January 21, 2016
By Kris B. Mamula / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Thar Pharmaceuticals Inc. has received Food and Drug Administration approval for phase 3 clinical trials of its core product, dubbed T-121. Marketing of the oral drug, which will be used to treat severe, persistent pain, is expected by 2019, according to President and CEO Raymond Houck.“Getting to phase 3 is a big deal,” said Mr. Houck, 58.Phase 3 trials last up to four years. The test is intended to gauge a drug compound’s effectiveness, according to the FDA. Only 25 percent to 30 percent of drugs reach phase 3.Thar, which was founded in 2008 and employs seven people, is targeting complex regional pain syndrome, a condition that usually follows a bone fracture, serious burn or other trauma. About 70,000 people nationwide experience such pain, which can abate over time or become a disabling condition.There are no Food and Drug Administration-approved treatments for the pain. Thar developed the drug through the FDA’s orphan disease program, which allows for expedited review, tax credits and other competitive advantages for medications that help fewer than 200,000 people. Historically, big drug companies have shunned diseases that affect few people, focusing instead on making the next blockbuster statin, a medication taken by millions of people for high cholesterol.But Big Pharma has been increasingly paying attention to orphan disease treatments because of the potentially big paybacks for new prescription medications. Thar is not yet profitable and funding for operations has come from private investors.Thar’s focus is converting intravenously administered medications into ones that can be taken orally, preferred by health insurers because oral drugs are less costly to administer. Patients also tend to prefer oral drugs because administration is noninvasive.Thar’s T-121 is an oral version of Novartis’ intravenous-only zoledronic acid, which is sold under the Zometra brand name and prescribed to prevent or treat weakened bones and other conditions. Zometra’s safety record is expected to further speed FDA review of Thar’s oral version, Mr. Houck said.
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