CTs make smokers see the light

CT scans are one of the best ways for smokers to figure out if there’s something going on in their lungs… well at least for the most part. But there’s an argument that goes something like, “if a smoker receives this kind of exam and doesn’t receive bad results, it gives them a license to smoke.” Well, a study from Cardiff University is throwing shade on that argument. Researchers found that the simple act of receiving a CT scan might make a smoker more likely to quit—regardless of the result. The study authors chalk it up to the exam being a teachable moment where smokers give serious thought to giving up their cancer sticks.

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UK to dramatically improve mental health care

Longtime Insight City readers beware, we really can’t use our normal voice/style for this article. But don’t think we didn’t think about it. Earlier this week UK NHS Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt launched a plan to expand the country’s mental health treatment efforts. And not just any plan. The NHS has committed £1.3 billion to transform mental health services, with a pledge to: (1) treat an extra 1 million patients by 2020 by hiring ~21,000 more workers, (b) provide services 7 days a week, 24 hours a day, and (iii) integrate mental and physical health services for the first time. Yep, 1.3 billion pounds. That’s like 650,000 tons of money. You do the math. To get you up-to-speed, see the most prevalent mental illnesses in the UK here.

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Everything’s coming up Amazon

Maybe not Daddy Warbucks, but the Celgene/Agios acute myeloid leukemia drug (IDHIFA, AG-221) has a lot going for it. The drug: passed priority FDA review after just Phase I/II data; uses Abbott’s RealTime™ IDH2 companion diagnostic test; was approved weeks ahead of the PDUFA date; has an orphan designation; oh, and it has a monthly wholesale acquisition cost of $24,872. Also, if you had invested in Agios six months ago, your investment would have retuned ~42%. Not too shabby. This is good news for Celgene and Agios, but it is also potentially great news for people who suffer from acute myeloid leukemia with the IDH2 mutation. Here is an infographic on AML. The next step? Let’s see what payer formularies say about the price.

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Regulators gonna regulate

This writer is confused. Is the government in the business of deregulating drug use (i.e., marijuana, i.e., the sticky icky) or regulating drug use? The FDA has announced its desire to lower the amount of nicotine in cigarettes in an effort to decrease addiction, reduce smoking, and improve health. At the same time, The Washington Post reports that the FDA is delaying its regulation of trendy smoking alternatives such as e-cigarettes, hookah, and vape thingies that all the cool kids are using. The hope is that keeping these smoking alternatives easily available and less regulated will give smokers ready access to “safer” alternatives to taking in their nicotine. Here is a list of the 20 most destructive drugs, as reported in The Economist. Yikes.

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If you’re not first, you’re last

The good news for pharma companies is that according to a recent report from PhRMA, 74% of medicines in clinical development are potentially first-in-class medicines. Some other findings: 822 projects—defined as unique molecule-indication combinations—are designated by the U.S. FDA as orphan drugs; 529 projects are using cell therapy; 202 projects are using gene therapy; and 173 are using DNA or RNA therapeutics. Recently, we’ve all had our fill of drug pricing commentary, and if the 74% holds true through approval, it will put the biopharma industry in a strong position to defend pricing strategies. While there are silver medals in some competitions, coming in second in the drug development race can be catastrophic. Maybe Ricky Bobby was right.

BTW, if you’re personally looking for something to be first in, we’re in the second week of our testimonial contest. Email us (info@insightcity.com) a funny testimonial about why you love (or hate?) our newsletter—130 words or less, just like our writers have to do. The knee-slappingest, ROFLMAO-iest testimonial will win a $50 prepaid gift card. And we’ll send your write-up out in one of our newsletters—without your name, of course. You’ll be kinda famous, but in an anonymous sort of way. May the odds be ever in your favor.

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$2.8B to scare the tar out of you

What’s a sure-fire way to see your physician’s expression change? During your visit, simply say “I was looking on WebMD yesterday and now I think [fill in the blank].” WebMD is one of the most valuable healthcare internet properties and soon you won’t be able to buy its stock. KKR (massive private equity firm) announced this week that it is buying WebMD for $2.8B. WebMD gets most of its revenue from advertisers—and pharma companies are among the largest spenders. But that has dropped off, prompting WebMD to look for options. We suspect KKR is banking on an increase in new drug approvals (read – advertising money) to improve WebMD’s financials. That, and a pharma-friendly FDA wouldn’t hurt either.

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In a GATTA-CA vida, baby

Ok, we may not exactly be at the point where we’re determining employment by genetic status, but CRISPR still gives some ethicists pause when it comes to human applications. However, a team of researchers led by Shoukhrat Mitalipov—whose greatest hits include creating “three-parent” monkeys and a technique for creating stem cells out of skin cells—decided they weren’t gonna let China have all the fun with pushing ethical boundaries. The team’s work culminated in the first gene-editing of a human embryo performed on US soil. They also did it better than their Chinese counterparts have been able to so far, with fewer unintended errors in portions of the DNA that weren’t being actively operated on.

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