FDA Accepts Supplemental Biologics License Application (sBLA) for KEYTRUDA® (pembrolizumab), Merck’s Anti-PD-1 Therapy, for First-Line Treatment of Advanced Melanoma, and Grants Priority Review

Merck Provides Additional Update: FDA Extends Action Date for Additional sBLA in Ipilimumab-Refractory Advanced Melanoma

KENILWORTH, N.J.--()--Merck (NYSE:MRK), known as MSD outside the United States and Canada, today announced the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has accepted for review a supplemental Biologics License Application (sBLA) for KEYTRUDA® (pembrolizumab), Merck’s anti-PD-1 therapy. Merck is seeking approval for KEYTRUDA, at the currently approved dose of 2 mg/kg every three weeks, for the first-line treatment of unresectable or metastatic melanoma patients. The FDA granted Priority Review with a PDUFA, or target action, date of December 19, 2015. Additionally, the FDA has extended the action date for a separate sBLA for KEYTRUDA for the treatment of patients with ipilimumab-refractory advanced melanoma. The new action date is now December 24, 2015.

“Through our clinical program for KEYTRUDA we have accumulated substantial data on the role of our anti-PD-1 therapy in advanced melanoma. We look forward to the FDA's review of each of these applications, and to delivering on our goal of helping patients with advanced melanoma to achieve long-term disease control and survival,” said Dr. Roger M. Perlmutter, president, Merck Research Laboratories.

KEYTRUDA is currently indicated in the United States at a dose of 2 mg/kg administered as an intravenous infusion over 30 minutes every three weeks for the treatment of patients with unresectable or metastatic melanoma and disease progression following ipilimumab and, if BRAF V600 mutation positive, a BRAF inhibitor. This indication is approved under accelerated approval based on tumor response rate and durability of response. An improvement in survival or disease-related symptoms has not yet been established. Continued approval for this indication may be contingent upon verification and description of clinical benefit in the confirmatory trials.

The sBLA submission for first-line use in advanced melanoma was based in part on data from KEYNOTE-006, a Phase 3 study which evaluated KEYTRUDA in 834 patients with unresectable or metastatic melanoma with progression of disease. Findings from this study were presented at the 2015 American Associated for Cancer Research (AACR) Annual Meeting and published in the New England Journal of Medicinei.

Update on sBLA in Ipilimumab-Refractory Advanced Melanoma

The sBLA for ipilimumab-refractory advanced melanoma included data from KEYNOTE-002. KEYNOTE-002 is the Phase 2 study which demonstrated KEYTRUDA was superior to chemotherapy in helping more patients with ipilimumab-refractory advanced melanoma achieve progression-free survival (PFS). In an effort to provide the FDA with the most robust data for KEYTRUDA in this population, Merck submitted an additional analysis from KEYNOTE-002. The submission constitutes a major amendment which will require additional time for review.

About KEYTRUDA® (pembrolizumab)

KEYTRUDA (pembrolizumab) is a humanized monoclonal antibody that blocks the interaction between PD-1 and its ligands, PD-L1 and PD-L2. By binding to the PD-1 receptor and blocking the interaction with the receptor ligands, KEYTRUDA releases the PD-1 pathway-mediated inhibition of the immune response, including the anti-tumor immune response.

Merck is advancing a broad and fast-growing clinical development program for KEYTRUDA with more than 100 clinical trials – across more than 30 tumor types and enrolling more than 16,000 patients – both as a monotherapy and in combination with other therapies.

Selected Important Safety Information for KEYTRUDA

Pneumonitis occurred in 12 (2.9%) of 411 patients, including Grade 2 or 3 cases in 8 (1.9%) and 1 (0.2%) patients, respectively. Monitor patients for signs and symptoms of pneumonitis. Evaluate suspected pneumonitis with radiographic imaging. Administer corticosteroids for Grade 2 or greater pneumonitis. Withhold KEYTRUDA for Grade 2; permanently discontinue KEYTRUDA for Grade 3 or 4 pneumonitis.

Colitis (including microscopic colitis) occurred in 4 (1%) of 411 patients, including Grade 2 or 3 cases in 1 (0.2%) and 2 (0.5%) patients respectively, receiving KEYTRUDA (pembrolizumab). Monitor patients for signs and symptoms of colitis. Administer corticosteroids for Grade 2 or greater colitis. Withhold KEYTRUDA for Grade 2 or 3; permanently discontinue KEYTRUDA for Grade 4 colitis.

Hepatitis (including autoimmune hepatitis) occurred in 2 (0.5%) of 411 patients, including a Grade 4 case in 1 (0.2%) patient, receiving KEYTRUDA. Monitor patients for changes in liver function. Administer corticosteroids for Grade 2 or greater hepatitis and, based on severity of liver enzyme elevations, withhold or discontinue KEYTRUDA.

Hypophysitis occurred in 2 (0.5%) of 411 patients, including a Grade 2 case in 1 and a Grade 4 case in 1 (0.2% each) patient, receiving KEYTRUDA. Monitor for signs and symptoms of hypophysitis (including hypopituitarism and adrenal insufficiency). Administer corticosteroids for Grade 2 or greater hypophysitis. Withhold KEYTRUDA for Grade 2; withhold or discontinue for Grade 3; and permanently discontinue KEYTRUDA for Grade 4 hypophysitis.

Hyperthyroidism occurred in 5 (1.2%) of 411 patients, including Grade 2 or 3 cases in 2 (0.5%) and 1 (0.2%) patients respectively, receiving KEYTRUDA. Hypothyroidism occurred in 34 (8.3%) of 411 patients, including a Grade 3 case in 1 (0.2%) patient, receiving KEYTRUDA. Thyroid disorders can occur at any time during treatment. Monitor patients for changes in thyroid function (at the start of treatment, periodically during treatment, and as indicated based on clinical evaluation) and for clinical signs and symptoms of thyroid disorders. Administer corticosteroids for Grade 3 or greater hyperthyroidism. Withhold KEYTRUDA for Grade 3; permanently discontinue KEYTRUDA for Grade 4 hyperthyroidism. Isolated hypothyroidism may be managed with replacement therapy without treatment interruption and without corticosteroids.

Type 1 diabetes mellitus, including diabetic ketoacidosis, has occurred in patients receiving KEYTRUDA. Monitor patients for hyperglycemia and other signs and symptoms of diabetes. Administer insulin for type 1 diabetes, and withhold KEYTRUDA in cases of severe hyperglycemia until metabolic control is achieved.

Nephritis occurred in 3 (0.7%) patients receiving KEYTRUDA, consisting of one case of Grade 2 autoimmune nephritis (0.2%) and two cases of interstitial nephritis with renal failure (0.5%), one Grade 3 and one Grade 4. Monitor patients for changes in renal function. Administer corticosteroids for Grade 2 or greater nephritis. Withhold KEYTRUDA (pembrolizumab) for Grade 2; permanently discontinue KEYTRUDA for Grade 3 or 4 nephritis.

Other clinically important immune-mediated adverse reactions can occur. The following clinically significant, immune-mediated adverse reactions occurred in patients treated with KEYTRUDA (pembrolizumab): exfoliative dermatitis, uveitis, arthritis, myositis, pancreatitis, hemolytic anemia, partial seizures arising in a patient with inflammatory foci in brain parenchyma, severe dermatitis including bullous pemphigoid, myasthenic syndrome, optic neuritis, and rhabdomyolysis.

For suspected immune-mediated adverse reactions, ensure adequate evaluation to confirm etiology or exclude other causes. Based on the severity of the adverse reaction, withhold KEYTRUDA and administer corticosteroids. Upon improvement of the adverse reaction to Grade 1 or less, initiate corticosteroid taper and continue to taper over at least 1 month. Restart KEYTRUDA if the adverse reaction remains at Grade 1 or less. Permanently discontinue KEYTRUDA for any severe or Grade 3 immune-mediated adverse reaction that recurs and for any life-threatening immune-mediated adverse reaction.

Infusion-related reactions, including severe and life-threatening reactions, have occurred in patients receiving KEYTRUDA. Monitor patients for signs and symptoms of infusion-related reactions including rigors, chills, wheezing, pruritus, flushing, rash, hypotension, hypoxemia, and fever. For severe or life-threatening reactions, stop infusion and permanently discontinue KEYTRUDA.

Based on its mechanism of action, KEYTRUDA may cause fetal harm when administered to a pregnant woman. If used during pregnancy, or if the patient becomes pregnant during treatment, apprise the patient of the potential hazard to a fetus. Advise females of reproductive potential to use highly effective contraception during treatment and for 4 months after the last dose of KEYTRUDA.

For the treatment of advanced melanoma, KEYTRUDA was discontinued for adverse reactions in 9% of 411 patients across all doses studied. Adverse reactions, reported in at least two patients, that led to discontinuations of KEYTRUDA were: pneumonitis, renal failure, and pain. Serious adverse reactions occurred in 36% of patients receiving KEYTRUDA. The most frequent serious adverse drug reactions reported in 2% or more of patients were renal failure, dyspnea, pneumonia, and cellulitis.

The most common adverse reactions (reported in ≥20% of patients) were fatigue (47%), cough (30%), nausea (30%), pruritus (30%), rash (29%), decreased appetite (26%), constipation (21%), arthralgia (20%), and diarrhea (20%).

The recommended dose of KEYTRUDA is 2 mg/kg administered as an intravenous infusion over 30 minutes every three weeks until disease progression or unacceptable toxicity. No formal pharmacokinetic drug interaction studies have been conducted with KEYTRUDA (pembrolizumab). It is not known whether KEYTRUDA is excreted in human milk. Because many drugs are excreted in human milk, instruct women to discontinue nursing during treatment with KEYTRUDA. Safety and effectiveness of KEYTRUDA have not been established in pediatric patients.

About Melanoma

Melanoma, the most serious form of skin cancer, is characterized by the uncontrolled growth of pigment-producing cells. The incidence of melanoma has been increasing over the past four decades – approximately 232,000 new cases were diagnosed worldwide in 2012. In the U.S., melanoma is one of the most common types of cancer diagnosed and is responsible for the vast majority of skin cancer deaths. In 2015, an estimated 73,870 people are expected to be diagnosed and an estimated 9,940 people are expected to die of the disease in the U.S. alone. The five-year survival rates for advanced or metastatic melanoma (Stage IV) are estimated to be 15 to 20 percent.

Our Focus on Cancer

Our goal is to translate breakthrough science into innovative oncology medicines to help people with cancer worldwide. At Merck Oncology, helping people fight cancer is our passion and supporting accessibility to our cancer medicines is our commitment. Our focus is on pursuing research in immuno-oncology and we are accelerating every step in the journey – from lab to clinic – to potentially bring new hope to people with cancer. For more information about our oncology clinical trials, visit www.merck.com/clinicaltrials.

About Merck

Today’s Merck is a global health care leader working to help the world be well. Merck is known as MSD outside the United States and Canada. Through our prescription medicines, vaccines, biologic therapies and animal health products, we work with customers and operate in more than 140 countries to deliver innovative health solutions. We also demonstrate our commitment to increasing access to health care through far-reaching policies, programs and partnerships. For more information, visit www.merck.com and connect with us on Twitter, Facebook and YouTube.

Forward-Looking Statement of Merck & Co., Inc., Kenilworth, N.J., USA

This news release of Merck & Co., Inc., Kenilworth, N.J., USA (the “company”) includes “forward-looking statements” within the meaning of the safe harbor provisions of the U.S. Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995. These statements are based upon the current beliefs and expectations of the company’s management and are subject to significant risks and uncertainties. There can be no guarantees with respect to pipeline products that the products will receive the necessary regulatory approvals or that they will prove to be commercially successful. If underlying assumptions prove inaccurate or risks or uncertainties materialize, actual results may differ materially from those set forth in the forward-looking statements.

Risks and uncertainties include but are not limited to, general industry conditions and competition; general economic factors, including interest rate and currency exchange rate fluctuations; the impact of pharmaceutical industry regulation and health care legislation in the United States and internationally; global trends toward health care cost containment; technological advances, new products and patents attained by competitors; challenges inherent in new product development, including obtaining regulatory approval; the company’s ability to accurately predict future market conditions; manufacturing difficulties or delays; financial instability of international economies and sovereign risk; dependence on the effectiveness of the company’s patents and other protections for innovative products; and the exposure to litigation, including patent litigation, and/or regulatory actions.

The company undertakes no obligation to publicly update any forward-looking statement, whether as a result of new information, future events or otherwise. Additional factors that could cause results to differ materially from those described in the forward-looking statements can be found in the company’s 2014 Annual Report on Form 10-K and the company’s other filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) available at the SEC’s Internet site (www.sec.gov).

Please see Prescribing Information for KEYTRUDA (pembrolizumab) at http://www.merck.com/product/usa/pi_circulars/k/keytruda/keytruda_pi.pdf and the Medication Guide for KEYTRUDA at http://www.merck.com/product/usa/pi_circulars/k/keytruda/keytruda_mg.pdf

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i Robert C, et al. Pembrolizumab versus Ipilimumab in Advanced Melanoma. N Engl J Med 2015; 372:2521-2532

Contacts

Merck
Media:
Pamela Eisele, 267-305-3558
or
Investors:
Justin Holko, 908-740-1879
An Phan, 908-255-6325

Release Summary

FDA Accepts Supplemental Biologics License Application for KEYTRUDA (pembrolizumab), Merck’s Anti-PD-1 Therapy, for First-Line Treatment of Advanced Melanoma, and Grants Priority Review

Contacts

Merck
Media:
Pamela Eisele, 267-305-3558
or
Investors:
Justin Holko, 908-740-1879
An Phan, 908-255-6325