If at first you don’t succeed, you could keep trying, or you could get back to the basics of what you do well. That is the plan for Allergan after the failed merger with Pfizer earlier this year. According to an article from Business Insider, the company has shaken off the setback and plans to move forward focusing on their best-selling Botox, a new “flagship” product in their women’s health program, and other drugs currently in development. Allergan’s CEO, Brent Saunders, made a point to distinguish the company as a “growth pharma” company and said, “It’s our commitment to doing what [we] do best, which is introduce novel compounds to the healthcare community.”
Want votes, take aim at pharma. The most recent legislative juggernaut takes form in the California Drug Price Relief Act, a ballot initiative seeking to limit drug pricing in the state, and one that could potentially open the gates to Medicare drug-pricing negotiations. Needless to say, pharma is not down for this- they’ve set aside millions to fight it. The initiative received strong backing from Senator Bernie Sanders, a long-time proponent of pricing regulation. While some may write off Sanders support as part of a far-leftist agenda, he is one of several candidates looking for change. Leading party candidates Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, have both condemned the existing system, making it pretty clear that both sides of the aisle are pushing for major changes in drug pricing.
Knock, knock! Who’s there? It’s the pig lung you ordered! Lung Biotechnology, a subsidiary of United Therapeutics, has entered into a fifteen-year agreement with Chinese manufacturer EHang to purchase 1,000 drones to be used for delivery of manufactured lungs and other organs to patients in need. The use of the drone is intended to increase delivery speed so that a xenotransplantation organ can be more easily delivered within its viability window. The order of drones is contingent upon winning approval from the FDA and the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration for both the organs and the delivery vehicles. If this delivery system is successful, one could imagine drone delivery of medical supplies having a significant impact on patient treatment and clinical trial protocols.
Gilead, the once-tiny biotech that made headlines with its Hep C blockbuster, told Bloomberg that it’s looking to “do important deals.” CEO John Milligan said that the company has $21.3 billion in cash and Gilead is looking to expand its oncology platform with a drug they can “rally around.” TBD on whether Milligan can repeat the success of his predecessor, whose $11 billion acquisition of Pharmasset and its hepatitis C drug, Solvaldi, doubled Gilead’s revenue. Milligan’s announcement comes after sales of Gilead’s two Hep C pills, among the fastest-selling drugs of all time, fell for the first time last quarter.
Creating the next superbug, all in the name of customer satisfaction. According to David Hyun of the Pew Charitable Trusts’ Antibiotic Resistance Project, this is just the case when doctors prescribe antibiotics that are unnecessary, because they believe it makes their patients happier. Roughly 7,600 of the 184,032 medical visits assessed, in a joint project between the CDC and the Pew Charitable Trusts, ended in an antibiotic prescription that was deemed completely unnecessary. The kicker is that patients are generally willing to do whatever their doctor says even if it doesn’t involve a medication. Closing the gap between what patients need and what doctors think they want could help defend us all from more drug resistant bacteria and cut down on the $3 billion wasted annually on what may be useless prescriptions.
Things are busy at AstraZeneca (AZN) these days. That happens when your mega-billion dollar blockbuster drug, Crestor, hits the patent cliff. Que (Q) the changes. AZN plans to cut $1.5B in costs and double down on cancer. Lay-off numbers were undisclosed. AZN is not standing still, making several recent acquisitions, including ZS Pharma (ZSPH). Their BACE inhibitor-based Alzheimer’s compound passed a recent safety analysis by an independent DSMB. AZN has also said “no comment” to rumors they will bid on Medivation (MDVN). AZ plans to “leverage information from up to 2 million genome sequences, including over 500,000 from our own clinical trials, to drive drug discovery and development across all our therapeutic areas.” TBD on more oncology product in-license news from AZ.
You probably know cardiovascular disease and cancer are the leading causes of death, but a risk you may not be familiar with is going to the hospital. A new study from Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine reviewed Medicare data and statistics from 13 hospitals to gain insight into the frequency at which medical errors contribute to death. In the study, the authors focused on preventable lethal events and their findings may give you a heart attack—medical error is the 3rd most common cause of death in the United States. The goals of the study are to increase funding for research into patient safety and to draw attention to the need for system improvements, not to scare the living daylights out of you. Too late.
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.