It’s aliiive! And it’s approved!

Last week, the FDA approved Novartis’ Kymriah—a “living drug” that works by making immune cells realize they should get rid of those pesky leukemia cells making a mess of things. We’ve been following this story since June, because it’s really cool for a couple reasons. First, it marks the first time a gene therapy has been approved for use in the US, although more CAR-T treatments are in the pipeline. Second, the treatment is designated for the most prevalent form of childhood cancer in the US—acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL). There is a bit of worry that the treatment is prohibitively expensive, which is what sunk the first gene therapy approved in the EU, but maybe competition will help drop prices.

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WrestleMania: GI Edition

Many people feel constantly under attack from gastrointestinal issues like IBS, IBD and gastritis. However, not all GI symptoms are what you might think. Drug manufacturer, Novartis, has recently launched a campaign entitled, What Am I Wrestling With, encouraging people to get to know and ask more questions about their symptoms. The campaign features a pesky professional wrestler who they hope will bring awareness to knowing your symptoms and talking to your doctor about carcinoid tumors. Carcinoid tumor symptoms can mimic the symptoms of IBS and proper diagnosis is critical for treatment. Hopefully, the campaign is a success and no one will have to endure a German Suplex from a carcinoid tumor.

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What is former U.S. VP Joe Biden’s son’s name?

The answer is Beau. How do we know? Because the Cancer Moonshot has been renamed the “Beau Biden Cancer Moonshot” in honor of the VP’s late son who died from brain cancer. Armed with $1.8B in funding, VP Biden recently gave an update on the project. One highlight is how the National Cancer Institute created the Genomic Data Commons, which archives cancer patient data using Amazon’s cloud computing software. Researchers have accessed this information about 80 million times, so that is a lot. In another initiative, companies like AZ, Novartis, Pfizer, and Celgene, just to name a few, are contributing to the Blood Profiling Atlas in Cancer (BloodPAC) consortium. Go team.

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3. Like my Rolex? It’s yours.

Greek authorities are looking into allegations of corruption and bribery by a number of local Novartis officials. An investigation had been in the works for nearly two months but the matter escalated when a Greek Novartis executive attempted suicide last week; however, police thwarted his effort. According to a source, the Switzerland-based company has similar ongoing investigations in South Korea and Turkey, and had settled for $370 million after a 2014 investigation by the US FBI. “There are a lot of holes in this cheesy story.” “Someone get Roger Federer to serve the subpoenas.” “They will need an army knife to get out of this one.” All Swiss jokes, all very funny. InsightCity apologizes to the good people of Switzerland. But only the good ones.

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A HealthyDose™ of Biosimilars

Did you know that 9 of the top 10 best-selling US biologics will have fallen out of patent protection by 2020? No?

Maybe you should talk to your doctor to see if a HealthyDose™ of biosimilars is right for you. Side effects include: euphoria caused by an acute awareness of feeling yourself getting smarter, accusations of being a know-it-all by your colleagues, and more euphoria due to objectively knowing you are in fact smarter than your colleagues.

Click the picture or click here to see it in high resolution.

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4. Tell it to the judge

Drug pricing continues to be a hot topic, and now it will have its day in court (barring settlements). The Sergeants Benevolent Association Health & Welfare Fund, a union representing NYPD sergeants, has filed lawsuits against a group of drug makers including Novartis AG’s generic drug unit, Perrigo Co., Wockhardt Ltd., and Taro Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd. The lawsuits allege the companies “colluded to raise prices on two dermatological creams as much as 1,000 percent,” according to a Bloomberg article, and come on the heels of an investigation from the U.S. Justice Department. Since that filing, four other unions have filed similar suits, two of which add Actavis as a defendant. One thing is certain, the crackdown bandwagon is filling up!

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2. What’s plural for Novartis?

Restructuring is fun, right? Employees at Novartis are about to find out. That’s because Novartis is splitting into two business units with one focusing on oncology (Novartis Oncology) and the other focusing on just about everything else (Novartis Pharmaceuticals). The move comes as the company now has, thanks to its bringing on board GSK’s oncology assets, enough oncology assets to warrant a separate business unit. What is unclear from published reports is where within the company the split occurs. For example, are drug discovery, preclinical, clinical development, and commercial operations all aligned within a business unit or are some of these still “shared” resources between the units? Nobody likes a restructuring, not the employees and especially not service providers. Here’s hoping your Novartis rolodex is in pencil.

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