San Diego’s Neurocrine brings new Parkinson’s disease drug to market

Intern Alexus Smith sets up protein quantification at Neurocrine Biosciences on August 9, 2018.
San Diego biotech company Neurocrine Biosciences announced the commercial launch of Ongentys, a new Parkinson’s disease drug.
(K.C. Alfred /The San Diego Union-Tribune)

It’s the fourth drug approval for the large and ever-growing biotech


San Diego biotech Neurocrine Biosciences will market a new drug aimed at helping people with Parkinson’s disease better manage their symptoms, the company announced Monday.

The drug, known as Ongentys, works alongside existing treatments to help patients spend less time dealing with tremors, aches and difficulty moving, according to Neurocrine’s CEO, Kevin Gorman.

“It’s a tremendous opportunity for hundreds of thousands of Parkinson’s patients,” Gorman said. “We’re focusing on being able to make this medicine widely available.”

Nearly one million people in the United States may be living with Parkinson’s disease, according to one estimate. Those who do have unusually low amounts of dopamine, a brain chemical that regulates body movements, among other things.

Without enough dopamine, many Parkinson’s patients struggle to write, speak and generally move about. The most common treatment is a molecule that gets converted to dopamine in the brain. But the body has specialized proteins called enzymes that break this molecule down.

Ongentys blocks one of these enzymes to help minimize disease flare-ups. Neurocrine has priced the once-a-day pill at $590 for a one-month supply.

The Carmel Valley biotech received approval from the Food and Drug Administration for Ongentys on April 24 but delayed the commercial launch due to COVID-19. While the pandemic hasn’t stopped, Gorman says the company decided to launch now that more doctors who treat Parkinson’s patients are resuming their regular clinical work.

For Neurocrine Biosciences, 2018 is shaping up as the year just about everything went right.

Aug. 25, 2018

Ongentys is the company’s fourth drug to get FDA approval. The previous three include a drug for tardive dyskinesia, a movement disorder that’s a side effect of antipsychotics, as well as medications for endometriosis and uterine fibroids, painful female reproductive tract disorders. The company reported $499 million in sales revenue during the first half of this year, and $317 million during the same period in 2019, according to public documents.

“The pace at which we’re growing is nice,” Gorman said. “Any revenue that we get, we basically put right back into our (research and development).”

— Jonathan Wosen is a reporter for The San Diego Union-Tribune