US stock markets have been roiling over a possible trade war between the world’s largest economies, the US and China. American President Donald Trump proposed nearly $50B in tariffs on Chinese goods, leading Chinese leaders to propose some of their own, but one product they’re not interested in taxing is foreign cancer drugs. China does have the world’s largest population of cancer patients after all. Drugmakers like Roche, Novartis and AZ should be pretty happy with the zero-tariff arrangement, while Chinese leadership hopes the move will push local pharma to improve their technological capabilities. Why can’t we go back to the good ol’ days when both the Chinese and Americans could ask “War, HUH, yeah, what is it good for?”
CNBC noticed Amazon quietly launched a partnership in August with OTC manufacturer Perrigo to create their Basic Care line of products. While Amazon may not be the ideal fix for when you need that bottle of cold medicine ASAP, the company could be in a good position to corner the market on products that are bought in bulk like nicotine gum. Apple’s healthcare foray is more tech-focused: they’re developing the next attempt at personal, electronic health records. The idea is to use patients’ smartphones as the unified repository for health records that could otherwise be scattered across healthcare providers. More complete records and data could drive recommendations for care, and could even translate into partnerships with pharma companies to pitch their products directly to consumers fitting a certain profile.
Oklahoma recently became the fourth US state to file a lawsuit against opioid manufacturers, and they won’t be the last. States like Delaware have even begun asking for RFPs from private law firms. The uptick in lawsuits against opioid producers has many drawing comparisons to lawsuits against Big Tobacco in the 90s. Those ended up costing the involved companies over $200 billion. If there’s something similar coming down the road for “Big Pharma” (which is not only a conspiracy theory, but also apparently a game?) then it won’t be a mere drop in the bucket. The entire pharma industry made $778 billion in prescription sales last year, so a similar fine against a small group of companies could leave them hurting.
Slight paraphrase, but the point holds. This week, WHO released its rapidly (tragically) expanding list of “super-bugs”—drug-resistant bacteria that have stopped responding to antibiotics. For some context, these strains resulted in more than 50,000 fatalities last year. The older and infirmed are usually at greatest risk, but five-alarm bells are sounding from new findings that pediatric infection has increased sevenfold within the decade. With our last lines of antibiotic defense now losing efficacy, the fix comes down to R&D. However, new antibiotic discoveries are limited after 70 years of research, and…pharma doesn’t get huge ROIs from antibiotic research. But Pharma, hear us at InsightCity—if anyone is saving the day, and all of humanity—it will be you.
Stop me if you’ve heard this one before. As the US waits to see who President Trump will select as the next FDA commissioner, there seems to be a push-me, pull-me between faster approval timelines and the rigorous, gold-standard process the FDA has had in place since 1962 (think thalidomide). On the surface, faster drug approvals should benefit the pharma industry, right? But what happens if long-term distrust of new medicines grows because faster approval times lead to ineffective or unsafe products? Wall Street hates uncertainty and the past few months have not been kind to pharma. See this chart for proof. So, buckle up and hold on.
Pricing – the hot topic throughout all of pharma. Hillary Clinton announced her plan to combat the “outrageous” pricing and protect the patient, especially from price increases of “old” drugs. The plan proposes a watchdog group composed of federal health officials and advised by patient advocates and pricing experts. Their objective is simple – to “draw a line between price increases that are acceptable and those that are not,” according to a Washington Post article. The drug industry has its questions, of course. How long until a drug is considered old? What makes a price increase excessive? How can this unelected panel impose fines and permit the importing of similar drugs? One thing is certain, expect this argument to heat up with November right around the corner.
Teva has announced plans to purchase Anda, Allergan’s generics distributor. This comes on the heels of Teva having purchased roughly $40 billion worth of Allergan’s generic drugs, aka the Actavis Generics division. Anda’s reach goes beyond Actavis, however. According to the release, they distribute “generic, brand, specialty and over-the-counter pharmaceutical products from more than 300 manufacturers.” Teva projects Anda to bring in over $1 billon in third party revenue this year, and the deal is set to be completed in the second half of 2016. Hey Teva, don’t go filling up on candy or you won’t have any room for a main course of innovative pharmaceutical products…am I right? Anyone? Too much? Sorry.