We all have a guy or know a guy who has a guy who has connections at the airport. While his services are typically reserved for smuggling cigars, you might want his help to get your hands on Cuban-developed and produced Cimavax, an immunotherapy-based therapeutic vaccine developed to halt cancer growth and keep it from recurring in patients with non-small-cell lung cancer. It is not FDA-approved, but it will soon be part of a clinical trial in the US based out of the Roswell Park Cancer Institute in Buffalo NY. FYI, it turns out Cuba may have a bona fide healthcare and pharmaceutical development system and the Buffalo-based trial could take years, so grab your backpack and head to Havana.
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.
Election season has passed and Donald Trump is set to take office in 2017, accompanied by a newly Republican-filled Congress. This means we could be poised to witness even more of the mega-mergers that have taken place across the pharma landscape. These mergers have been popular for US companies partly because it has allowed them to achieve huge (…yuge) tax savings due to US tax rates. President-elect Trump has stated multiple times that corporate tax rates are too high and that he will be working to drop them drastically to promote competition within the US. If this comes to fruition, be prepared to see more companies bring in off-shore dollars to take advantage of these changes.
Which would be worse, your doctor demands you change your eating habits or prescribes a medication that increases your risk of stroke? For those still resisting lifestyle changes in favor of drugs, tune in to this: a popular category of heartburn medications called proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) has been linked to a 21% greater risk of stroke. A study of 245,000 patients who had an endoscopy showed that within 6 years of follow-up, 9,500 patients had their first ischemic stroke. Researchers controlled for other risk factors, investigated their medications and found patients on the highest dose of PPIs had a stroke risk from 30% for lansoprazole to 94% for pantoprazole. Add that to PPIs’ links to dementia and heart attacks and then reconsider fatty foods and large portion sizes.
Last week InsightCity reported on a contraceptive injection for men. Tests showed the drug to be 96% effective at preventing pregnancy. Is 96% effective enough to be trusted?
Off-setting the post-election market bump is some downside for pharmaceuticals, specifically generics manufacturers. DOJ recently expanded its price fixing probe to investigate more than a dozen generic drug makers, with potential charges in tow. Cue textbook reaction to uncertainty in the markets: Shares plummet. Mega-manufacturer Teva felt it especially hard, with stocks taking a dip of more than 9%. Other big players like Mylan, Endo, and Impax also took solid hits. The reaction may not be entirely unwarranted considering the almost-simultaneous price jumps for several drugs across several manufacturers. The heart medication, Digoxin, recently saw an all-around sevenfold price hike, while the cost of antibiotic doxycycline increased by 121% within a few months. Looks like DOJ has some questions and investors aren’t waiting around for the answers.
With every ending comes a new beginning. Sorry for the Hallmark introduction. The US Presidential election is over and whether you wore red, wore blue or were just plain wore out, it is over. But do you know what is not over? The rally in healthcare stocks, that’s what. Regardless of whether the rally is based on past perceptions or future projections, the facts are quite interesting. Between the start of the week and the time this article was written, the Dow Jones Industrial Average is +4.2%, the iShares NASDAQ Biotechnology Index (IBB) is +13.3%, and the NYSE Pharmaceutical Index (DRG) is +5.9%. Sooooo, there’s that.