbursement levels, our revenue, potential for future cash flows and prospects for profitability will suffer. Also, we or a collaborator may not be able to launch the product uniformly throughout the European Union but may have to commence commercial operations on a country-by-country basis, which could complicate the launching process and negatively affect our sales.
We face competition from established branded and generic pharmaceutical companies and if our competitors are able to develop and market products that are preferred over our products, our commercial opportunity will be reduced or eliminated.
The development and commercialization of new drug products is highly competitive. We face competition from established branded and generic pharmaceutical companies and smaller biotechnology and pharmaceutical companies, as well as from academic institutions, government agencies and private and public research institutions, which may in the future develop products to treat patients with open-angle glaucoma, dry eye, retinal diseases and other diseases of the eye. Our products currently compete directly against companies producing existing and future glaucoma treatment products. To the extent we develop proprietary compounds for use beyond glaucoma, we will face competition from companies, academic institutions, government agencies and private and public research institutions operating in such new therapeutic areas.
Many of our competitors have significantly greater financial resources and expertise in research and development, manufacturing, preclinical testing, conducting clinical trials, obtaining regulatory approvals and marketing approved products than we do. Early-stage companies are also developing treatments for open-angle glaucoma, ocular surface diseases and retinal diseases and may prove to be significant competitors. We expect that our competitors will continue to develop new treatments for open-angle glaucoma, ocular surface diseases and retinal diseases, which may include eye drops, oral treatments, surgical procedures, implantable devices or laser treatments. Alternative treatments beyond eye drops continue to develop. For example,
although surgical procedures are currently used in severe cases, less invasive procedures are currently under development and we expect that we will compete with other companies that develop implantable devices or other products or procedures for use in the treatment of open-angle glaucoma, ocular surface diseases and retinal diseases.
Early-stage companies may also compete through collaborative arrangements with large and established companies. Mergers and acquisitions in the pharmaceutical and biotechnology industries may result in even more resources being concentrated among a smaller number of our competitors. Our commercial opportunity will be reduced or eliminated if our competitors develop and commercialize products that are safer, more effective, have fewer adverse effects, are more convenient or are less expensive than any products that we may develop.
In addition, our ability to compete may be affected because in many cases insurers or other third-party payers encourage the use of generic products. Ophthalmology is currently dominated by generic drugs, such as latanoprost and timolol, in the case of glaucoma treatment, and additional products are expected to become available on a generic basis over the coming years. Our current products are priced at a premium over competitive generic products and consistent with other branded glaucoma drugs. Our ability to compete effectively will depend upon, among other things, our ability to:
•obtain and maintain patent protection and non-patent exclusivity in all current and potential commercial jurisdictions for our products;
•attract and retain key personnel;
•continue to build an effective selling and marketing infrastructure;
•demonstrate the advantages of our products compared to alternative therapies, including, in the case of Rhopressa® and Rocklatan®, other currently marketed PGA and non-PGA products;
•identify and develop additional product candidates to expand our current product portfolio;
•compete against other products with fewer contraindications; and
•obtain and sustain adequate coverage and reimbursement from third-party payers.
If our competitors market products that are more effective, safer, have fewer side effects or are less expensive than our products or that reach the market sooner than any of our product candidates or future product candidates, if approved, we may not achieve commercial success.
Failure can occur at any stage of clinical development. If the clinical trials are unsuccessful, we could be required to abandon development.
A failure of one or more clinical trials can occur at any stage of testing for a variety of reasons. The outcome of preclinical testing and early clinical trials may not be predictive of the outcome of later clinical trials, and interim results of a clinical trial do not necessarily predict final results. In addition, adverse events may occur or other risks may be discovered in Phase 3 registration trials that may cause us to suspend or terminate our clinical trials. In some instances, there can be significant variability in safety and/or efficacy results between different trials of the same product candidate due to numerous factors, including changes in or adherence to trial protocols, differences in size and type of the patient populations and the rates of dropout among clinical trial participants. Our future clinical trial results therefore may not demonstrate safety and efficacy sufficient to obtain regulatory approval for Rhopressa® and Rocklatan® in jurisdictions outside the United States or for any product candidates or future product candidates in any jurisdiction.
Flaws in the design of a clinical trial may not become apparent until the clinical trial is well-advanced or after data results have been obtained. We have limited experience in designing clinical trials and may be unable to design and execute clinical trials to support regulatory approval. In addition, clinical trials often reveal that it is not practical or feasible to continue development efforts.
We may voluntarily suspend or terminate our clinical trials if at any time we believe that they present an unacceptable risk to participants. Further, regulatory agencies, IRBs or data safety monitoring boards may at any time order the temporary or permanent discontinuation of our clinical trials or request that we cease using investigators in the clinical trials if they believe that the clinical trials are not being conducted in accordance with applicable regulatory requirements, or that they present an unacceptable safety risk to participants. Since our inception, we have not voluntarily or involuntarily suspended or terminated a clinical trial due to unacceptable safety risks to participants.
If the results of any of our clinical trials do not achieve the primary efficacy endpoints or demonstrate unexpected safety issues, the prospects for approval of our product candidates will be materially adversely affected. Moreover, preclinical and clinical
data are often susceptible to varying interpretations, analyses and entry criteria, and many companies that believed their product candidates performed satisfactorily in preclinical studies and clinical trials have failed to achieve similar results in later clinical trials, including longer term trials, or have failed to obtain regulatory approval of their product candidates. Many compounds that initially showed promise in clinical trials or earlier stage testing have later been found to cause undesirable or unexpected adverse effects that have prevented further development of the compound. Our ongoing clinical trials for regulatory approvals in jurisdictions outside the United States may not produce the results that we expect and remain subject to the risks associated with clinical drug development as indicated above.
The breadth of the labeling of any product or product candidate, if approved, will depend upon providing evidence of such product’s MOA(s) that is satisfactory to the applicable regulatory authority. Failure to do so will limit the types of claims we will be able to make in our product marketing and labeling. For example, based on the results of our preclinical and clinical studies, we believed Rhopressa® reduced IOP through additional MOAs; however, Rhopressa® received FDA approval for only one MOA, ROCK inhibition or the mechanism by which Rhopressa® increases outflow of aqueous humor through the TM of the eye, as reflected in the Rhopressa® product labeling.
We may experience numerous unforeseen events that could cause our clinical trials to be unsuccessful, delayed, suspended or terminated, or which could delay or prevent our ability to receive regulatory approval or commercialize our product candidates, including:
•clinical trials may produce negative or inconclusive results, and we may decide, or regulators may require us, to conduct additional clinical trials or implement a clinical hold;
•the number of patients required for clinical trials may be larger than we anticipate, enrollment in these clinical trials may be slower than we estimate or participants may drop out of these clinical trials at a higher rate than we anticipate;
•our third-party contractors may fail to comply with regulatory requirements or meet their contractual obligations to us in a timely manner, or at all;
•regulators or IRBs may not authorize us or our investigators to commence a clinical trial or conduct a clinical trial at a prospective trial site;
•we may have delays in reaching or fail to reach agreement on acceptable clinical trial contracts or clinical trial protocols with prospective trial sites;
•we may elect or be required to suspend or terminate clinical trials based on a finding that the participants are being exposed to health risks;
•the cost of clinical trials may be greater than we anticipate;
•the supply or quality of product candidates or other materials necessary to conduct clinical trials may be insufficient or inadequate; and
•product candidates may have undesirable adverse effects or other unexpected characteristics.
If we elect or are required to suspend or terminate a clinical trial, our commercial prospects will be adversely impacted and our ability to generate product revenues may be delayed or eliminated.
Rhopressa®, Rocklatan® or any product candidates or future product candidates may have undesirable or adverse effects, which may result in the delay, denial or withdrawal of regulatory approval or may require our products to be taken off the market, require them to include safety warnings or otherwise limit their sales after regulatory approval is received.
Unforeseen adverse effects from Rhopressa®, Rocklatan® or any product candidates or future product candidates could arise either during clinical development or, even after approval, after the approved product has been marketed. To date, the main tolerability finding of Rhopressa® has been mild conjunctival hyperemia, or eye redness. In our Phase 3 registration trials, some patients also experienced conjunctival hemorrhages, or petechiae, corneal verticillata, blurry vision, and decreased visual acuity as adverse events. Rocklatan® combines Rhopressa® with latanoprost. To date, the main tolerability finding of Rocklatan® has also been mild conjunctival hyperemia. In our Phase 3 registration trials, some patients also experienced conjunctival hemorrhage, eye pruritus, increased lacrimation, reduced visual acuity, blepharitis, punctate keratitis and corneal disorder as adverse events. The main adverse effects of latanoprost include conjunctival hyperemia, irreversible change in iris color, discoloration of the skin around the eyes and droopiness of eyelids caused by the loss of orbital fat. New data relating to Rhopressa® or Rocklatan®, including from any adverse event reports or any negative results during clinical development for additional indications, may emerge at any time.
Any undesirable or adverse effects that may be caused by any such products or product candidates could interrupt, delay or halt clinical trials and could result in the delay, denial or withdrawal of regulatory approval by the FDA or other regulatory authorities for any or all targeted indications, and in turn prevent us from successfully commercializing such products or product candidates, if approved, and generating or continuing to generate revenues from their sale. In addition, if we or others identify undesirable or adverse effects caused by Rhopressa®, Rocklatan® or any product candidates or future product candidates after regulatory approval we could face consequences relating to regulations, litigation or reputational harm, including the withdrawal of regulatory approval of the affected product. These events could prevent us from achieving or maintaining market acceptance of the affected product or could substantially increase the costs and expenses of commercializing such product, which in turn could delay or prevent us from generating or continuing to generate revenues from its sale.
We may not be able to identify additional therapeutic opportunities for Rhopressa®, Rocklatan® or any product candidates or future product candidates or to expand our portfolio of product candidates.
We continue to explore other therapeutic opportunities in ophthalmology through internal research programs and from time to time we may explore such opportunities through research collaboration arrangements or acquisitions and may seek to commercialize a portfolio of new ophthalmic drugs or technologies in addition to Rhopressa® and Rocklatan®. For example, in 2019, we acquired Avizorex, an ophthalmic pharmaceutical company developing therapeutics for the treatment of dry eye disease. Our clinical operations to date have been limited to developing product candidates for the treatment of glaucoma and ocular hypertension, and there can be no assurance that we will successfully develop, license or acquire any drugs or technologies in new therapeutic areas or at all.
Preclinical studies require additional research and development, which in some cases may include significant preclinical, clinical and other testing, prior to initiating clinical development or seeking regulatory approval to market new indications, technologies and/or product candidates. Accordingly, these additional indications, technologies and product candidates will not be commercially available for a number of years, if at all.
Research programs, including through collaboration arrangements, to pursue the development of Rhopressa®, Rocklatan® and any product candidates or future product candidates for additional indications and to identify new product candidates, technologies, therapeutic areas and disease targets require substantial technical, financial and human resources whether or not we ultimately are successful. Our research programs may initially show promise in identifying potential additional indications, technologies, therapeutic areas and/or product candidates, yet fail to yield results for clinical development for a number of reasons.
We are also focused on furthering the development of our product candidates and future product candidates for treatment of retinal diseases and dry eye disease. We have created a sustained-release ophthalmology platform and are currently developing three sustained-release implants focused on retinal diseases, AR-1105, AR-13503 SR and AR-14034 SR. We initiated a Phase 2 clinical trial of AR-1105 in patients with macular edema due to RVO during March 2019 and completed enrollment in October 2019. In July 2020, we reported topline results of the Phase 2 clinical trial for AR-1105 indicating sustained efficacy of up to six months, an important achievement in validating the potential capabilities of Aerie’s sustained release platform. With respect to future plans for AR-1105, we are currently evaluating next steps regarding clinical advancement into Phase 3 along with commercialization prospects in both Europe and the United States. We will be meeting with regulatory agencies in order to harmonize development plans across both Europe and the United States. For AR-13503 SR, we initiated a first-in-human clinical safety study in the third quarter of 2019 for the treatment of wet AMD and DME, which is currently ongoing. For preclinical AR-14034 SR, we anticipate filing an IND with the FDA in the second half of 2022 to evaluate its potential utility as a treatment for wet AMD and DME. We acquired Avizorex in 2019 and in October 2020, we initiated a Phase 2b clinical trial, named COMET-1, which is designed to test two concentrations of AR-15512. The decision whether to pursue, and the timing of, any additional preclinical research programs is subject to a number of factors and we may suspend or discontinue research programs at any time.
In addition, because we have limited financial and managerial resources, we focus on research programs and product candidates for specific indications. As a result, we may forego or delay pursuit of opportunities with other product candidates or for other indications that later prove to have greater commercial potential or a greater likelihood of success. Our resource allocation decisions may cause us to fail to capitalize on viable commercial products or profitable market opportunities.
Accordingly, there can be no assurance that we will ever be able to identify or develop additional therapeutic opportunities for Rhopressa®, Rocklatan® or any product candidates or future product candidates or any uses for our existing proprietary compounds beyond glaucoma or to develop suitable potential product candidates or technologies through internal research programs, research collaboration arrangements or acquisitions, which could materially adversely affect our future growth and prospects.
Risks Related to Regulations
Regulatory approval may be substantially delayed or may not be obtained for our products in jurisdictions outside the United States or for any product candidates or future product candidates in any jurisdiction if regulatory authorities require additional time or studies to assess the safety and efficacy.
We may be unable to initiate or complete development of our products in jurisdictions outside the United States on schedule, if at all. If applicable regulatory authorities require additional time or studies to assess the safety or efficacy of any of our products or product candidates or future product candidates, we may require funding beyond the amounts currently on our balance sheet. In addition, in the event of any unforeseen costs or other business decisions, we may not have or be able to obtain adequate funding to complete the necessary steps for approval of any of our products or product candidates or future product candidates. Preclinical studies and clinical trials required to demonstrate the quality, safety and efficacy of drug products are time consuming and expensive and together take several years or more to complete. Delays in regulatory approvals or rejections of applications for regulatory approval in the United States, Europe, Japan or other markets may result from many factors, including:
•our inability to obtain sufficient funds required for a clinical trial;
•regulatory requests for additional analyses, reports, data, non-clinical and preclinical studies and clinical trials;
•regulatory questions regarding interpretations of data and results and the emergence of new information regarding product candidates or other products;
•clinical holds, other regulatory objections to commencing or continuing a clinical trial or the inability to obtain regulatory approval to commence a clinical trial in countries that require such approvals;
•failure to reach agreement with the applicable regulators regarding the scope or design of our clinical trials;
•our inability to enroll a sufficient number of patients who meet the inclusion and exclusion criteria in our clinical trials;
•our inability to conduct the clinical trial in accordance with regulatory requirements or our clinical protocols;
•unfavorable or inconclusive results of clinical trials and supportive non-clinical studies, including unfavorable results regarding the effectiveness or safety of product candidates during clinical trials;
•any determination that a clinical trial or product candidate presents unacceptable health risks;
•lack of adequate funding to continue the clinical trial due to unforeseen costs or other business decisions;
•our inability to reach agreements on acceptable terms with prospective contract research organizations (“CROs”) and trial sites, the terms of which can be subject to extensive negotiation and may vary significantly among different CROs and trial sites;
•our inability to identify and maintain a sufficient number of sites, many of which may already be engaged in other clinical trial programs, including some that may be for the same indications targeted by any of our product candidates;
•our inability to obtain approval from IRBs to conduct clinical trials at their respective sites;
•the failure of a third party to comply with applicable regulatory requirements, including site inspections and inspection readiness;
•our inability to timely manufacture or obtain from third parties sufficient quantities or quality of the product candidate or other materials required for a clinical trial; and
•difficulty in maintaining contact with patients after treatment, resulting in incomplete data.
Changes in regulatory requirements and guidance may also occur and we may need to amend clinical trial protocols submitted to applicable regulatory authorities to reflect these changes. Amendments may require us to resubmit clinical trial protocols to IRBs for re-examination, which may impact the costs, timing or successful completion of a clinical trial.
Regulatory authorities outside of the United States, such as in Europe and Japan and in emerging markets, have specific requirements for approval of drugs for commercial sale with which we must comply prior to marketing in those areas. Regulatory requirements can vary widely from country to country and could delay or prevent the introduction of our product candidates. Clinical trials conducted in one country may not be accepted by regulatory authorities in other countries, and
obtaining regulatory approval in one country does not mean that regulatory approval will be obtained in any other country. Approval processes vary among countries and can involve additional product testing and validation and additional administrative review periods. Seeking foreign regulatory approval could require additional non-clinical studies or clinical trials, which could be costly and time consuming. For all of these reasons, we may not obtain foreign regulatory approvals on a timely basis, if at all.
If we are required to conduct additional clinical trials or other studies with respect to our product candidates beyond those that are initially contemplated, if we are unable to successfully complete our clinical trials or other studies or if the results of these studies are not positive or are only modestly positive, we may be delayed in obtaining regulatory approval for that product candidate, we may not be able to obtain regulatory approval at all or we may obtain approval for indications that are not as broad as intended. Our product development costs will also increase if we experience delays in testing or approvals and we may not have sufficient funding to complete the testing and approval process. Significant clinical trial delays could allow our competitors to bring products to market before we do and impair our ability to commercialize our products if and when approved. If any of this occurs, our business will be materially harmed.
The United Kingdom left the European Union on January 31, 2020, with a transitional period that ended on December 31, 2020. The U.K. MHRA has issued guidance to the effect that products having an E.U. Centralised MA as of the U.K. withdrawal date, i.e. on January 31, 2020, will be grandfathered in the United Kingdom. To this effect and subject to the completion of an administrative process, such E.U. Centralised MA will be converted by the MHRA into a national U.K. product license. Therefore, we expect Rhokiinsa® will continue to be authorised in the United Kingdom as long as we provide the MHRA with the required additional information. Because the Centralised MA for Roclanda® was received after December 31, 2020, it is subject to a different, albeit shortened, administrative process. The MHRA will review the EMA decision and have the option to reject the application.
Rhopressa® and Rocklatan® and any product candidates or future product candidates, if approved, subject us to ongoing regulatory requirements and we may face future development, manufacturing and regulatory difficulties.
Rhopressa® and Rocklatan® are, and any product candidates or future product candidates, if approved, will be, subject to ongoing regulatory requirements for labeling, packaging, storage, advertising, promotion, sampling, record-keeping, submission of safety and other post-market approval information, importation and exportation. In addition, approved products, manufacturers and manufacturing facilities are required to comply with extensive FDA and EMA requirements and the requirements of other similar agencies, including ensuring that quality control and manufacturing procedures conform to current good manufacturing requirements (“cGMP”) requirements. As such, we and our contract manufacturers are subject to continual review and periodic inspections to assess compliance with cGMPs. Accordingly, we and others with whom we work are required to expend time, money and effort in all areas of regulatory compliance, including manufacturing, production and quality control. We are also required to report certain adverse reactions and production problems, if any, to the FDA and the EMA and other similar agencies and to comply with certain requirements concerning advertising and promotion. Promotional communications with respect to prescription drugs also are subject to a variety of legal and regulatory restrictions and must be consistent with the information in the product’s approved labeling. Accordingly, we may not promote any product for indications, uses or claims for which they are not approved, even though physicians may prescribe them for those uses. If we want to expand any such indications for which we may market a product, we will need to obtain additional regulatory approvals, which may not be granted.
If a regulatory agency discovers previously unknown problems with Rhopressa® or Rocklatan® or any product candidates or future product candidates, if approved, such as adverse events of unanticipated severity or frequency, or problems with the facility where such product is manufactured, or disagrees with the promotion, marketing or labeling of such product, or finds that we have engaged in the promotion of off-label use, it may impose restrictions on that product or us, including requiring withdrawal of that product from the market. If either of our products fails to comply with applicable regulatory requirements, a regulatory agency may:
•issue warning letters or untitled letters;
•require product recalls;
•mandate modifications to promotional materials or require us to provide corrective information to healthcare practitioners;
•require us or our potential future collaborators to enter into a consent decree or permanent injunction, which can include shutdown of manufacturing facilities, imposition of various fines, reimbursements for inspection costs, required due dates for specific actions and penalties for noncompliance;
•impose other administrative or judicial civil or criminal penalties or pursue criminal prosecution;
•withdraw regulatory approval;
•refuse to approve pending applications or supplements to approved applications filed by us or by our potential future collaborators;
•impose restrictions on operations, including costly new manufacturing requirements; or
•seize or detain products.
Existing and future legislation may increase the difficulty and cost of commercializing our potential products and may affect the prices we may obtain.
•In the United States and some foreign jurisdictions, there have been a number of legislative and regulatory changes and proposed changes regarding the healthcare system that could prevent or delay regulatory approval of our potential products, restrict or regulate post-marketing activities and affect our ability to profitably sell our potential products for which we obtain regulatory approval. Government elections in the jurisdictions in which we operate could affect the changes and proposed changes regarding the healthcare system. For example, the results of the presidential and congressional elections in the United States in 2020 may result in changes to legislative and other proposals.
•In the United States, the Medicare Modernization Act (“MMA”) changed the way Medicare covers and pays for pharmaceutical products. The legislation expanded Medicare coverage for drug purchases by the elderly by establishing Medicare Part D and introduced a reimbursement methodology based on average sales prices for physician-administered drugs under Medicare Part B. In addition, this legislation provided authority for limiting the number of drugs that are covered in any therapeutic class under the Part D program. Cost reduction initiatives and other provisions of this legislation could decrease the coverage and reimbursement rate that we receive for any of our approved products. While the MMA only applies to drug benefits for Medicare beneficiaries, private payers often follow Medicare coverage policy and payment limitations in setting their own reimbursement rates. Therefore, any reduction in reimbursement that results from the MMA may result in a similar reduction in payments from private payers.
•The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (“PPACA”) added provisions to broaden access to health insurance, reduce or constrain the growth of healthcare spending, enhance remedies against fraud and abuse, add new transparency requirements for healthcare and health insurance industries, impose new taxes and fees on the health industry and impose additional health policy reforms. Among other things, PPACA increased manufacturers’ rebate liability under the Medicaid Drug Rebate Program, imposed a significant annual fee on companies that manufacture or import branded prescription drug products and required manufacturers to provide a discount off the negotiated price of prescriptions filled by beneficiaries in the Medicare Part D coverage gap, referred to as the “donut hole,” which is now 70% of the negotiated price. There had been efforts by former President Trump and Congress to seek to repeal all or portions of PPACA. For example, the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (“Tax Act”) was enacted in 2017, which includes a provision that repealed, effective January 1, 2019, the tax-based shared responsibility payment imposed by the PPACA on certain individuals who fail to maintain qualifying health coverage for all or part of a year that is commonly referred to as the “individual mandate.” On December 14, 2018, a U.S. District Court Judge in the Northern District of Texas ruled that the individual mandate is a critical and inseverable feature of the PPACA, and therefore, because it was repealed as part of the Tax Act, the remaining provisions of the PPACA are invalid as well. On December 18, 2019 the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit upheld the District Court ruling that the individual mandate was unconstitutional and remanded the case back the District Court to determine whether the remaining provisions of the ACA are invalid as well. On March 2, 2020, the United States Supreme Court granted the petitions for writs of certiorari to review this case, and oral arguments were held on November 10, 2020, although it is unclear when a decision will be made or how the United States Supreme Court will rule. It is uncertain how this decision and other efforts to repeal and replace the PPACA will impact the PPACA and our business.
•In addition, former President Trump and Congress had indicated an intent to address prescription drug pricing and former President Trump signed Executive Orders relating to pharmaceutical pricing and importation. Given the change in administration, it is unclear whether or how the Executive Orders will be implemented by applicable regulatory agencies and it is also unclear if the Biden Administration will continue to enforce the Orders, but these actions show an increased interest by the federal government in pharmaceutical pricing and distribution. In addition, Congressional hearings have brought increased public attention to the costs of prescription drugs. Numerous bills have also been introduced in Congress by members of both parties seeking to reduce drug prices using a variety of approaches. These actions and the uncertainty about the future of the
PPACA and healthcare laws are likely to continue the downward pressure on pharmaceutical pricing and increase our regulatory burdens and operating costs. While we currently do not believe the implementation of any such initiatives would negatively impact our net sales or operating margins, these initiatives are in early stages and their implementation may impact our strategies for growth in the future.
•Former President Trump and President Biden both issued Executive Orders intended to favor government procurement from domestic manufacturers. In addition, former President Trump issued an Executive Order specifically aimed at the procurement of pharmaceutical products, which instructed the federal government to develop a list of “essential” medicines and then buy those and other medical supplies that are manufactured, including the manufacture of the API, in the United States. It is unclear whether this Executive Order or something similar will be implemented by the Biden Administration.
•Legislative and regulatory proposals have been introduced at both the state and federal level to expand post-approval requirements and restrict sales and promotional activities for pharmaceutical products. We are not sure whether additional legislative changes will be enacted, or whether agencies such as the FDA or Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services will issue new guidance or interpretations, whether existing guidance or interpretations will be changed, or what the impact of such changes on our sales and promotional activities for our approved products or the marketing approvals of our potential products may be. In addition, increased scrutiny by the U.S. Congress of the FDA’s approval process may significantly delay or prevent marketing approval, as well as subject us to more stringent product labeling and post-marketing approval testing and other requirements.
If we are found in violation of U.S. federal or state “fraud and abuse” laws or other healthcare laws and regulations, we may be required to pay a penalty and/or be suspended from participation in U.S. federal or state healthcare programs, which may adversely affect our business, financial condition and results of operation.
In the United States, our current and future arrangements with healthcare providers, healthcare organizations, third-party payors and customers expose us to broadly applicable anti-bribery, fraud and abuse and other healthcare laws and regulations that may constrain the business or financial arrangements and relationships through which we research, market, sell and distribute our product candidates. Restrictions under applicable federal and state anti-bribery and healthcare laws and regulations, include the following:
•The Federal Anti-Kickback Statute makes it illegal for any person, including a prescription drug manufacturer (or a party acting on its behalf), to knowingly and willfully solicit, receive, offer or pay any remuneration that is intended to induce the referral of business, including the purchase, order or prescription of a particular drug for which payment may be made under a federal healthcare program, such as Medicare or Medicaid. Although we seek to structure our business arrangements in compliance with all applicable requirements, these laws are broadly written, and it is often difficult to determine precisely how the law will be applied in specific circumstances. Accordingly, it is possible that our practices may be challenged under the Federal Anti-Kickback Statute.
•The Federal False Claims Act prohibits anyone from, among other things, knowingly presenting or causing to be presented for payment to the government, including the federal healthcare programs, claims for reimbursed drugs or services that are false or fraudulent, claims for items or services that were not provided as claimed, or claims for medically unnecessary items or services. Many states have similar false claims laws. Cases have been brought under false claims laws alleging that off-label promotion of pharmaceutical products or the provision of kickbacks have resulted in the submission of false claims to governmental healthcare programs.
•Under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996, we are prohibited from knowingly and willfully executing a scheme to defraud any healthcare benefit program, including private payers, or knowingly and willfully falsifying, concealing or covering up a material fact or making any materially false, fictitious or fraudulent statement in connection with the delivery of or payment for healthcare benefits, items or services to obtain money or property of any healthcare benefit program.
Violations of fraud and abuse laws may be punishable by criminal and/or civil sanctions, including penalties, fines and/or exclusion or suspension from federal and state healthcare programs such as Medicare and Medicaid and debarment from contracting with the U.S. government. In addition, private individuals have the ability to bring actions on behalf of the government under the Federal False Claims Act as well as under the false claims laws of several states.
In addition, certain manufacturers of covered drugs, devices, biologics and medical supplies that are reimbursable under Medicare, Medicaid, or the Children’s Health Insurance Program, with certain exceptions, are required to report annually to CMS information related to certain payments and other transfers of value to physicians and teaching hospitals, as well as
ownership and investment interests held by the physicians described above and their immediate family members, with the information made publicly available on a searchable website. Effective January 1, 2022, transfers of value to physician assistants, nurse practitioners or clinical nurse specialists, certified registered nurse anesthetists, and certified nurse-midwives must also be reported.
Many states have adopted laws similar to the Federal Anti-Kickback Statute, some of which apply to the referral of patients for healthcare services reimbursed by any source, not just governmental payers. In addition, some states have passed laws that require pharmaceutical companies to comply with the April 2003 Office of Inspector General Compliance Program Guidance for Pharmaceutical Manufacturers and/or the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America’s Code on Interactions with Healthcare Professionals. Several states also impose other marketing restrictions or require pharmaceutical companies to make marketing or price disclosures to the state. There are ambiguities as to what is required to comply with these state requirements and if we fail to comply with an applicable state law requirement, we could be subject to penalties.
Furthermore, the government purchasing and reimbursement programs include remedies such as the obligation to correct reported prices and pay additional rebates (depending on the direction of the correction) or pay restitution to the extent the government overpaid for covered drugs, In addition, federal law provides for civil monetary penalties for conduct such as failure to provide required information, late submission of required information, false information, and knowingly and intentionally overcharging a 340B covered entity.
Neither the government nor the courts have provided definitive guidance on the application of fraud and abuse laws to our business. Law enforcement authorities are increasingly focused on enforcing these laws, and it is possible that some of our practices may be challenged under these laws. Efforts to ensure that our business arrangements with third parties will comply with applicable healthcare laws and regulations will involve substantial costs. While we believe we have structured our business arrangements to comply with these laws, it is possible that the government could allege violations of, or convict us of violating, these laws. If we are found in violation of one of these laws, we could be subject to significant civil, criminal and administrative penalties, damages, fines, exclusion from governmental funded federal or state healthcare programs and the curtailment or restructuring of our operations. Were this to occur, our business, financial condition and results of operations and cash flows may be materially adversely affected.
If we face allegations of noncompliance with the law and encounter sanctions, our reputation, revenues and liquidity may suffer, and Rhopressa® or Rocklatan® or any product candidates or future product candidates, if approved, could be subject to restrictions or withdrawal from the market.
Any government investigation of alleged violations of law could require us to expend significant time and resources in response and could generate negative publicity. Any failure to comply with ongoing regulatory requirements may significantly and adversely affect our ability to commercialize and generate revenues. If regulatory sanctions are applied or if regulatory approval is withdrawn, the value of our company and our operating results will be materially adversely affected. Additionally, if we are unable to continue to generate revenues from our product sales, our potential for achieving profitability will be diminished and the need to raise capital to fund our operations will be increased.
Risks Related to Manufacturing
If we or third-party manufacturers fail to comply with manufacturing regulations, our financial results and financial condition will be adversely affected.
Before we or a third party can begin commercial manufacturing of Rhopressa® or Rocklatan® or any product candidates or future product candidates, if approved, we or the third party must obtain regulatory approval of our or their manufacturing facilities, processes and quality systems. If we or our third-party manufacturers do not have a cGMP compliance status or other comparable status acceptable to the FDA or other regulatory authority, as applicable, approval of any NDA or other application that includes those manufacturers will be delayed.
Due to the complexity of the processes used to manufacture pharmaceutical products and product candidates, we or any potential third-party manufacturer may be unable to initially pass federal, state or international regulatory inspections in a cost-effective manner. We or certain of our contract manufacturers may fail to satisfy or comply with manufacturing regulations. If we or our contract manufacturers do not have a compliance status acceptable to the FDA, regulatory approval and/or commercial supply of the active pharmaceutical ingredients of Rhopressa® or Rocklatan® or any product candidates or future product candidates, if approved, will be significantly delayed and may result in significant additional costs.
In addition, pharmaceutical manufacturing facilities are continuously subject to inspection by the FDA and foreign regulatory authorities, before and after product approval, and must comply with cGMP. We or our contract manufacturers may encounter
difficulties in achieving quality control and quality assurance and may experience shortages in qualified personnel. In addition, failure to achieve and maintain high manufacturing standards in accordance with applicable regulatory requirements, or the incidence of manufacturing errors, could result in patient injury, product liability claims, product shortages, product recalls or withdrawals, delays or failures in product testing or delivery, cost overruns or other problems that could seriously harm our business. If we or a third-party manufacturer with whom we contract is unable to comply with manufacturing regulations, we may be subject to fines, unanticipated compliance expenses, recall or seizure of our products, product liability claims, total or partial suspension of production and/or enforcement actions, including injunctions and criminal or civil prosecution. These possible sanctions could materially adversely affect our reputation, financial results and financial condition.
Furthermore, changes in the manufacturing process or procedure, including a change in the location where the product is manufactured or a change of a third-party manufacturer, will require prior FDA or other regulatory review and/or approval of the manufacturing process and procedures in accordance with the FDA’s regulations or comparable foreign requirements. This review may be costly and time consuming and could delay or prevent the launch or commercial production of a product. The new facility will also be subject to pre-approval inspection. In addition, we have to demonstrate that the product made at the new facility is equivalent to the product made at the former facility by physical and chemical methods, which are costly and time consuming. It is also possible that the FDA or other regulatory authority may require clinical testing as a way to prove equivalency, which would result in additional costs and delay.
While we expect to rely heavily on our own manufacturing capabilities at our Athlone plant, there will be continued reliance on third-party manufacturers for the commercialization of Rhopressa® and Rocklatan® as back-up suppliers and the development of any product candidates or future product candidates in accordance with manufacturing regulations, beyond our recent progress in internal manufacturing capabilities.
With respect to the commercial production of Rhopressa® and Rocklatan®, we currently have contractual relationships for finished product manufacturing with two vendors and are outsourcing the production of the API. To the extent we terminate our existing supplier arrangements in the future and seek to enter into arrangements with alternative suppliers, we may experience a delay in our ability to obtain our clinical or commercial supplies.
Reliance on third-party manufacturers entails risks, including:
•manufacturing delays if our third-party manufacturers give greater priority to the supply of other products over Rhopressa® or Rocklatan® or any product candidates or future product candidates, if approved, or otherwise do not satisfactorily perform according to the terms of their agreements with us;
•delays in obtaining regulatory approval for Rhopressa® and/or Rocklatan® outside the United States or any product candidates or future product candidates, if our third-party manufacturers fail to satisfy or comply with regulatory requirements;
•the possible termination or nonrenewal of the agreement by the third party at a time that is costly or inconvenient for us;
•the possible breach of the manufacturing agreement by the third party;
•product loss due to contamination, equipment failure or improper installation or operation of equipment or operator error;
•the failure of the third-party manufacturer to comply with applicable regulatory requirements; and
•the possible misappropriation of our proprietary information, including our trade secrets and know-how.
For example, in October 2016, we were required to withdraw the initial submission of our NDA for Rhopressa® due to a contract manufacturer of our drug product not being prepared for pre-approval inspection by the FDA. We resubmitted the Rhopressa® NDA in February 2017 upon receiving confirmation from the contract manufacturer that it was prepared for FDA inspection and the Rhopressa® NDA was subsequently approved in December 2017.
In addition, our manufacturers may not perform as agreed or may not remain in the contract manufacturing business. In the event of a natural disaster, business failure, strike or other difficulty, we may be unable to replace a third-party manufacturer in a timely manner and the production of Rhopressa®, Rocklatan® or any product candidates or future product candidates could be interrupted, resulting in delays and additional costs. We may also have to incur other charges and expenses for products that fail to meet specifications and undertake remediation efforts.
In January 2017, we commenced establishment of our own manufacturing plant in Athlone, Ireland, and we completed the build-out during the second quarter of 2019. In January 2020 and September 2020, we received FDA approval to produce
Rocklatan® and Rhopressa®, respectively, at the Athlone manufacturing plant for commercial distribution in the United States. The Athlone manufacturing plant began manufacturing commercial supplies of Rocklatan® in the first quarter of 2020 and Rhopressa® in the third quarter of 2020 for distribution to the United States. The Athlone manufacturing plant has also manufactured clinical supplies of Rhopressa® for the Phase 3 clinical trials in Japan. We expect that the Athlone manufacturing plant will have adequate capacity to produce Rhopressa® and Rocklatan® for the United States as well as both the European and Japanese commercial markets. However, there can be no assurance that we will be able to successfully manufacture our final drug product on a commercial scale or in accordance with manufacturing regulations. If our manufacturing operations fail to achieve regulatory approval or to effectively produce commercial supplies of Rhopressa® or Rocklatan® or any product candidates or future product candidates, if approved, or until such time we are capable of developing internal manufacturing capabilities, we will be required to rely solely on third-party manufacturers to meet our commercial manufacturing needs, which may materially adversely affect our business, results of operations or financial condition.
We commenced operation of our cGMP-validated manufacturing facility for production of ophthalmic implants using the proprietary PRINT® technology platform in the fourth quarter of 2018. This facility is not being used to produce commercial supplies of Rhopressa® or Rocklatan®.
Production at our suppliers’ facilities could be disrupted for a variety of reasons, which could prevent us from producing enough of our products to maintain our sales and satisfy our customers' demands.
A disruption in production at our suppliers’ facilities could have a material adverse effect on our business. Disruptions or interruptions of production or operations could occur for many reasons, including accidents, unplanned maintenance or other manufacturing problems, cyber security incidents, terrorism, acts of war or political unrest, disease or public health crises, strikes or other labor unrest, transportation interruption or other unforeseen events as a result of weather, fire, natural disasters or otherwise. Additional facilities with sufficient capacity or capabilities may not be available, may cost substantially more or may take a significant time to start production due to the need for FDA approval, each of which could negatively affect our business and financial performance. If one of our key suppliers is unable to produce our products or raw materials for an extended period of time, our sales may be reduced by the shortfall caused by the disruption and we may not be able to meet our customers’ needs, which may materially adversely affect our business and financial performance.
Risks Related to Our Reliance on Third Parties
If we or our collaborators are unable to successfully obtain regulatory approval and commercialize Rhopressa® and Rocklatan® in jurisdictions outside the United States, our business may be harmed.
To obtain regulatory approval and commercial success for our products in jurisdictions outside the United States, we must either conduct clinical trials and develop a sales and marketing organization in such jurisdictions or outsource these functions to third parties through collaboration agreements. While we are currently engaged in discussions with potential partners to commercialize Rhokiinsa® and Roclanda® in Europe, we have announced the Santen Agreement for the development and commercialization of Rhopressa® and Rocklatan® in Japan. We have limited experience conducting clinical trials in jurisdictions outside the United States and no experience selling, marketing or distributing any drug product in any jurisdictions outside the United States. A failure of one or more clinical trials can occur at any stage of testing for a variety of reasons. See “—Risks Related to Development and Commercialization—Failure can occur at any stage of clinical development. If the clinical trials are unsuccessful, we could be required to abandon development.” Other companies have experienced unsuccessful product launches and failed to meet expectations of market potential, including companies with significantly more experience and resources than us, and there can be no guarantee that we or our collaborators will successfully launch any product in any jurisdictions outside the United States. If we enter into a collaboration agreement, such as the Santen Agreement, our collaborator may not advance the clinical trials or commercialization milestones as quickly or as successfully as we had expected. See “—Any collaboration arrangement that we may enter into may not be successful, which could adversely affect our ability to develop and commercialize any product candidates or future product candidates or technologies or to enter new therapeutic areas.” If we pursue on our own a sales and marketing strategy in an additional jurisdiction, which may occur if a collaboration agreement does not result in a successful product launch, we would incur significant additional expenses and commit significant additional time and management resources if we were to establish and train a sales force to market and sell our products in jurisdictions outside the United States. We may not be able to successfully obtain regulatory approval or commercialize our products on our expected timing or at all despite these additional expenditures.
Factors that may inhibit our efforts to successfully obtain regulatory approval and commercialize our products outside the United States include:
•regulatory questions regarding interpretations of data and results and the emergence of new information regarding product candidates or other products;
•clinical holds, other regulatory objections to commencing or continuing a clinical trial or the inability to obtain regulatory approval to commence a clinical trial in countries that require such approvals;
•failure to reach agreement with the applicable regulators regarding the scope or design of the clinical trials;
•an inability to enroll a sufficient number of patients who meet the inclusion and exclusion criteria in the clinical trials;
•an inability to compete with other pharmaceutical companies to recruit, hire, train and retain adequate numbers of effective sales and marketing personnel with requisite knowledge of our target market;
•an inability to effectively manage a geographically dispersed sales and marketing organization in such jurisdictions;
•the inability of sales personnel to obtain access to adequate numbers of eye-care professionals to prescribe any future approved products;
•failure to adhere to regulatory requirements governing the sale of products in any jurisdiction;
•unforeseen costs and expenses associated with creating an independent sales and marketing organization; and
•a delay in bringing products to market after efforts to hire and train our sales force have already commenced.
In the event we are unable to successfully market and promote our products, our business may be harmed.
Any collaboration arrangement that we may enter into may not be successful, which could adversely affect our ability to develop and commercialize our products, any product candidates or future product candidates or technologies or to enter new therapeutic areas.
We continually explore and discuss additional opportunities for new ophthalmic products, delivery alternatives and new therapeutic areas with potential partners and on our own. We may seek collaboration arrangements with pharmaceutical or biotechnology companies or universities for the development or commercialization of our product candidates or future product candidates or technologies. In October 2020, we entered into the Santen Agreement to advance our clinical development and ultimately commercialize Rhopressa® and Rocklatan® in Japan and eight other countries in Asia, as part of our globalization strategy. We are currently engaged in discussions with potential partners to commercialize Rhokiinsa® and Roclanda® in Europe. We will face, to the extent that we decide to enter into additional collaboration agreements, significant competition in seeking appropriate collaborators. Moreover, collaboration arrangements are often complicated and time consuming to negotiate, document and implement. We may not be successful in our efforts to establish, implement and maintain collaborations or other alternative arrangements and the terms of such arrangements may not be favorable to us. If and when we collaborate with a third party for development and commercialization of a product candidate and/or technology, we can expect to relinquish some or all of the control over the future success of that product candidate and/or technology to the third party. The success of our collaboration arrangements will depend heavily on the efforts and activities of our collaborators. Collaborators generally have significant discretion in determining the efforts and resources that they will apply to these collaborations. Accordingly, there can be no assurance that any collaboration or licensing arrangement or similar strategic transaction we enter into will result in the benefits that we anticipate.
Pursuant to the Santen Agreement, there are various development milestone and sales milestones. If Santen is not able to hit the milestones within the timeframes contemplated by the Santen Agreement, or at all, our development and commercialization efforts in Japan and the other countries will be harmed. Additionally, Santen may terminate the Santen Agreement if, among other events, there are patents issued that may prevent the commercialization of Rhopressa® and Rocklatan® and such termination would require us to repay up to approximately 85% of a $50.0 million upfront payment (the “Upfront Payment”), which Santen paid pursuant to the Santen Agreement, all development milestone payments, and 50% of the development expenses incurred by Santen. Such termination may adversely affect us financially and could harm our reputation.
Disagreements between parties to a collaboration arrangement regarding research, clinical development and commercialization matters can lead to delays in the development process or commercializing the applicable product candidate or technology and, in some cases, termination of the collaboration arrangement. These disagreements can be difficult to resolve if neither of the parties has final decision-making authority. In addition, collaborators may not pursue development and commercialization of
our preclinical molecules or product candidates or may elect not to continue or renew development or commercialization programs based on our results, changes in their strategic focus due to the acquisition of competitive products or technologies, availability of funding, or other external factors, such as a business combination that diverts resources or creates competing priorities. Collaborations with pharmaceutical or biotechnology companies and other third parties often are terminated or allowed to expire by the other party. Any such termination or expiration may adversely affect us financially and could harm our business reputation.
We have entered into collaboration arrangements and intend to continue exploring the licensing of commercialization rights or other forms of collaboration outside of the United States and we have developed internal manufacturing capabilities in Ireland, both of which will expose us to additional risks of conducting business in international markets.
Entering markets outside of the United States is a component of our growth strategy. If we fail to successfully commercialize, obtain licenses or enter into collaboration arrangements with selling parties, or if these parties are not successful, our revenue-generating growth potential will be adversely affected. As part of this strategy, we completed the build-out of our manufacturing plant in Athlone, Ireland, for additional commercial production of Rhopressa® and Rocklatan® in the second quarter of 2019. In January 2020 and September 2020, respectively, we received FDA approval to produce Rocklatan® and Rhopressa®, respectively, at the Athlone manufacturing plant for commercial distribution in the United States. The Athlone manufacturing plant began manufacturing commercial supplies of Rocklatan® in the first quarter of 2020 and Rhopressa® in the third quarter of 2020 for distribution to the United States. The Athlone manufacturing plant has also manufactured clinical supplies of Rhopressa® for the Phase 3 clinical trials in Japan. We expect that the Athlone manufacturing plant will have adequate capacity to produce Rhopressa® and Rocklatan® for the United States as well as both the European and Japanese commercial markets. We have entered into the Santen Agreement to advance our clinical development and ultimately commercialize Rhopressa® and Rocklatan® in Japan and eight other countries in Asia, and we are currently engaged in discussions with potential partners to commercialize Rhokiinsa® and Roclanda® in Europe. We also opened offices in Dublin, Tokyo and London to assist with our expected international expansion. International operations and business relationships subject us to additional risks that may materially adversely affect our ability to attain or sustain profitable operations, including:
•efforts to enter into or expand collaboration or licensing arrangements with third parties in connection with our international sales, marketing, manufacturing and distribution efforts may increase our expenses or divert our management’s attention from the acquisition or development of product candidates;
•changes in a specific country’s or region’s political and cultural climate or economic condition or changes in governmental regulations and laws;
•differing regulatory requirements for drug approvals, manufacturing and marketing internationally;
•difficulty of effective enforcement of contractual provisions in local jurisdictions;
•potentially reduced protection for intellectual property rights;
•potential third-party patent rights in countries outside of the United States;
•changes in tariffs, trade barriers and other regulatory requirements including those governing data privacy;
•divergent environmental laws and regulations;
•economic weakness, including inflation, or political instability, particularly in non-U.S. economies and markets, including several countries in Europe;
•compliance with tax, employment, immigration and labor laws for employees traveling abroad;
•the effects of applicable foreign tax structures and potentially adverse tax consequences (including the tax reform law that was enacted in the United States in December 2017) that create uncertainty with respect to the tax impact on our business operations and profitability;
•foreign currency fluctuations, which could result in increased operating expenses and reduced revenue, and other obligations incidental to doing business in another country;
•workforce uncertainty in countries where labor unrest is more common than in the United States;
•the potential for so-called parallel importing, which is what happens when a local seller, faced with high or higher local prices, opts to import goods from a foreign market (with low or lower prices) rather than buying them locally;
•failure of our employees and contracted third parties to comply with Office of Foreign Asset Control rules and regulations and the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act or other extra-territorial anti-bribery laws such as the U.K. Bribery Act 2010;
•production shortages resulting from any events affecting raw material supply or manufacturing capabilities abroad; and
•business interruptions resulting from geo-political actions, including war and terrorism, or natural disasters, including earthquakes, volcanoes, typhoons, tsunamis, floods, hurricanes and fires.
These and other risks may materially adversely affect our business, results of operations, financial condition or ability to attain or sustain revenue from international markets.
We currently depend on third parties to conduct some of the operations of our clinical trials and other portions of our operations, and we may not be able to control their work as effectively as if we performed these functions ourselves.
We rely on third parties, such as CROs, clinical data management organizations, medical institutions and clinical investigators, to oversee and conduct our clinical trials and to perform the related data collection and analysis. We expect to rely on these third parties to conduct clinical trials of any product candidates or future product candidates that we develop. These parties are not our employees and we cannot control the amount or timing of resources that they devote to our programs. In addition, any CRO that we retain will be subject to the FDA’s regulatory requirements or similar foreign standards and we do not have control over compliance with these regulations by these providers. Our agreements with third-party service providers are on a trial-by-trial and project-by-project bases. Typically, we may terminate the agreements with notice and are responsible for the third party’s incurred costs. If any of our relationships with our third-party CROs terminate, we may not be able to enter into arrangements with alternative CROs or to do so on commercially reasonable terms. We also rely on other third parties to store and distribute drug supplies for our clinical trials and commercial supply. Any performance failure on the part of our third-party vendors could delay, as applicable, clinical development, regulatory approval or commercialization of Rhopressa®, Rocklatan® or any product candidates or future product candidates, producing additional losses and depriving us of potential product revenue.
Our reliance on these third parties for clinical development activities reduces our control over these activities but does not relieve us of our responsibilities, and we remain responsible for ensuring that each of our clinical trials is conducted in accordance with the general investigational plan, the protocols for the trial and the FDA’s regulations and international standards, referred to as GCP requirements, for conducting, recording and reporting the results of clinical trials to assure that data and reported results are credible and accurate, and that the rights, integrity and confidentiality of trial participants are protected. Preclinical studies must also be conducted in compliance with the Animal Welfare Act requirements. Managing performance of third-party service providers can be difficult, time consuming and cause delays in our development programs. We currently have a small number of employees, which limits the internal resources we have available to identify and monitor our third-party providers.
Furthermore, these third parties may produce or manufacture competing drugs or may have relationships with other entities, some of which may be our competitors. The use of third-party service providers requires us to disclose our proprietary information to these parties, which could increase the risk that this information will be misappropriated.
If these third parties do not successfully carry out their contractual duties or obligations and meet expected deadlines, if they need to be replaced or if the quality or accuracy of the clinical data they obtain is compromised due to the failure to adhere to our clinical protocols according to regulatory requirements or for other reasons, our financial results and the commercial prospects for Rhopressa® and Rocklatan® and any product candidates or future product candidates, if approved, could be harmed, our costs could increase and our ability to obtain regulatory approval (as applicable) and commence product sales could be delayed.
If we fail to manage an effective distribution process in the United States or establish an effective distribution process in jurisdictions outside the United States, our business may be adversely affected.
We have established the infrastructure necessary for distributing pharmaceutical products in which third-party logistics wholesalers warehouse Rhopressa® and Rocklatan® and distribute them to pharmacies and will need to establish such infrastructures in jurisdictions outside the United States. This distribution network requires significant coordination with our sales and marketing and finance organizations, and the failure to coordinate financial systems could negatively impact our ability to accurately report product revenue. If we are unable to effectively manage the distribution process, the continued commercialization of our products could be disrupted or the commercial launch and sales of Rhopressa® and Rocklatan® in
jurisdictions outside the United States, in any such case, or any product candidates or future product candidates, if approved, will be delayed or severely compromised and our results of operations may be harmed.
A significant portion of our revenue currently comes from a limited number of distributors, and any decrease in revenue from these distributors could harm our business.
A significant portion of our revenue comes from a limited number of distributors. In the year ended December 31, 2020, three distributors represented approximately 37.4%, 32.4% and 28.8% of total revenues. We further expect that a significant portion of our revenue will continue to depend on sales to a limited number of distributors in the foreseeable future. We do not have long-term commitments from our distributors to carry our products, and any of our distributors may from quarter to quarter comprise a significant concentration of our revenues. Our dependence on a few distributors could expose us to the risk of substantial losses if any single large distributor stops purchasing our products, purchases a lower quantity of our products or goes out of business and we cannot find substitute distributors on equivalent terms without delays, if at all. While we may be able to shift our business to one of our other existing distributors or to a new distributor, there may be disruption in the interim. In addition, any reduction in the prices we receive for our products could adversely impact our revenues and financial condition. If we lose our relationship with any of our significant distributors, we could experience delays in the distribution of our products and could also experience declines in our revenues which in turn could materially adversely affect our business, results of operations or financial condition.
Risks Related to Intellectual Property
We may not be able to protect our proprietary technology in the marketplace.
We depend on our ability to protect our proprietary technology. We rely on trade secret, patent, copyright and trademark laws, and confidentiality, licensing and other agreements with employees and third parties, all of which offer only limited protection. Our success depends in large part on our ability and any future licensee’s ability to obtain and maintain patent protection in the United States and other countries with respect to our proprietary technology and products. We believe we will be able to obtain, through prosecution of our current pending patent applications, adequate patent protection for our proprietary drug technology. If we are compelled to spend significant time and money protecting or enforcing our patents, designing around patents held by others or licensing or acquiring, potentially for large fees, patents or other proprietary rights held by others, our business and financial prospects may be harmed. If we are unable to effectively protect the intellectual property that we own, other companies may be able to offer the same or similar products for sale, which could materially adversely affect our competitive business position and harm our business prospects. Our patents may be challenged, narrowed, invalidated, or circumvented, which could limit our ability to stop competitors from marketing the same or similar products or limit the length of term of patent protection that we may have for our products.
The patent positions of pharmaceutical products are often complex and uncertain. The standards of patentability as well as the breadth of claims allowed in pharmaceutical patents in the United States and many jurisdictions outside of the United States is not consistent. For example, in many jurisdictions the support standards for pharmaceutical patents are becoming increasingly strict. Some countries prohibit method of treatment claims in patents. Changes in either the patent laws or interpretations of patent laws in the United States and other countries may diminish the value of our intellectual property or create uncertainty. In addition, publication of information related to our current product and potential products may prevent us from obtaining or enforcing patents relating to such product and potential products, including without limitation composition-of-matter patents, which are generally believed to offer the strongest patent protection.
Our intellectual property includes issued patents and pending patent applications for compositions of matter, pharmaceutical formulations, methods of use, medical devices and synthetic methods. As of December 31, 2020, we owned 51 patents and have 47 pending patent applications in the United States and certain foreign jurisdictions for Rhopressa® and Rocklatan®. Patent protection for Rocklatan® includes the U.S. patents that cover Rhopressa®. The patents cover composition of matter and method of use. As of December 31, 2020, we owned and had pending patent applications in the United States and certain foreign jurisdictions for our product candidates. Our exclusive license regarding AVX-012 provides us with exclusive rights in patents covering pharmaceutical compositions of AVX-012 and its use in treating dry-eye in the United States and pending patent applications internationally. Furthermore, as of December 31, 2020, for AR-1105 we had one issued pending and one pending patent application in the United States and eight pending patent applications internationally. With respect to AR-13503, we owned 41 patent applications in the United States and internationally as of December 31, 2020. See “Business—Intellectual Property” for further information about our issued patents and patent applications.
Patents that we own or may license in the future do not necessarily ensure the protection of our intellectual property for a number of reasons, including without limitation the following:
•our patents may not be broad or strong enough to prevent competition from other products that are identical or similar to Rhopressa® and Rocklatan®;
•there can be no assurance that the term of a patent can be extended under the provisions of Patent Term Extension (“PTE”) afforded by U.S. law or similar provisions in foreign countries, where available;
•our issued patents and patents that we may obtain in the future may not prevent generic entry into the markets for Rhopressa® and Rocklatan®;
•we do not currently own or control foreign patents issued outside of Australia, Canada, Europe and Japan that would prevent generic entry into those markets for Rhopressa® and Rocklatan®;
•we may be required to disclaim part of the term of one or more patents;
•there may be prior art of which we are not aware that may affect the validity or enforceability of a patent claim;
•there may be prior art of which we are aware, which we do not believe affects the validity or enforceability of a patent claim, but which, nonetheless, ultimately may be found to affect the validity or enforceability of a patent claim;
•there may be other patents issued to others that will affect our freedom to operate;
•if our patents are challenged, a court of competent jurisdiction could determine that they are invalid or unenforceable;
•there might be a significant change in the law that governs patentability, validity and infringement of our patents that adversely affects the scope of our patent rights;
•a court of competent jurisdiction could determine that a competitor’s technology or product does not infringe our patents; and
•our patents could irretrievably lapse due to failure to pay fees or otherwise comply with regulations or could be subject to compulsory licensing.
Our competitors may be able to circumvent our patents by developing similar or alternative technologies or products in a non-infringing manner. Our competitors may seek to market generic versions of Rhopressa® and/or Rocklatan® by submitting ANDAs to the FDA in which our competitors claim that our patents are invalid, unenforceable and/or not infringed. In addition, our competitors may file patent applications that may have an impact on our ability to make, use and sell products that contain Rhopressa® or Rocklatan®. Should such a competitor’s patent application(s) issue, it is possible the competitor will allege that our making, using or selling of products containing Rhopressa® or Rocklatan® infringes such issued patents. In such circumstances, we may need to challenge such pending applications or issued patents, or perhaps come to a financial arrangement with the competitor.
Alternatively, our competitors may seek approval to market their own products similar to or otherwise competitive with our products. In these circumstances, we may need to defend and/or assert our patents, including by filing lawsuits alleging patent infringement. In any of these types of proceedings, a court or other agency having competent jurisdiction may find our patents invalid and/or unenforceable. We may also fail to identify patentable aspects of our research and development before it is too late to obtain patent protection. Even if we have valid and enforceable patents, these patents still may not provide protection against competing products or processes sufficient to achieve our business objectives.
The issuance of a patent is not conclusive as to its inventorship, scope, ownership, priority, validity or enforceability. In that regard, third parties may challenge our patents in the courts or patent offices in the United States and abroad. Such challenges may result in loss of exclusivity or freedom to operate or in patent claims being narrowed, invalidated or held unenforceable, in whole or in part, which could limit our ability to stop others from using or commercializing similar or identical technology and products, or limit the duration of the patent protection of our technology and potential products. In addition, given the amount of time required for the development, testing and regulatory review of new product candidates, patents protecting such candidates might expire before or shortly after such candidates are commercialized.
A significant portion of our intellectual property portfolio currently comprises pending patent applications that have not yet been issued as granted patents. If our pending patent applications fail to issue our business will be adversely affected.
Our commercial success will depend significantly on maintaining and expanding patent protection for Rhopressa® and Rocklatan® and any product candidates or future product candidates, as well as successfully defending our current and future patents against third-party challenges. As of December 31, 2020, we owned 128 patents and have 132 pending patent applications in the United States and certain foreign jurisdictions relating to Rhopressa®, Rocklatan® and our previously discontinued product candidates and other proprietary technology. See “Business—Intellectual Property” included elsewhere in this report for further information about our issued patents and patent applications. Our issued patents include 51 patents for composition of matter and method of use covering Rhopressa® in the United States and certain foreign jurisdictions. These patents also cover Rocklatan® to the extent that Rhopressa® forms a part of Rocklatan®. The remainder of our portfolio is made up of patents covering previously discontinued product candidates and other proprietary technology and pending patent applications that have not yet been issued by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (the “USPTO”), or any other jurisdiction that covers Rhopressa®, Rocklatan® or our previously discontinued product candidates or other proprietary technology.
There can be no assurance that our pending patent applications will result in issued patents in the United States or foreign jurisdictions in which such applications are pending. Even if patents do issue on any of these applications, there can be no assurance that a third party will not challenge their validity or enforceability, or that we will obtain sufficient claim scope in those patents to prevent a third party from competing successfully with our products.
We may not be able to enforce our intellectual property rights throughout the world.
The laws of some foreign countries do not protect intellectual property rights to the same extent as the laws of the United States. Many companies have encountered significant problems in protecting and defending intellectual property rights in certain foreign jurisdictions. The legal systems of some countries, particularly developing countries, do not favor the enforcement of patents and other intellectual property protection, especially those relating to life sciences. It may be difficult for us to stop the infringement of our patents or the misappropriation of these intellectual property rights in any foreign jurisdictions. For example, some foreign countries have compulsory licensing laws under which a patent owner must grant licenses to third parties. In addition, many countries limit the enforceability of patents against third parties, including government agencies or government contractors. In these countries, patents may provide limited or no benefit.
Proceedings to enforce our patent rights in foreign jurisdictions could result in substantial costs and divert our efforts and attention from other aspects of our business. Accordingly, our efforts to protect our intellectual property rights in such countries may be inadequate. In addition, changes in the law and legal decisions by courts in the United States and foreign countries may affect our ability to obtain adequate protection for our technology and the enforcement of intellectual property.
We may infringe the intellectual property rights of others, which may prevent or delay our product development efforts and disrupt the commercialization of or increase the costs of commercializing Rhopressa® or Rocklatan® or any product candidates or future product candidates, if approved.
Our commercial success depends significantly on our ability to operate without infringing the patents and other intellectual property rights of third parties. If patents issued to other companies contain blocking, dominating or conflicting claims and such claims are ultimately determined to be valid, we may be required to obtain licenses to these patents or to develop or obtain alternative non-infringing technology and cease practicing those activities, including potentially manufacturing or selling any products deemed to infringe those patents. There could be issued patents of which we are not aware that Rhopressa®, Rocklatan® or any product candidates infringe. There also could be patents that we believe we do not infringe, but that we may ultimately be found to infringe.
Moreover, patent applications are in some cases maintained in secrecy until patents are issued. The publication of discoveries in the scientific or patent literature frequently occurs substantially later than the date on which the underlying discoveries were made and patent applications were filed. Because patents can take many years to issue, there may be currently pending applications of which we are unaware that may later result in issued patents that Rhopressa®, Rocklatan®, Rhokiinsa®, Roclanda® or any product candidates or future product candidates infringe. For example, pending applications may exist that claim or can be amended to claim subject matter that Rhopressa®, Rocklatan®, Rhokiinsa®, Roclanda® or any product candidates or future product candidates infringe. Competitors may file continuing patent applications claiming priority to already issued patents in the form of continuation, divisional, or continuation-in-part applications, in order to maintain the pendency of a patent family and attempt to cover Rhopressa®, Rocklatan®, Rhokiinsa®, Roclanda® or any product candidates or future product candidates.
Third parties may assert that we are employing their proprietary technology without authorization and may sue us for patent or other intellectual property infringement. These lawsuits are costly and could adversely affect our results of operations and divert the attention of managerial and scientific personnel. If we are sued for patent infringement, we would need to demonstrate that Rhopressa®, Rocklatan®, Rhokiinsa®, Roclanda® or any product candidates or future product candidates or methods either do not infringe the claims of the relevant patent or that the patent claims asserted are invalid or unenforceable, and we may not be able to do this. Proving invalidity is difficult. For example, in the United States, proving invalidity requires a showing of clear and convincing evidence to overcome the presumption of validity enjoyed by issued patents. Even if we are successful in these proceedings, we may incur substantial costs and the time and attention of our management and scientific personnel could be diverted in pursuing these proceedings, which could have a material adverse effect on us. In addition, we may not have sufficient resources to bring these actions to a successful conclusion. If a court holds that any third-party patents are valid, enforceable and cover our products or their use, the holders of any of these patents may be able to block our ability to commercialize Rhopressa®, Rocklatan®, Rhokiinsa®, Roclanda® or any product candidates or future product candidates, if approved, unless we acquire or obtain a license under the applicable patents or until the patents expire. We may not be able to enter into licensing arrangements or make other arrangements at a reasonable cost or on reasonable terms. Any inability to secure licenses or alternative technology could result in delays in the introduction of our products or lead to prohibition of the manufacture or sale of products by us. Even if we are able to obtain a license, it may be non-exclusive, thereby giving our competitors access to the same technologies licensed to us. We could be forced, including by court order, to cease commercializing the infringing technology or product. In addition, in any such proceeding or litigation, we could be found liable for monetary damages, including treble damages and attorneys’ fees if we are found to have willfully infringed a patent. A finding of infringement could prevent us from commercializing one or more of our current products and potential products or force us to cease some of our business operations, which could materially harm our business. Any claims by third parties that we have misappropriated their confidential information or trade secrets could have a similar negative impact on our business. In addition, any uncertainties resulting from the initiation and continuation of any litigation could have a material adverse effect on our ability to raise the funds necessary to continue our operations.
We may be subject to claims that we or our employees have misappropriated the intellectual property, including trade secrets, of a third party, or claiming ownership of what we regard as our own intellectual property.
Many of our employees were previously employed at universities, biotechnology companies or other pharmaceutical companies, including our competitors or potential competitors. Some of these employees, including members of our senior management, executed proprietary rights, non-disclosure and non-competition agreements in connection with such previous employment. Although we try to ensure that our employees do not use the intellectual property and other proprietary information or know-how of others in their work for us, we may be subject to claims that we or these employees have used or disclosed such intellectual property, including trade secrets or other proprietary information. Litigation may be necessary to defend against these claims. We are not aware of any threatened or pending claims related to these matters or concerning the agreements with members of our senior management, but litigation may be necessary in the future to defend against such claims. If we fail in defending any such claims, in addition to paying monetary damages, we may lose valuable intellectual property rights or personnel. Even if we are successful in defending against such claims, litigation could result in substantial costs and be a distraction to management.
In addition, while we typically require our employees, consultants and contractors who may be involved in the development of intellectual property to execute agreements assigning such intellectual property to us, we may be unsuccessful in executing such an agreement with each party who in fact develops intellectual property that we regard as our own, which may result in claims by or against us related to the ownership of such intellectual property. If we fail in prosecuting or defending any such claims, in addition to paying monetary damages, we may lose valuable intellectual property rights. Even if we are successful in prosecuting or defending against such claims, litigation could result in substantial costs and be a distraction to our management and scientific personnel.
We may be unable to adequately prevent disclosure of trade secrets and other proprietary information.
We rely on trade secrets to protect our proprietary know-how and technological advances, especially where we do not believe patent protection is appropriate or obtainable. However, trade secrets are difficult to protect. We rely in part on confidentiality agreements with our employees, consultants, outside scientific collaborators, sponsored researchers and other advisors to protect our trade secrets and other proprietary information. However, any party with whom we have executed such an agreement may breach that agreement and disclose our proprietary information, including our trade secrets. Accordingly, these agreements may not effectively prevent disclosure of confidential information and may not provide an adequate remedy in the event of unauthorized disclosure of confidential information. Costly and time-consuming litigation could be necessary to enforce and determine the scope of our proprietary rights. In addition, others may independently discover our trade secrets and proprietary information. Further, the FDA, as part of its Transparency Initiative, a proposal by the FDA to increase disclosure
and make data more accessible to the public, is currently considering whether to make additional information publicly available on a routine basis, including information that we may consider to be trade secrets or other proprietary information, and it is not clear at the present time how the FDA’s disclosure policies may change in the future, if at all. Failure to obtain or maintain trade secret protection could enable competitors to use our proprietary information to develop products that compete with our products or cause additional, material adverse effects upon our competitive business position and financial results.
Any lawsuits relating to infringement of intellectual property rights brought by or against us will be costly and time consuming and may adversely impact the price of our common stock.
We may be required to initiate litigation to enforce or defend our intellectual property. These lawsuits can be very time consuming and costly. There is a substantial amount of litigation involving patent and other intellectual property rights in the pharmaceutical industry generally. Such litigation or proceedings could substantially increase our operating expenses and reduce the resources available for development activities or any future sales, marketing or distribution activities.
In any infringement litigation, any award of monetary damages we receive may not be commercially valuable. Furthermore, because of the substantial amount of discovery required in connection with intellectual property litigation, there is a risk that some of our confidential information could be compromised by disclosure during litigation. Moreover, there can be no assurance that we will have sufficient financial or other resources to file and pursue such infringement claims, which typically last for years before they are resolved. Further, any claims we assert against a perceived infringer could provoke these parties to assert counterclaims against us alleging that we have infringed their patents. Some of our competitors may be able to sustain the costs of such litigation or proceedings more effectively than we can because of their greater financial resources. Uncertainties resulting from the initiation and continuation of patent litigation or other proceedings could have a material adverse effect on our ability to compete in the marketplace.
In addition, our patents and patent applications could face other challenges, such as interference proceedings, opposition proceedings, re-examination proceedings, and other forms of post-grant review. Any of these challenges, if successful, could result in the invalidation of, or in a narrowing of the scope of, any of our patents and patent applications subject to challenge. Any of these challenges, regardless of their success, would likely be time consuming and expensive to defend and resolve and would divert our management and scientific personnel’s time and attention. In addition, there could be public announcements of the results of hearings, motions or other interim proceedings or developments, and if securities analysts or investors perceive these results to be negative, it could have a material adverse effect on the market price of our common stock.
We will need to obtain regulatory approval of any proposed product names, and any failure or delay associated with such approval may adversely affect our business.
We assigned the trade names Rhopressa® and Rocklatan® to our now FDA-approved products. The EC granted Centralised MAs for Rhopressa® (which will be marketed under the trade name Rhokiinsa®) in November 2019 and for Rocklatan® (which will be marketed under the trade name Roclanda®) in January 2021. Any other names we intend to use for our product candidates or any future product candidates will require approval from the FDA and applicable non-U.S. regulatory authorities regardless of whether we have secured a formal trademark registration from the USPTO or applicable non-U.S. regulatory authorities. The FDA typically conducts a review of proposed product names, including an evaluation of the potential for confusion with other product names. The FDA may also object to a product name if it believes the name inappropriately implies medical claims or contributes to an overstatement of efficacy. Regulatory authorities outside the United States conduct their own investigations. If the FDA or applicable non-U.S. authorities object to any of our proposed product names for any product candidates or future product candidates, we may be required to adopt an alternative trade name.
If we do not obtain additional protection under the Hatch-Waxman Amendments and similar foreign legislation extending the terms of our patents for Rhopressa®, Rocklatan®, Rhokiinsa®, Roclanda® or any product candidates or future product candidates, our business may be materially harmed.
Depending upon the timing, duration and specifics of FDA regulatory approval for Rhopressa® and Rocklatan® and any product candidates or future product candidates, one or more of our U.S. patents may be eligible for limited PTE under the Drug Price Competition and Patent Term Restoration Act of 1984, referred to as the Hatch-Waxman Amendments. The Hatch-Waxman Amendments permit a patent extension term of up to five years as compensation for patent term lost during product development and the FDA regulatory review process. PTEs, however, cannot extend the remaining term of a patent beyond a total of 14 years from the date of product approval by the FDA.
The application for PTE is subject to approval by the USPTO, in conjunction with the FDA. It takes at least six months to obtain approval of the application for PTE. A PTE application pursuant to 35 USC §156 (section 156) was filed February 8, 2018 seeking an extension of U.S. patent number 8,394,826 (the “‘826 patent”). The ‘826 patent covers Rhopressa® and
Rocklatan®, and is presently expected to expire November 20, 2030, though the date may be extended if the ‘826 patent PTE application is granted. To date there have been two official substantive actions on the ‘826 patent PTE application. On September 18, 2018 the USPTO confirmed that ‘826 patent is eligible for PTE under section 156. On May 13, 2019, the FDA confirmed that Rhopressa® was subject to the required FDA approval and that the PTE application was filed timely. We expect the FDA and USPTO will complete the PTE application review in late 2020; however, it is not possible to predict with certainty when the PTE will become official, if at all.
Similarly, Europe provides a mechanism for patent owner to regain a portion of patent grant time lost due to product development and the European regulatory review process. Pursuant to Regulation (EC) No 469/2009 of the European Parliament, the patent owner may file for a Supplementary Protection Certificate (“SPC”) on a country-by-country basis in order to regain such lost patent grant time. Unlike the U.S. PTE, an SPC does not extend the expiration date of a European patent, but is limited to the scope of the marketing authorisation. Rather, it provides to the patent owner all of the rights the European patent provided to the patent holder for up to five (5) years from the expiration of the European patent. Upon approval of Rhokiinsa® in Europe, Aerie has filed for SPCs in a number of E.U. countries for EP Patent 3053913. SPCs have been granted in Italy, Ireland and The Netherlands, and are presently pending in Germany, France, Spain, Belgium, and Great Britain.
Risks Related to Our Financial Position and Need for Additional Capital
We have limited revenue and may never become profitable.
We have a limited operating history and began commercializing our first product Rhopressa® in the United States in April 2018, and our second product Rocklatan® in the United States in May 2019. We have never been profitable and only have two products approved for commercial sale. Even though we received FDA approval, began commercial sales for these two products in the United States and received the Centralised MAs for Rhokiinsa® and Roclanda® from the EC, we are still in the process of obtaining additional regulatory approvals in jurisdictions outside the United States and there is no guarantee that either product will be approved in any such jurisdictions.
Our ability to generate product revenue depends on a number of factors, including our ability to:
•maintain an acceptable price for each of Rhopressa® and Rocklatan® in the United States;
•set acceptable net prices for our glaucoma products outside the United States that allow for adequate profitability, in a stand-alone or partnered environment;
•set an acceptable price for any product candidates or future product candidates, if approved, and obtain adequate coverage and reimbursement from third-party payers;
•manufacture or obtain commercial quantities of Rhopressa® and Rocklatan® and any product candidates or future product candidates, if approved, at acceptable cost levels;
•successfully market and sell Rhopressa® and Rocklatan® and any product candidates or future product candidates, if approved, in the United States and other jurisdictions; and
•successfully complete clinical development, and receive regulatory approval, for our product candidates and any future product candidates.
Our net product revenue may be impacted by the accuracy of our estimates for discounts and allowances, in which estimates for reserves are based on current contractual and statutory requirements, invoices from CMS for the company funded portion of the coverage gap, known market events and trends, industry data, forecasted customer mix and lagged claims. In addition, because of the numerous risks and uncertainties associated with product development, commercialization and manufacturing, we are unable to precisely predict the timing or amount of increased expenses, or when, or if, we will be able to achieve or maintain profitability. In addition, our expenses could increase beyond expectations for a number of reasons, including if we are required by the FDA or other regulatory authorities to perform studies in addition to those that we currently anticipate. Even though we have begun commercial sales of Rhopressa® and Rocklatan®, we are still incurring and anticipate continuing to incur significant costs associated with commercialization activities.
Our ability to become and remain profitable depends on our ability to generate revenue. Although we have generated revenues from the sales of our products, even if we were able to continue to generate revenues from our products and to generate revenues from product candidates or future product candidates, if approved, we may not become profitable and may need to obtain additional funding to continue operations. If we fail to become profitable or are unable to sustain profitability on a continuing basis, then we may be unable to continue our operations at planned levels and be forced to reduce our operations.
Even if we do achieve profitability, we may not be able to sustain or increase profitability on a quarterly or annual basis. Our failure to become and remain profitable would decrease the value of our company and could materially impair our ability to raise funds, expand our business or continue our operations.
We have incurred net losses since inception and anticipate that we will continue to incur net losses until such a time when Rhopressa® and Rocklatan® generate adequate net revenues to cover operating costs and expenses, if at all.
We have incurred losses in each year since our inception in June 2005. Our net losses were $183.1 million, $199.6 million and $232.6 million for the years ended December 31, 2020, 2019 and 2018, respectively. As of December 31, 2020, we had an accumulated deficit of $1,079.1 million.
Investment in pharmaceutical product development is highly speculative because it entails substantial upfront capital expenditures and significant risk that a product candidate will fail to gain regulatory approval or become commercially viable. We have devoted the majority of our historical financial resources to research and development, including our non-clinical development activities and clinical trials. To date, we have financed our operations primarily through the sale of equity securities and issuance of convertible debt, including the completion of our initial public offering (“IPO”) in October 2013, the issuance of $125.0 million aggregate principal amount of convertible notes (the “2014 Convertible Notes”) to Deerfield in September 2014, which were converted into shares of common stock in July 2018, the issuance of $316.25 million of 1.50% convertible notes due 2024 (the “Convertible Notes”) in September 2019, and the issuance and sale of common stock pursuant to our registration statements on Form S-3 and prior “at-the-market” sales agreements. Our products will continue to require significant marketing efforts and substantial investment to maintain and increase revenues. Any product candidates or future product candidates will require the completion of regulatory review, significant marketing efforts and substantial investment before they can provide us with any revenue.
We expect our research and development expenses to continue to be significant in connection with our ongoing and planned activities. In addition, as we have now launched Rhopressa® and Rocklatan®, we have incurred and expect to continue to incur increased manufacturing, selling and marketing expenses. As a result, we expect to continue to incur operating losses until our products generate adequate commercial revenue to render Aerie profitable. These losses have had and will continue to have a material adverse effect on our stockholders’ equity, financial position, cash flows and working capital.
We may need to obtain additional financing to fund our operations and, if we are unable to obtain such financing, we may be unable to complete the development and commercialization of Rhopressa®, Rocklatan® or any product candidates or future product candidates.
Our operations have consumed substantial amounts of cash since inception. In October 2013, we received net proceeds from our IPO of approximately $68.3 million, after deducting underwriting discounts and commissions and expenses. Since our IPO through December 31, 2020, we have raised additional net proceeds of approximately $122.9 million from the issuance of the 2014 Convertible Notes, which were converted into shares of common stock in July 2018, approximately $308.3 million from the issuance of the Convertible Notes and approximately $487.7 million through the issuance and sale of common stock under our shelf registration statements on Form S-3 and prior “at-the-market” sales agreements.
We may need to obtain additional financing to fund our future operations. Additionally, we may need to obtain additional financing to conduct additional trials for the approval of Rhopressa® and Rocklatan® in additional jurisdictions or any product candidates or future product candidates, and for completing the development of any additional product candidates or technologies and executing our international expansion strategy. Moreover, our fixed expenses, such as rent and other contractual commitments, are substantial and are expected to increase in the future, and we also expect to incur increased expenses as we expand our employment base.
Our future funding requirements will depend on many factors, including, but not limited to:
•the amount of sales and other revenues from Rhopressa® and Rocklatan® and any product candidates or future product candidates, if approved, including the selling prices for such potential products and the availability of adequate third-party coverage and reimbursement;
•selling and marketing costs associated with Rhopressa® and Rocklatan® and any product candidates or future product candidates, if approved, including the cost and timing of expanding our marketing and sales capabilities;
•our commercial success with our commercialized products and any product candidates or future product candidates, if approved;
•the terms and timing of any collaborations, licensing or other arrangements that we may establish;
•cash requirements of any future acquisitions and/or the development of other product candidates or technologies;
•the progress, timing, scope and costs of our clinical trials, including the ability to timely enroll patients in our planned and potential future clinical trials;
•the time and cost necessary to obtain regulatory approvals that may be required by regulatory authorities;
•the time and cost necessary to increase internal manufacturing capabilities or arrangements with third-party manufacturers;
•costs of any new business strategies;
•the costs of operating as a public company;
•the time and cost necessary to respond to technological and market developments; and
•the costs of filing, prosecuting, defending and enforcing any patent claims and other intellectual property rights.
We believe that our existing cash and cash equivalents, investments and expected cash flows will be sufficient to support the product commercialization of Rhopressa® and Rocklatan® through at least the next twelve months. We also intend to use these funds for general corporate purposes, including our clinical, regulatory and commercialization efforts beyond the United States, further development of other potential pipeline opportunities including activities to support execution of our dry eye and retina programs, our external business development efforts and our manufacturing activities, including the operation of our own manufacturing plant in Ireland.
Until we can generate a sufficient amount of revenue, we may need to finance future cash needs through additional financings or other available sources. Additional funds may not be available when we need them on terms that are acceptable to us, or at all. If adequate funds are not available, we may be required to delay or reduce the scope of or eliminate one or more of our research or development programs or our commercialization or manufacturing efforts. We may seek to access the public or private capital markets whenever conditions are favorable, even if we do not have an immediate need for additional capital at that time. In addition, if we raise additional funds through collaborations, strategic alliances or marketing, distribution or licensing arrangements with third parties, we may have to relinquish valuable rights to our technologies, future revenue streams or product candidates or to grant licenses on terms that may not be favorable to us.
Our forecast of the period of time through which our financial resources will be adequate to support our operating requirements is a forward-looking statement and involves risks and uncertainties, and actual results could vary as a result of a number of factors, including the factors discussed elsewhere in this “Risk Factors” section. We have based this estimate on a number of assumptions that may prove to be incorrect and changing circumstances beyond our control may cause us to consume capital more rapidly than we currently anticipate. Our inability to obtain additional funding when we need it could seriously harm our business.
Our indebtedness and liabilities could limit the cash flow available for our operations, expose us to risks that could adversely affect our business, financial condition and results of operations and impair our ability to satisfy our obligations under the Convertible Notes.
As of December 31, 2020, we had $316.25 million in principal amount of indebtedness as a result of the issuance of the Convertible Notes. We may also incur additional indebtedness to meet future financing needs. Interest payments, fees, covenants and restrictions under agreements governing our current or future indebtedness, including the indenture governing the Convertible Notes, could have important consequences, including the following:
•impairing our ability to successfully continue to commercialize Rhopressa® or Rocklatan® and commercialize any product candidates or future product candidates, which would prevent us from generating a source of revenue and becoming profitable;
•limiting our ability to obtain additional financing on satisfactory terms to fund our working capital requirements, capital expenditures, potential acquisitions, debt obligations and other general corporate requirements, and making it more difficult for us to satisfy our obligations with respect to any such additional financing;
•increasing our vulnerability to general economic downturns, competition and industry conditions, which could place us at a competitive disadvantage compared to our competitors with no debt obligations or with debt obligations on more favorable terms;
•requiring the dedication of a substantial portion of our cash flow from operations to service our indebtedness, which will reduce the amount of cash available for other purposes;
•limiting our flexibility to plan for, or react to, changes in our business; and
•diluting the interests of our existing stockholders as a result of issuing shares of our common stock upon conversion of the Convertible Notes.
The occurrence of any one of these events could have an adverse effect on our business, financial condition, operating results or cash flows and ability to satisfy our obligations under the indenture governing the Convertible Notes and any other indebtedness.
Our business may not generate sufficient funds, and we may otherwise be unable to maintain sufficient cash reserves, to pay amounts due under our indebtedness, including the Convertible Notes, and our cash needs may increase in the future. In addition, the agreements governing indebtedness that we may incur in the future may contain financial and other restrictive covenants that limit our ability to operate our business, raise capital or make payments under our other indebtedness. If we fail to comply with these covenants or to make payments under our indebtedness when due, then we would be in default under that indebtedness, which could, in turn, result in that and our other indebtedness becoming immediately payable in full.
We may be unable to raise the funds necessary to repurchase the Convertible Notes for cash following a fundamental change, or to pay any cash amounts due upon conversion, and the terms of our then-existing borrowing arrangements may limit our ability to repurchase the Convertible Notes or pay cash upon their conversion.
Noteholders may require us to repurchase their Convertible Notes following a fundamental change at a cash repurchase price generally equal to the principal amount of the Convertible Notes to be repurchased, plus accrued and unpaid interest, if any. In addition, upon conversion, we will satisfy part or all of our conversion obligation in cash unless we elect to settle conversions solely in shares of our common stock. We may not have enough available cash or be able to obtain financing at the time we are required to repurchase the Convertible Notes or pay the cash amounts due upon conversion. In addition, applicable law, regulatory authorities and the agreements governing any of our then-existing borrowing arrangements may restrict our ability to repurchase the Convertible Notes or pay the cash amounts due upon conversion. If we fail to repurchase Convertible Notes or to pay the cash amounts due upon conversion when required, we will be in default under the indenture governing the Convertible Notes and may be in default under any other then-existing borrowing arrangements. A default under the indenture governing the Convertible Notes or the fundamental change itself could also lead to a default under any of our then-existing agreements governing our other indebtedness, which may result in that other indebtedness becoming immediately payable in full. We may not have sufficient funds to satisfy all amounts due under the Convertible Notes and any other then-existing indebtedness.
The accounting method for the Convertible Notes could adversely affect our reported financial condition and results.
The accounting method for reflecting the Convertible Notes on our balance sheet, accruing interest expense for the Convertible Notes and reflecting the underlying shares of our common stock in our reported diluted earnings per share may adversely affect our reported earnings and financial condition.
In accordance with FASB Accounting Standards Codification (“ASC”) Topic 470, Debt, the initial liability carrying amount of the Convertible Notes is the fair value of a similar debt instrument that does not have a conversion feature, valued using our cost of capital for straight, unconvertible debt. We reflect the difference of approximately $128.4 million between the net proceeds from the Convertible Notes and the initial carrying amount as a debt discount for accounting purposes, which is being amortized into interest expense over the term of the Convertible Notes. In addition, the debt issuance costs relating to the Convertible Notes were allocated to debt and equity components in proportion to the allocation of proceeds. Issuance costs of $5.5 million were recorded as debt issuance costs in the net carrying value of Convertible Notes. The debt issuance costs are amortized on an effective interest basis over the term of the Convertible Notes. The remaining issuance costs of $3.7 million were recorded as additional paid-in capital and such amounts are not subject to amortization. As a result of this amortization, the interest expense that we expect to recognize for the Convertible Notes for accounting purposes will be greater than the cash interest payments we will pay on the Convertible Notes, which will result in lower reported income or higher reported loss. The lower reported income or higher reported loss resulting from this accounting treatment could depress the trading price of our common stock.
In addition, because we intend to settle conversions by paying the conversion value in cash up to the principal amount being converted, with the potential of any excess in shares of common stock, we will soon no longer be eligible to use the treasury stock method to reflect the shares underlying the Convertible Notes in our diluted earnings per share. Under the treasury stock method, if the conversion value of the Convertible Notes exceeds their principal amount for a reporting period, then we will
calculate our diluted earnings per share assuming that all the Convertible Notes were converted and that we issued shares of our common stock to settle the excess. However, if reflecting the Convertible Notes in diluted earnings per share in this manner is anti-dilutive, or if the conversion value of the Convertible Notes does not exceed their principal amount for a reporting period, then the shares of common stock underlying the Convertible Notes will not be reflected in our diluted earnings per share. In August 2020, the Financial Accounting Standards Board issued Accounting Standards Update (“ASU”) 2020-06, Debt-Debt with Conversion and Other Options (Subtopic 470-20) and Derivatives and Hedging-Contracts in Entity’s Own Equity (Subtopic 815-40), Accounting for Convertible Instruments and Contracts in an Entity’s Own Equity (“ASU 2020-06”), which eliminates the beneficial conversion and cash conversion accounting models for convertible instruments. This would reduce non-cash interest expense, and thereby decrease net loss (or increase net income). Additionally, the treasury stock method for calculating earnings per share will no longer be allowed for convertible debt instruments whose principal amount may be settled using shares and the if-converted method will be required. ASU 2020-06 will become effective for fiscal years beginning after December 15, 2021 including interim periods within those fiscal years. Early adoption is permitted, but no earlier than fiscal years beginning after December 15, 2020. Application of the “if-converted” method may reduce our reported diluted earnings per share.
If any of the conditions to the convertibility of the Convertible Notes is satisfied, then we may be required under applicable accounting standards to reclassify the liability carrying value of the Convertible Notes as a current, rather than a long-term, liability. This reclassification could be required even if no noteholders convert their Convertible Notes and could materially reduce our reported working capital.
The capped call transactions may affect the value of our common stock.
In connection with the issuance of the Convertible Notes, we entered into capped call transactions with certain option counterparties. The capped call transactions are expected generally to reduce the potential dilution upon conversion of the Convertible Notes and/or offset any cash payments we are required to make in excess of the aggregate principal amount of converted Convertible Notes, as the case may be, with such reduction and/or offset subject to a cap. The option counterparties or their respective affiliates are expected to modify their hedge positions from time to time by entering into or unwinding various derivatives with respect to our common stock and/or purchasing or selling our common stock, the Convertible Notes or other securities or instruments of ours (if any) in secondary market transactions prior to the maturity of the Convertible Notes (and are likely to do so during any observation period related to a conversion of Convertible Notes or following any issuance of a notice of redemption with respect to the Convertible Notes). Any of these activities could adversely affect the market price of our common stock.
We do not make any representation or prediction as to the direction or magnitude of any potential effect that the transactions described above may have on the market price of the shares of our common stock.
We are subject to counterparty risk with respect to the capped call transactions.
The counterparties to the capped call transactions are financial institutions, and we are subject to the risk that one or more of the counterparties may default or otherwise fail to perform, or may exercise certain rights to terminate, their obligations under the capped call transactions. Our exposure to the credit risk of the option counterparties is not secured by any collateral. Global economic conditions have in the past resulted in the actual or perceived failure or financial difficulties of many financial institutions. If any option counterparty becomes subject to proceedings, we will become an unsecured creditor in those proceedings with a claim equal to our exposure at the time under any capped call transactions with that option counterparty. Our exposure will depend on many factors but, generally, our exposure will increase if the market price or the volatility of our common stock increases. In addition, upon a default or other failure to perform, or a termination of obligations, by a counterparty, the counterparty may fail to deliver the shares of common stock required to be delivered to us under the capped call transactions and we may suffer adverse tax consequences or experience more dilution than we currently anticipate with respect to our common stock. We can provide no assurances as to the financial stability or viability of the counterparties.
We may sell additional debt or equity securities at any time, which may result in dilution to our stockholders and impose restrictions on our business.
In order to raise additional funds to support our operations, business strategies and growth, or if we decide based on ongoing forecast updates, new strategic initiatives, market conditions or for other reasons that additional financings are desirable or needed, we may sell additional equity or debt securities. The issuance of additional equity would result in dilution to all of our stockholders. The incurrence of indebtedness would result in increased fixed payment obligations and could also result in restrictive covenants, such as limitations on our ability to incur additional debt, limitations on our ability to acquire, sell or license intellectual property rights and other operating restrictions that could adversely impact our ability to conduct our
business. If we are unable to expand our operations or otherwise capitalize on our business opportunities, our business, financial condition and results of operations could be materially adversely affected.
Our relatively short operating history may make it difficult for investors to evaluate the success of our business to date and to assess our future viability.
We were incorporated and commenced active operations in the second quarter of 2005. Our operations to date have been limited to organizing and staffing our company, business planning, raising capital, developing our product candidates and advancing Rhopressa® and Rocklatan® to FDA approval and commercial launch. In addition, we have been manufacturing our products for a relatively short amount of time. Consequently, any predictions about our future success or viability may not be as accurate as they could be if we had a longer operating history.
We may encounter unforeseen expenses, difficulties, complications, delays and other known and unknown factors. We have relatively recently transitioned from a company with solely a product development focus to a company capable of supporting commercial and manufacturing activities and we may not be successful with these endeavors.
Determining our income tax rate is complex and subject to uncertainty.
The computation of income tax provisions is complex, as it is based on the laws of federal, state, local and non-U.S. taxing jurisdictions and requires significant judgment on the application of complicated rules governing accounting for tax provisions under U.S. GAAP. Our provision for income tax can be materially impacted, for example, by the geographical mix of our profits and losses, changes in our business, such as internal restructuring and acquisitions, changes in tax laws and accounting guidance and other regulatory, legislative or judicial developments, transfer pricing policies, tax audit determinations, changes in our uncertain tax positions, changes in our capital structure and leverage, changes to our transfer pricing practices, tax deductions attributed to equity and other compensation and limitations on such deductions and changes in our need for a valuation allowance for deferred tax assets. In addition, relevant taxing authorities may disagree with our determinations as to the income and expenses attributable to specific jurisdictions. If such a disagreement were to occur, and our position was not sustained, we could be required to pay additional taxes, interest and penalties, which could result in one-time tax charges, higher effective tax rates and reduced cash flows than otherwise would be expected. For these reasons, our actual income taxes may be materially different than our provision for income tax.
Our ability to use our net operating loss carryforwards may be limited.
If we experience an “ownership change” for purposes of Section 382 of the Internal Revenue Code of 1986, as amended (“Section 382”), or similar state provisions, we may be subject to annual limits on our ability to utilize net operating loss carryforwards. An ownership change is, as a general matter, triggered by sales or acquisitions of our stock in excess of 50% on a cumulative basis during a three-year period by persons owning 5% or more of our total equity value.
As of December 31, 2020, we had U.S. federal and state net operating losses (“NOLs”) of approximately $585.4 million and $561.7 million, respectively. If not utilized, federal NOLs that arose before 2018 and state NOLs begin to expire at various dates beginning in 2031 and 2023, respectively. Federal NOLs that arose on or after January 1, 2018 can be carried forward indefinitely to be utilized against future income, but can only be used to offset a maximum of 80% of our federal taxable income in any year. Our federal and state NOLs are included as deferred tax assets and have been fully offset by a valuation allowance as of December 31, 2020. As of December 31, 2020, we also had foreign NOLs of $98.9 million which are available solely to offset taxable income of our foreign subsidiaries, subject to any applicable limitations under foreign law.
Changes to the United States tax laws could materially impact our financial position and results of operations.
In December 2017, the Tax Act was signed into law. The Tax Act makes extensive changes to the U.S. tax laws and includes provisions that, among other things, reduce the U.S. corporate tax rate, repeal the corporate alternative minimum tax (“AMT”) and refund certain existing AMT credits over several years, introduce a capital investment deduction, limit the interest deduction, limit the use of net operating losses to offset future taxable income, limit the deduction for compensation paid to certain executive officers and make extensive changes to the U.S. international tax system, including the taxation of foreign earnings of U.S. multinational corporations. Further, due to the expansion of our international business activities, changes enacted in the Tax Act with respect to the U.S. taxation of such activities may increase our worldwide effective tax rate and adversely affect our financial position and results of operations. The U.S. Treasury Department has released regulations implementing the Tax Act and is expected to release additional regulations and the U.S. tax laws may be further amended in the future. The Tax Act is complex and far-reaching and we cannot predict with certainty the resulting impact its enactment will have on us.
Our international operations subject us to potentially adverse tax consequences.
We generally conduct our international operations through wholly-owned subsidiaries and report our taxable income, if any, in various jurisdictions worldwide based upon our business operations in those jurisdictions. Our intercompany relationships are subject to complex transfer pricing regulations administered by taxing authorities in various jurisdictions. The relevant taxing authorities may disagree with any of our determinations including as to the income and expenses attributable to specific jurisdictions and the statutory domiciles of our intellectual property. If such a disagreement were to occur, and our position was not sustained, we could be required to pay additional taxes, interest and penalties, which could result in one-time tax charges, higher effective tax rates and reduced cash flows.
In addition, jurisdictions outside the United States could challenge aspects of the Tax Act or implement reactionary legislation or regulations that could adversely affect us and/or negate or minimize any favorable impact that we may derive from the Tax Act in the future.
Risks Related to Our Business Operations and Industry
The widespread outbreak of an illness or any other communicable disease, or any other public health crisis, such as COVID-19, could adversely affect our business, results of operations and financial condition.
We could be negatively impacted by the widespread outbreak of an illness or any other communicable disease, or any other public health crisis that results in economic and trade disruptions, including the disruption of global supply chains. In December 2019, there was an outbreak of a new strain of coronavirus (“COVID-19”). On March 11, 2020, the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a pandemic. The COVID-19 pandemic has negatively impacted the global economy, disrupted global supply chains and workforce participation due to “shelter-in-place” and “stay at home” restrictions by various governments worldwide and created significant volatility and disruption of financial markets.
The COVID-19 pandemic may continue to affect demand for our products because quarantines or other government restrictions on movements have caused and continue to cause changes in demand. Many eye-care professionals’ offices are operating with reduced capacity and there is uncertainty if or when they will return to full capacity. Patients may continue to change the quantities in, or the frequency with, which they order our products. Additionally, patients may not visit their eye-care professionals for an extended period of time due to logistical issues or safety concerns, resulting in fewer new diagnoses or prescriptions as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to progress. Our sales force is also limited in its ability to meet with current and potential prescribers, which may negatively affect sales. Our current efforts to utilize virtual tools to remain in contact with eye-care professionals, in addition to face-to-face meetings, may not be adequate to address any negative effect on sales. If the overall economy is negatively affected, including by entering into a recession, current and potential patients may alter their spending patterns and may have less disposable income with which to spend on prescriptions, amongst other changes. The changes in eye-care professional and patient behavior could have a material adverse effect on our results of operations.
The COVID-19 pandemic may also disrupt our third-party partners’ ability to meet their obligations to us, which may negatively affect our operations. These third parties include the suppliers of our active pharmaceutical ingredient, suppliers of our finished product and clinical research organizations. While we have not observed disruptions to date with respect to any such third party, as the COVID-19 pandemic progresses as a result of transport restrictions related to quarantines, travel bans or other governmental actions may cause our global supply to become constrained.
The progress of the COVID-19 pandemic may disrupt our clinical operations and regulatory approvals. We are in the process of advancing our products towards approval in jurisdictions outside the United States and advancing our product candidates towards regulatory approval. We also have applications for regulatory approval pending. We do not yet know whether or how the progress of the COVID-19 pandemic will affect our clinical operations, including enrollment of clinical trials, or the timing of regulatory approvals.
The extent of the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on our operational and financial performance will depend on future developments, including the duration and spread of COVID-19; the effect on eye-care professionals and patients and demand for our products; our ability to sell and provide our products, including as a result of people staying home, the health and safety of our employees and any closures of our offices and our manufacturing plant in Athlone, Ireland, our eye-care professionals’ offices and regulatory agencies, all of which are uncertain and cannot be predicted. In addition, the financial markets are currently volatile due to the market conditions discussed above. Conditions in the financial and credit markets may limit the availability of liquidity or increase the cost of such liquidity, which could adversely affect our business, financial position and results of operations. COVID-19, and the volatile economic conditions stemming from the pandemic, as well as reactions to future pandemics or resurgences of COVID-19, could also precipitate or aggravate the other risk factors that we identify in this section, including our ability to achieve market acceptance of our products, our competitiveness, our reliance on third parties,
our dependence on key personnel, our risks related to security breaches and other cybersecurity risks and our manufacturing capabilities. An extended period of global supply chain and economic disruption could materially adversely affect our business, our results of operations, our access to sources of liquidity, our financial condition and the price of our common stock.
We depend upon our key personnel and our ability to attract and retain employees.
Our future growth and success depend on our ability to recruit, retain, manage and motivate our employees. We are highly dependent on our senior management team and our scientific founders, as well as the other principal members of our management and scientific teams. Although we have formal employment agreements with our executive officers, these agreements do not prevent them from terminating their employment with us at any time. The loss of the services of any member of our senior management or scientific team or the inability to hire or retain experienced management personnel could adversely affect our ability to execute our business plan and harm our operating results.
Because of the specialized scientific and managerial nature of our business, we rely heavily on our ability to attract and retain qualified scientific, technical and managerial personnel. In particular, the loss of Vicente Anido, Jr., our Chairman of the Board of Directors and Chief Executive Officer, Thomas A. Mitro, our President and Chief Operating Officer, Richard J. Rubino, our Chief Financial Officer, Casey C. Kopczynski, our Chief Scientific Officer, David A. Hollander, our Chief Research & Development Officer, John LaRocca, our General Counsel, or Kathleen McGinley, our Chief Human Resources Officer and Vice President, Corporate Services, could be detrimental to us if we cannot recruit suitable replacements in a timely manner. We do not currently carry “key person” insurance on the lives of members of executive management. The competition for qualified personnel in the pharmaceutical field is intense. Due to this intense competition, we may be unable to continue to attract and retain qualified personnel necessary for the development of our business or to recruit suitable replacement personnel. In addition, we rely on consultants and advisors, including scientific and clinical advisors, to assist us in formulating our research and development and commercialization strategy. Our consultants and advisors may be employed by employers other than us and may have commitments under consulting or advisory contracts with other entities that may limit their availability to us.
Our employees may engage in misconduct or other improper activities, including noncompliance with regulatory standards and requirements and insider trading, which could significantly harm our business.
We are exposed to the risk of employee fraud or other misconduct. Misconduct by employees could include intentional failures to comply with the regulations of the FDA and non-U.S. regulators, provide accurate information to the FDA and non-U.S. regulators, comply with healthcare fraud and abuse laws and regulations in the United States and abroad, report financial information or data accurately or disclose unauthorized activities to us. In particular, sales, marketing and business arrangements in the healthcare industry are subject to extensive laws and regulations intended to prevent fraud, misconduct, kickbacks, self-dealing and other abusive practices. These laws and regulations may restrict or prohibit a wide range of pricing, discounting, marketing and promotion, sales commission, customer incentive programs and other business arrangements. Employee misconduct could also involve the improper use of information obtained in the course of clinical trials, which could result in regulatory sanctions and serious harm to our reputation. We adopted a code of conduct, but it is not always possible to identify and deter employee misconduct, and the precautions we take to detect and prevent this activity may not be effective in controlling unknown or unmanaged risks or losses or in protecting us from governmental investigations or other actions or lawsuits stemming from a failure to comply with these laws or regulations. If any such actions are instituted against us, and we are not successful in defending ourselves or asserting our rights, those actions could have a significant impact on our business, including the imposition of significant fines or other sanctions.
Our business may be negatively impacted by macroeconomic conditions.
Various macroeconomic factors could adversely affect our business and the results of our operations and financial condition, including changes in inflation, interest rates and foreign currency exchange rates and overall economic conditions and uncertainties, including those resulting from the current and future conditions in the global financial markets. For instance, if inflation or other factors were to significantly increase our business costs, it may not be feasible to pass through price increases to patients. Interest rates, the liquidity of the credit markets and the volatility of the capital markets could also affect the value of our investments and our ability to liquidate our investments in order to fund our operations.
Interest rates and the ability to access credit markets could also adversely affect the ability of patients, payers and distributors to purchase, pay for and effectively distribute Rhopressa® or Rocklatan® or any product candidates or future product candidates, if approved. Similarly, these macroeconomic factors could affect the ability of our contract manufacturers, sole-source or single-source suppliers, collaboration partners or licensees to remain in business or otherwise develop, manufacture or supply product. Failure by any of them to remain in business could affect our ability to manufacture Rhopressa® or Rocklatan® or any product candidates or future product candidates, if approved, or develop additional product candidates or technologies.
If we engage in acquisitions or licenses in the future, we will incur a variety of costs and we may never realize the anticipated benefits of such acquisitions or licenses.
We may attempt to acquire or license businesses, technologies, services, products or product candidates in the future that we believe are a strategic fit with our business. For example, in October 2017, we acquired the rights to use PRINT® technology and certain other assets from Envisia. Further, in August 2018 we entered into an Amended and Restated Collaborative Research, Development, and License Agreement with DSM, which provides for (i) a worldwide exclusive license for all ophthalmic indications to DSM’s polyesteramide polymer technology, (ii) continuation of the collaborative research initiatives through the end of 2020, including the transfer of DSM’s formulation technology to Aerie during that time and (iii) access to a preclinical latanoprost implant. Additionally, in late 2019 we acquired Avizorex, an ophthalmic pharmaceutical company developing therapeutics for the treatment of dry eye disease. We have no present agreement regarding any material acquisitions. However, if we do undertake any acquisitions or additional licenses, the process of integrating an acquired or licensed business, technology, service, product or product candidate into our business may result in unforeseen operating difficulties and expenditures, including diversion of resources and management’s attention from our core business. In addition, we may fail to retain key executives and employees of the companies we acquire, which may reduce the value of the acquisition or give rise to additional integration costs. Future acquisitions or licenses could result in additional issuances of equity securities that would dilute the ownership of existing stockholders. Future acquisitions or licenses could also result in the incurrence of debt, actual or contingent liabilities or the amortization of expenses related to intangible assets, any of which could adversely affect our operating results.
We have limited experience identifying, negotiating and implementing acquisitions or licenses of additional businesses, technologies, services, products or product candidates, which is a lengthy and complex process. The market for acquiring or licensing businesses, technologies, services, products or product candidates is intensely competitive, and other companies, including some with substantially greater financial, marketing and sales resources, may also pursue strategies to acquire or license businesses, technologies, products or product candidates that we may consider attractive. In addition, companies that perceive us to be a competitor may be unwilling to assign or license rights to us.
We have limited resources to identify and execute the acquisition or licensing of additional businesses, technologies, services, products, or product candidates and integrate them into our current infrastructure. Moreover, we may devote resources to potential acquisitions or licensing opportunities that are never completed, or we may fail to realize the anticipated benefits of such efforts. We may not be able to acquire or license the rights to additional businesses, technologies, services, products or product candidates on terms that we find acceptable, or at all. In particular, any product candidate that we acquire or license may require additional development efforts prior to commercial sale, including extensive clinical testing and approval by the FDA and applicable foreign regulatory authorities. All product candidates are prone to risks of failure typical of pharmaceutical product development, including the possibility that a product candidate will not be shown to be sufficiently safe and effective for approval by regulatory authorities.
Business interruptions could delay the development of our potential products and our manufacturing activities and could disrupt our potential sales.
Our principal executive office and research facility is located in Durham, North Carolina, our regulatory, commercial support and other administrative activities are located in Irvine, California and our clinical, finance and legal operations are located in Bedminster, New Jersey. We also lease space for a manufacturing plant in Athlone, Ireland, and small offices in Ireland, the United Kingdom and Japan. We are vulnerable to natural disasters, such as severe storms, and other adverse events that could disrupt our operations. We carry limited insurance for natural disasters and other adverse events, and we may not carry sufficient business interruption insurance to compensate us for losses that may occur. Any losses or damages we incur could have a material adverse effect on our business operations.
Our business and operations would suffer in the event of system failures, cyber-attacks or other security breaches.
Despite the implementation of security measures, our internal computer systems, and those of our CROs, sales force, collaborators and other third parties on which we rely, are vulnerable to damage from computer viruses, unauthorized access, malware, ransomware, natural disasters, terrorism, war, telecommunication and electrical failures, cyber-attacks or cyber-intrusions over the Internet, attachments to emails, persons inside our organization, or persons with access to systems inside our organization. The risk of a security breach or disruption, particularly through cyber-attacks or cyber-intrusions, including by computer hackers, foreign governments and cyber terrorists, has generally increased as the number, intensity and sophistication of attempted attacks and intrusions from around the world have increased. Computer hackers may attempt to penetrate our computer systems and, if successful, misappropriate our proprietary and confidential information including e-mails and other electronic communications. In addition, an employee, supplier, collaboration partner or other third party with whom we do business may attempt to obtain such information and may purposefully or inadvertently cause a breach involving such
information. If such an event were to occur and cause interruptions in our operations, it could result in a material disruption of our drug development programs, manufacturing activities and/or commercialization efforts, damage our reputation, provide competitors with valuable information and subject us to additional liabilities, including criminal penalties and civil sanctions. We have not been subject to cyber-attacks or other cyber incidents to date which, individually or in the aggregate, have been material to our business, but the actions we take to prevent or detect the risk of cyber incidents and protect our information technology networks and infrastructure may be insufficient to prevent or detect a major cyber-attack or other cyber incident in the future.
In addition, there is a risk created by our lack of redundancy across our systems and if any of these events were to occur, this could result in a loss of materials that would be difficult to replace, such as proprietary information including intellectual property and business information and/or customer, supplier, employee, business partner and, in certain instances, patient personally identifiable information. For example, the loss of clinical trial data from completed or ongoing or planned clinical trials could result in delays in our regulatory approval efforts and significantly increase our costs to recover or reproduce the data. Likewise, we rely on third parties to manufacture Rhopressa® and Rocklatan