Brief View of the Latest Healthcare Industry_Issue16

Dec, 2017 - April, 2018



Humira’s Best-Selling Drug Formula: Start at a High Price. Go Higher

The price of Humira, an anti-inflammatory drug dispensed in an injectable pen, has risen from about $19,000 a year in 2012, to more than $38,000 today, per patient, after rebates, according to SSR Health, a research firm. Humira is among a new class of drugs known as biologics, which are made from living cells rather than synthetic chemicals. The industry has argued that high American prices are needed to fund drug development, but a 2016 study published by the Journal of the American Medical Association found “no evidence” of an association between research and development costs and prices; rather, prescription drugs are priced in the United States primarily on the basis of what the market will bear. https://www.nytimes.com/2018/01/06/business/humira-drug-prices.html




Fed Up With Drug Companies, Hospitals Decide to Start Their Own

For years, hospital executives have expressed frustration when essential drugs like heart medicines have become scarce, or when prices have skyrocketed because investors manipulated the market. Now, some of the country’s largest hospital systems are taking an aggressive step to combat the problem: they plan to go into the drug business themselves, in a move that appears to be the first on this scale. The idea is to directly challenge the host of industry players who have capitalized on certain markets, buying up monopolies of old, off-patent drugs and then sharply raising prices. Several major hospital systems, including Ascension, a Catholic system that is the nation’s largest nonprofit hospital group, plan to form a new nonprofit company that will provide a number of generic drugs to the hospitals. https://www.nytimes.com/2018/01/18/health/drug-prices-hospitals.html




Celgene Confirms $9B Juno Buyout, Sees $3B Sales for JCAR017

Celgene has agreed to buy CAR-T specialist Juno Therapeutics for around $9 billion in a deal that instantly makes it a big cheese in this emerging therapeutic category. The definitive terms of the deal—rumors of which hit the headlines —were laid out and revealed Celgene’s lofty ambitions for Juno’s pipeline, including what it expects could become $3 billion in sales for lead CAR-T JCAR017, assuming it gets FDA approval next year. Celgene already owns a little under 10% of Juno and has collaborated with the CAR-T specialist since 2015, when they signed a 10-year collaboration to develop treatments for cancer and immune diseases, but will now take complete control of JCAR017—in phase 1 for non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma—as well as eight additional clinical and preclinical projects. https://www.fiercebiotech.com/biotech/celgene-confirms-9bn-juno-buyout-sees-3bn-sales-for-jcar017




Sanofi, Facing Threat From Generics, Moves to Buy Hemophilia Drug Maker

The French drug maker Sanofi stated that it had agreed to acquire Bioverativ, a biopharmaceutical company focused on treatments for hemophilia and other rare blood disorders, for $11.6 billion in cash. Sanofi has sought use acquisitions to bolster its portfolio of drugs, particularly because it faces declining sales for its diabetes drug, Lantus, which has lost its patent protection. The Bioverativ deal would enhance Sanofi’s presence in specialty care and leadership in rare diseases and creates a platform for growth in other rare blood disorders. https://www.nytimes.com/2018/01/22/business/dealbook/sanofi-hemophilia-bioverativ.html


New Index Rates Drug Companies in Fight against ‘Superbugs’

GlaxoSmithKline and Johnson & Johnson are the best of the big pharmaceutical companies at tackling the growing “superbug” threat, according to an index released at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. The index, which rates companies on their contributions in preventing the spread of bacteria that are resistant to antibiotics, found Mylan to be the best of the generic drug makers and rated a little-known company, Entasis, as top among biotechnology companies. Growing numbers of people are dying from “flesh-eating” microbes; from infections picked up in hospital and nursing homes; and from strains of pneumonia, tuberculosis, gonorrhea and other diseases that are impervious to most drugs. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates such infections kill about 23,000 Americans a year. https://www.nytimes.com/2018/01/23/health/antibiotic-resistence-glaxo-johnson.html




Big Data Methods Applied to the Fitness Landscape of the HIV Envelope Protein

There is still no effective vaccine for the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), although recent hope has emerged through the discovery of antibodies capable of neutralizing diverse HIV strains. However, HIV can sometimes evade known broadly neutralizing antibody responses via mutational pathways, which makes it all the more difficult to design an effective solution. An ideal vaccine would elicit broadly neutralizing antibodies that target parts of the virus’s spike proteins where mutations severely compromise viral fitness or the ability to replicate. To achieve this goal, data scientists from the HKUST and their collaborators from MIT have employed a computational approach to estimate the fitness landscape of gp160, the polyprotein that comprises HIV’s spike. https://medicalxpress.com/news/2018-02-big-methods-landscape-hiv-envelope.html




From Clinics to Child Insurance, Budget Deal Affects Health Care

The budget deal in Congress is billed as a measure to grant stability to a government funding process that has lurched from crisis to crisis — but it is also stuffed with provisions that will broadly affect the nation’s health care system, like repealing an advisory board to curb Medicare spending and funding community health centers. Among the more significant provisions is one that would eliminate a powerful 15-member panel, known as the Independent Payment Advisory Board, created by the Affordable Care Act to control the rising costs of Medicare. Now, under the budget deal, it would be eliminated. The Congressional Budget Office estimated that killing the panel would increase federal spending by $17.5 billion over 10 years. https://www.nytimes.com/2018/02/08/us/politics/budget-deal-health-care.html




FDA Clears Insulin Dose Calculator that’s Connected to a Smartphone App

The US Food and Drug Administration has cleared a mobile system that could simplify diabetes management for some patients. Glooko’s Mobile Insulin Dosing System allows doctors to set a dosage and pulls data from the patient’s glucose monitor to recalculate levels based on the reading. It’s integrated into Glooko’s existing mobile app and sends reminders to patients’ cellphones when it’s time to take another dose. Now that the system is approved, Glooko will start commercializing it and work through reimbursement.Glooko already has a partnership with Novo Nordisk, which produces Levemir and Tresiba. https://www.cnbc.com/2018/02/14/fda-approves-insulin-dose-calculator-thats-connected-to-a-smartphone-app.html




How Dental Inequality Hurts Americans

Not being able to see a dentist is related to a range of health problems. Periodontal disease (gum infection) is associated with an increased risk of cancer and cardiovascular diseases. In part, this reflects how people with oral health problems tend to be less healthy in other ways; diabetes and smoking, for instance, increase the chances of cardiovascular problems and endanger mouth health. But the problems go beyond health. People with bad teeth can be stigmatized, both in social settings and in finding employment. Studies document that we make judgments about one another — including about intelligence — according to the aesthetics of teeth and mouth. https://www.nytimes.com/2018/02/19/upshot/how-dental-inequality-hurts-americans.html




Deal Making Just Got Tougher for Struggling Generic Drugmaker

Generic drugmakers are being squeezed from both sides. Prices are falling because the companies that buy the drugs have consolidated, putting the relatively fragmented drugmakers at a disadvantage. And, the Food and Drug Administration has sped up approvals for new generic drugs, adding new competition to the market. Mergers among manufacturers would, in theory, help the industry get its bargaining power back, and there are some small deals awaiting regulatory approval. Teva Pharmaceutical Industries told that it is considering additional asset sales as a way to help reduce its high debt burden. https://www.wsj.com/articles/deal-making-just-got-tougher-for-struggling-generic-drugmakers-1519209002?mod=searchr esults&page=1&pos=7




How Amazon, JPMorgan, Berkshire Could Transform American Health Care

With the world’s three richest people leading the charge – Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos and Berkshire CEO Warren Buffett – as well as JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon, the newly minted coalition is hoping to lower health care costs for the companies’ employees and deliver significant advancements for all patients. One sign the new alliance is building momentum is that more companies are interested in joining them. Perhaps the biggest key to the coalition leaders’ strategy is their disavowal of profit motives. The new company they plan to establish will not seek to profit off of health care, unlike the industry’s leading for-profit insurers, drug makers and many health care providers. https://www.usatoday.com/story/money/2018/02/25/amazon-jpmorgan-berkshire-health-care


Discovery Reveals Way to Stop Inflammation in Alzheimer’s, Arthritis, More

A new discovery about the immune system may allow doctors to treat harmful inflammation that damages the brain in neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s. It might also let doctors save patients from the potentially deadly inflammation of sepsis, a full-body infection that kills a quarter-million Americans every year. UVA’s Carter Immunology Center’s new finding, involving important immune cells known as macrophages, could offer a way around that. The center have identified a specific electrical switch, known as an ion channel, within macrophages that controls the flow of calcium into the cells. By targeting this switch with tiny molecules, researchers could deny the macrophages calcium and prevent inflammation - even in the brain. https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/02/180226122511.htm




States Consider Bringing Prescription Drugs from Canada to US as Costs Soar

In the face of surging prescription drug prices, some US states are proposing to import medicines in bulk from Canada, where many drugs are cheaper thanks to government price controls. Vermont lawmakers are considering legislation to create an agency which would buy popular prescription medicines in bulk from Canada, and then distribute to pharmacies in the state. Utah, Oklahoma and West Virginia have proposed similar measures. The desperate move comes as the cost of pharmaceuticals is expected to grow faster than other US healthcare spending in the next decade. https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2018/mar/01/prescription-drugs-costs-us-import-canada




Opioid Maker Insys Still Has Fans on Wall Street

Insys Therapeutics has lost its former CEO and co-founder, John Kapoor, and several top executives, all charged with conspiracy to illegally distribute an addictive prescription painkiller. The company has lost more than 80% of its market cap since its peak price in 2015 amid declining sales and multiple lawsuits from states over how it marketed Subsys, a mouth-spray version of the potent opioid painkiller fentanyl that is approved by the Food and Drug Administration to treat cancer-related pain. But Insys hasn’t lost all of its following on Wall Street. Four of the six analysts who cover Insys still recommend buying the stock. Despite the threat of looming litigation, they note the possibilities in the company’s pipeline and the potential stabilization of Subsys sales, among other things. https://www.wsj.com/articles/opioid-maker-insys-still-has-fans-on-wall-street-1520286053?mod=searchresults&page=1&pos=3




United Healthcare Says It Will Pass on Rebates from Drug Companies to Consumers

In response to growing consumer frustration over drug prices, United Healthcare, one of the nation’s largest health insurers, said that it would stop keeping millions of dollars in discounts it gets from drug companies and share them with its customers. Dan Schumacher, the president of United Healthcare, said the new policy will apply to more than seven million people who are enrolled in the company’s fully insured plans, beginning 2019. Insurers like United Healthcare, whose parent company also owns a large pharmacy benefit manager, OptumRx, have come under increasing public pressure as drug prices — especially for brand-name drugs — continue to rise, angering consumers and lawmakers. https://www.nytimes.com/2018/03/06/health/unitedhealth-drug-prices.html




Healthcare M&A Outlook Bright for 2018: Analysts

After a subdued 2017, analysts and industry experts predict 2018 to be a robust year for healthcare M&A. Separate reports by EY and Baker & McKenzie predict a significant rise in M&A’s this year. Aligning with the forecasts, healthcare companies have started the year on a positive note, announcing deals worth over $30bn already. Giving the biotech sector a flying start, Sanofi announced two major acquisitions- Bioverativ for $11.6bn and Albynx for $4.8bn. Marking Korea’s first pharma investment in Ireland, the country’s SK Biotek a global life sciences company announced the acquisition of the former Bristol-Myers Squibb API facility. This recent flurry of M&A activity in pharmaceuticals and biotech has prompted industry experts to predict a robust year for M&A across life sciences. https://www.biospectrumasia.com/analysis/25/10447/healthcare-ma-outlook-bright-for-2018-analysts.html




Cigna to Buy Express Scripts for $67 Billion

Cigna has announced plans to buy Express Scripts pharmacy management organization in a deal valued north of $60 billion. The deal will bring pharmaceutical and medical claims branches of the health care business under one roof and represents the latest example of industry consolidation, following the nearly $70 billion CVS-Aetna union announced late last year. In total, the deal is expected to be valued at $67 billion, including Cigna’s acceptance of $15 billion of debt held by Express Scripts. It is expected to allow Cigna to have a hand in negotiating lower prescription drug prices, potentially cutting costs for the company during a time of health care volatility. https://www.usnews.com/news/economy/articles/2018-03-08/cigna-to-buy-express-scripts-for-67-billion




World Health Organization Gets Ready for ‘Disease X’

The World Health Organization included “Disease X” in its most recent global plan for accelerating research and development during health emergencies like the Ebola, SARS or Zika epidemics. The strategy and preparedness plan, known as the 2018 R&D Blueprint, was published last month. Essentially, scientists develop customizable recipes for creating vaccines. Then, when an outbreak happens, they can sequence the unique genetics of the virus causing the disease and plug the correct sequence into the already-developed platform to create a new vaccine. https://www.cnn.com/2018/03/12/health/disease-x-blueprint-who/index.html




Trump Promising Consumers Digital-Age Healthcare Approach

The Trump administration is taking a pragmatic new tack on health care, with officials promising consumer friendly changes and savings in areas from computerized medical records to prescription drugs. New Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar has been rolling out the agenda, saying it has the full backing of President Donald Trump. With Azar installed as Trump’s second health secretary, the administration is shifting to issues of broader concern for people with Medicare and employer-provided coverage. Many of the ideas have bipartisan support and can be advanced without legislation from Congress. https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/health_care/trump-promising-consumers-digital-age-health-careapproach/2018/03/12/

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