4. Quintiles, IMS Health say “I do”

Quintiles IMS Holdings, Inc.  Get used to it.  The world’s largest CRO and one of the leading global information and technology companies are now one.  As their joint press release mentions, the rationale behind this merger is to improve this, create that, accelerate those, but what it comes down to is saving and making a lot of money.  By “saving”, we mean an estimated $100M by the end of year three.  Making money is not a new thing to either of these companies, but by combining their capabilities they aim to get a much larger chunk of the potential $230B market that is annually spent on drug development, Real-World Evidence services and commercial operations.  With that kind of addressable market, the honeymoon phase for these two may never end.

5. There’s an app for THAT??

Those in the know know Apple wants to become a big player in the healthcare industry.  Apple’s prior release of HealthKit and ResearchKit paved the way for this week’s release of CareKit, a platform that lets developers create applications to help users keep track of specific symptoms or medical progress then share that information with physicians.  Apple has taken special care to require developers to protect the privacy of the medical information stored on the phone and when that information is transferred to a doctor.  The first four applications were introduced this week.  Patients with diabetes and depression can find tools to help them learn and track their symptoms.  New mothers and pregnant women can take advantage of CareKit apps to help with their bundle of joy or bundle-to-be.

1. Study finds it safe to quit smoking

Pfizer and GSK can now exhale.  A study spanning 16 countries and over 8,000 patients has shown no increased risk of psychiatric side effects for smokers using smoking cessation products like Zyban and Chantix.  It turns out, stopping the use of a substance that is highly addictive – both physiologically and psychologically – might just be really stressful, no matter your method for doing so.  The study showed a 1.3% (Chantix users) to 2.5% (nicotine patch users) incidence of serious mental health issues, statistically the same as those taking a placebo (2.4%).  The FDA is saying the study is under review.  Presumably, after said review, they will decide whether the dreaded black box warning – mandated since 2009 – can go up in a puff of… well… smoke.

2. Two heads are better than one

Well, in this case, two companies are better than one. Pfizer and IBM are collaborating to develop a remote monitoring solution for patients with Parkinson’s disease. A system of sensors, mobile devices, and machine learning will produce a steady stream of information to be used by clinicians and researchers to adjust treatment decisions and learn more about the disease. Pfizer and IBM will be consulting with an advisory board comprised of patient groups, advocacy groups, clinicians, and researchers to help guide the program.  A remote monitoring solution of this kind will open new doors for data collection in patient care and clinical research.  More data. Fewer office visits. Faster and cheaper trials. Everybody wins.

3. Would a Brexit mean bad news for cancer research?

ICYMI: Britain is holding a referendum on June 23 to decide whether or not to leave the European Union. There are lots of feelings on both sides, but now a group of senior-level European Oncologists have added their two-cents, arguing that a Brexit could put European cancer patients at risk. The group wrote in the May edition of Lancet Oncology that continued collaboration and data sharing among EU countries is vital to the UK’s strength in cancer research and care, arguing that isolation policies and formal borders are not good for science. UK scientists also receive a great deal of EU cancer research grants, which the Guardian reports Britain would not be able to generate on its own.

4. Daiichi Sankyo layoffs

4.Slimming down for beach weather, Diiachi Sankyo is shedding staff for the summer, and the foreseeable future. In a move to streamline operations, the Japanese-based pharmaceutical giant has brought together its US-based commercial and development divisions into one consolidated facility in Basking Ridge, New Jersey.  Daiichi reports that the marriage of facilities marks an effort to increase pipeline collaboration and efficiency across several therapeutic areas. But don’t forget the backstory.  The move comes on the heels of an announcement of a 1,200-employee lay-off from its US commercial operations branch- largely due to Daiichi’s top selling drug recently faced with generic competition. And so we see Daiichi’s attempt to make lemonade out of financial lemons.

5. Pharma is locked on 2016 election

Each election cycle it is common to hear people say, “Every vote matters.” This election, particularly the voting in California, matters a little bit more to Pharma. According to a Politico article, a ballot initiative in California is seeking to give the state the ability to negotiate drug prices, or at least pay no more than the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs. Feeling pricing pressures from all sides, it seems likely that, if passed, this initiative would set a precedent for other states to follow. Pharma, currently struggling with consumer backlash, is looking to fight this initiative with the help allies such as patient advocacy groups, veterans’ organizations and the California NAACP.

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1. This’ll give you heart burn

Over 15 million Americans that regularly use Prevacid, Prilosec, Nexium, Protonix, and Aciphex for quick relief of heart burn and acid reflux, may have a bigger issue on their hands. CNN reports the results of a new study shows that users of these medications, known as proton pump inhibitors (PPIs), are at a huge increased risk of kidney failure. By huge, we mean a 96% increased risk in developing kidney failure and a 28% increased risk of chronic kidney disease over those who use the alternative histamine H2 receptor blocker medications. With research backing the idea that PPIs are overprescribed and overused, and a study suggestion that use should be cut back, we could see a higher demand for the H2 blocker alternatives.