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.
The FDA announced an amendment regarding citizen petitions that will impact branded drug makers. A citizen petition is supposed to be submitted to the FDA if the safety or efficacy of a drug is in question. The drug is then delayed or blocked from going to market. Some companies have instead used this process as a tactic to protect sales of their drug against would-be competing biosimilars and generics. But effective January 9, 2017, a citizen petition will not be considered if the drug in question “[does] not raise valid scientific and/or legal issues.” Industry lobby group PhRMA has issued requests regarding the amendment, most of which the FDA has rejected. You can bet the battle is far from over with companies’ patents in play.
A study published in Nature this week demonstrated a new device that shows a lot of potential in addressing paraplegia. Researchers used a “brain-spine interface” to grant two partially paralyzed monkeys the ability to walk again. A quick physiology review: the connection between the brain and the spinal cord is what allows the brain to signal movement commands to the rest of the body. The device creates an interface for those signals to be interpreted and relayed to the body, bridging the connection problem caused by a spinal cord injury. The scientists say many of the components they use have already been, or are in approval for human use, so we could see a human clinical trial within the next decade. No monkey business, we promise.