Important imports?

The Department of Health and Human Services has directed the FDA to consider the importation of foreign drugs to address price spikes. The proposed policy would only apply to drugs unaffected by patent or exclusivity, in an effort to avoid intellectual property issues. However, pharma companies may still have something to say through their lawyers if such a policy were to be implemented, especially as an act of a federal agency instead of legislation. If it were implemented though, it would avoid patient access issues in situations like when an HIV medication jumped in price from $13.50 to $750, which had the incredibly unfortunate side effect of catapulting Martin Shkreli’s infinitely punchable face into the limelight. That drug still costs $750 by the way. Or just 5-10 cents in India.

There’s an app for that

Novartis recently launched an app that enables patients taking part in ophthalmic clinical trials to self-report data, which could potentially speed the development of new therapies. Here’s lookin’ at you kid. According to a wonderful report from Deloitte, “the number of apps produced by pharma more than tripled from 2013 to 2016, but the year-over-year growth rate of downloads slowed from 197% between 2013 and 2014 to just 5% between 2015 and 2016.” Maybe pharma lies outside the circle of trust? The Deloitte report also states, “pharma apps are trusted by 32% of consumers, compared to 76% for apps developed by patient communities.” Look for more pharma-association collaborations like the Quitter’s Circle from Pfizer and the American Lung Association. Is it better that the Novartis app is for clinical trials? Hear InsightCity’s take on this article with this short podcast. (It’s our first one. We’re not pros. Don’t be mean.)

Trade wars don’t include cancer drugs

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?”

Apple and Amazon are all over healthcare

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.

These aren’t the RFPs you’re looking for

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.

4. WHO: “Super-bugs definitely NOT saving the day”

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.

1. Trump, Pharma, and the FDA walk into a bar…

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.