Shawshank Redemption: Shkreli edition

Three out of eight ain’t bad, as Meatloaf almost said. Last week Martin Shkreli was convicted of three criminal charges—including securities fraud—and acquitted of another five. Do not confuse these crimes with the stunt he pulled as CEO of Turing Pharmaceutical when he raised the price of a pill from $13.50 to $750. For that, he was only convicted of being a giant [insert inappropriate word here]. No, these were actual crimes. According to Shkreli, “This was a witch hunt of epic proportions and maybe they found one or two broomsticks but at the end of the day we’ve been acquitted of the most important charges in this case.” His sentence will probably be light because, lucky for Shkreli, being a tool isn’t against the law. It’s just frowned upon.

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Super Prozac is on the way

When depression sufferers get put on an SSRI regimen (the most common type of antidepressant), it can be a bit tedious. These meds can take a while to be effective, which is not ideal for obvious reasons. Imagine having a stiff back for months, finally realizing you can take something for it, and then taking that medicine for days before getting any relief. Fortunately, new research could lead to faster, more effective antidepressants. Rockefeller University scientists described how SSRIs initiate action on nerve cells for the first time, which means innovators will be able to design better SSRIs on account of the whole now-we-actually-know-how-it-works thing. Here’s some more drugs we’ve been giving people for years even though we don’t know exactly what they’re doing.

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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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