Eli Lilly exec pegged for HHS secretary

Replacing President Trump’s initial pick to lead the US Health and Human Services department is recent Eli Lilly alum Alex Azar. Trump expects that experience will give him a good grip on how to better deliver healthcare and lower drug prices. However, some critics are unhappy about the appointment of a “Big Pharma” figure to run the US’ most well-funded department. Eli Lilly and other large drug makers like Johnson & Johnson and Merck have actually made some advances in drug pricing transparency recently. Earlier in 2017 they released high-level reports explaining price hikes, and shifted the blame for high healthcare costs to other players like PBMs. However, these too were criticized for not being granular enough. Well, you can’t please everyone.

Eli Lilly dropping half a million pounds

An intensely competitive pricing environment for diabetes treatments has led to declining performance and deep cuts at the Indianapolis-based drug giant. Lilly plans to cut 3,500 employees, mostly by year end, and many through an early retirement program. (For the record, this writer would appreciate an early retirement program.) Other reductions will be achieved by closing a manufacturing facility in Larchwood, IA., and shuttering R&D facilities in Bridgewater, NJ and Shanghai, China. Lilly expects to incur one-time charges of approximately $1.2B and achieve $500M in annual savings.

It won’t be too hard to let go

The days of feigning disinterest while an attractive woman passes a pigskin between her hands are over: Viagra and Cialis’ four hours of fame have ended. While the drugs have performed well since launch, they’re getting close to reaching that peak point, after which they’ll immediately fall asleep. We’re talking about the end of their patent exclusivity, of course. While Viagra’s doesn’t officially end until 2020, two generic formulations are approved to hit the market by December of this year, which will lead to some profit shrinkage for Pfizer. Eli Lilly’s Cialis will suffer from the same stiff competition penetrating the ED market, so the companies have pulled out of spending the $50 million they usually use on NFL advertising.

3. More investigators? Yes, please.

It is estimated that the number of clinical investigators required annually is in the range of 1-7 million! Yes, that’s a wide range but considering there are just over 800,000 practicing physicians in the US, that leaves a big gap. Katherine Vandebelt, global head of clinical innovation for Eli Lilly, thinks the case is clear and wants pharma to stop being the biggest barrier to physicians becoming clinical investigators. She and Lilly are creating a program to tear down institutional barriers that limit participation in clinical trials (i.e., within hospitals). The program also provides hands-on training to investigators new to clinical trials, recognizing that these investigators might not be the highest recruiters on day one. It’s a tough job and more companies have to do it.

2. “Help, I’ve fallen and I can’t get up!”

A new osteoporosis drug could be on the market soon to help the millions of people suffering from a disease that has made the above catchphrase so annoyingly famous. It’s called abaloparatide, it’s being developed by Radius Pharmaceuticals, and it’s set to compete with Eli Lilly’s Forteo—the only other drug on the market of its type, currently sporting a monthly price tag of your left kidney. In fact, abaloparatide may actually be more effective than Forteo in bone repair, all without that pesky cancer side-effect in lab rats. Although highly anticipated, pricing is yet to be decided. For patients who cannot afford the current option (and insurers who decide not to cover), an affordable drug will be a godsend for hipbones and spinal columns around the world.