Merck receives go-ahead with lung cancer treatment

The FDA has approved the “chemo combo” of Merck & Co.’s Keytruda with Eli Lilly’s Alimta for treatment for patients with non-squamos non-small cell lung cancer who have not been previously treated. That’s great news for the patients, but not the best news for Bristol-Myers Squibb and AstraZeneca who have their own combo and are attempting to get it approved. The announcement brings “the first true endorsement of the general ‘chemo combo’ approach,” according to Bernstein analyst Tim Anderson. Anderson says it is “not yet clear” how BMS and AZ’s product will perform. What is clear? Merck is trying to pull far, far away from the competition.

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A real kick in the femur

One high profile lawsuit is a crisis for a drug manufacturer but 5,000 is a catastrophe! Three years after a federal judge dismissed lawsuits against Fosamax, an osteoporosis prevention drug from Merck, (apparently 5,000 fractured femurs didn’t constitute ‘clear evidence’ of a negative side effect) an appeals court has ruled that Merck will indeed be back in the courtroom. Ouch. It’s not like Merck hasn’t been here before, settling for more than $27 million with 1,200 patients who endured jawbone necrosis while taking Fosamax. Instead of the “cure,” perhaps a pound of prevention—in the form of these foods—is in order?

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5. Alexa, what’s my blood sugar?

Alexa could be preparing to handle that question and many more from people with diabetes following a partnership between Merck and Amazon Web Services. The two companies will work alongside Luminary Labs to run a challenge focused on using Amazon Echo’s voice-enabled software to assist those with diabetes, with the long-term hope of expanding to other chronic illnesses. The Echo, which is set to sell around 110 million devices over the next four years, may have utility in the future that’s beyond playing your favorite song or telling you the weather. With the help of developers, it could morph into a tool used to remind people of their nutrition plans or schedule their upcoming insulin dosages.

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3. A test to get rid of the c-word

Cancer…the c-word is cancer. Grail, a Silicon Valley startup, is developing a blood test similar to a liquid biopsy that works proactively to spot cancer. According to Business Insider, the goal is to “identify the tiny bits of cancer DNA that are hanging out in our blood but are now undetectable.” A test like that will take time, massive clinical trials and, of course, money. Lucky for them, Grail just raised more than $900M in funding from big names like Johnson & Johnson Innovation, Bristol-Myers Squibb, Celgene, McKesson Ventures, Merck, Tencent Holdings Limited, Varian Medical Systems, and even Amazon. Who knows, maybe Prime members can get test results delivered to their front door in less than two business days.

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1. Jim Kelly can win this one

Jim Kelly, Hall of Fame quarterback for the Buffalo Bills, is the new starting endorser for team Merck. A survivor of head-and-neck cancer himself, Kelly will be hawking Keytruda, Merck’s new drug to treat the disease. Kelly is tasked with educating the audience about the importance of having a game plan, not so much for the treatment of the disease, but for the support required to deal with the unique difficulties associated with this type of cancer. Difficulties eating, speaking, yelling out audibles to your receivers, etc. Patients and survivors of head-and-neck cancer are encouraged to prepare for new life challenges by having a plan and sticking to it. One thing’s for sure, if Merck makes it to the Super Bowl, they’re doomed.

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A HealthyDose™ of Biosimilars

Did you know that 9 of the top 10 best-selling US biologics will have fallen out of patent protection by 2020? No?

Maybe you should talk to your doctor to see if a HealthyDose™ of biosimilars is right for you. Side effects include: euphoria caused by an acute awareness of feeling yourself getting smarter, accusations of being a know-it-all by your colleagues, and more euphoria due to objectively knowing you are in fact smarter than your colleagues.

Click the picture or click here to see it in high resolution.

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3. A pseudo-celebration of Celebrex’s vindication

Back in 2004, Merck had to pull their blockbuster COX-2 inhibitor Vioxx off the shelves. The drug was linked to an increase in heart disease and stroke, and the same doubt has surrounded Pfizer’s COX-2 inhibitor Celebrex (celecoxib) ever since. So, Pfizer conducted a Phase IV study comparing incidence rates of those adverse events compared to ibuprofen and naproxen. Twelve years, a patent expiration, and 24,000 patients later, Pfizer found that celecoxib was at least as safe as ibuprofen and naproxen, if not more so. That’s great news for arthritis sufferers at risk for heart disease and stroke, but Pfizer’s probably a little irritated they ran a massive study to disprove a rumor which likely bit into their Celebrex profits when they had market exclusivity.

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