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Business Meeting


May 2018 - July 2018

Diabetes Patients at Risk from Rising Insulin Prices

A Yale study found that one in four patients admitted to cutting back on insulin use because of cost. Between 2002 and 2013, the price of insulin jumped, with the typical cost for patients increasing from about $40 a vial to $130. Due to the rising cost of the drug, a large number of people with diabetes are using less insulin than prescribed, putting themselves in danger of serious complications. Not getting enough insulin can have severe consequences for someone with diabetes who does not produce enough of the hormone, which regulates levels of glucose in the blood. Those who reported underusing insulin because of cost were more likely to have dangerous blood glucose levels compared with those who said they did not underuse.

FDA Approves First Cannabis-Based Drug

The US Food and Drug Administration approved a cannabis-based drug for the first time. The twice-daily oral solution is approved for use in patients 2 and older to treat two types of epileptic syndromes: Dravet syndrome, a rare genetic dysfunction of the brain that begins in the first year of life, and Lennox-Gastaut syndrome, a form of epilepsy with multiple types of seizures that begin in early childhood, usually between 3 and 5. According to GW Pharmaceuticals, the drug is the “first pharmaceutical formulation of highly-purified, plantbased cannabidiol (CBD), a cannabinoid lacking the high associated with marijuana, and the first in a new category of anti-epileptic drugs.”

Amazon Shakes Up Drugstore Business With Deal to Buy Online Pharmacy PillPack

Amazon is acquiring online pharmacy PillPack in a deal that is already shaking up the drugstore industry. It threatens to remove one of the few distinguishing factors pharmacy chains have relied on to fend off Amazon, the sale of prescription drugs. Retailers like Walgreens Boots Alliance, CVS Health, and Rite Aid have seen their so-called front of store sales threatened as shoppers increasingly buy household staples online or from convenience stores. These retailers lost about $12.8 billion in market value.

Trump to Drop Call for Medicare to Negotiate Lower Drug Prices

President Trump will lay out a broad strategy to reduce prescription drug prices, but in a break from one of his most popular campaign promises, he will not call for Medicare to negotiate lower prices with drug manufacturers, senior administration officials said. The White House will issue a blueprint that represents “the most comprehensive plan to tackle prescription drug affordability of any president,” according to the senior official. The plan would not include direct negotiations by Medicare.

F.D.A. Approves First Drug Designed to Prevent Migraines

The Food and Drug Administration approved the first medicine designed to prevent migraines, ushering in what many experts believe will be a new era in treatment for people who suffer the most severe form of headaches. The drug, Aimovig, is a monthly injection with a device similar to an insulin pen. Aimovig blocks a protein fragment, CGRP, that instigates and perpetuates migraines. Three other companies, Lilly, Teva, and Alder, have similar medicines in the final stages of study or awaiting FDA approval.

J&J Agrees to Sell LifeScan Unit for $2.1B

Johnson & Johnson accepted Platinum Equity’s $2.1 billion offer for LifeScan, the company’s blood glucose monitoring unit known for its OneTouch brand of glucose meters and insulin pumps. LifeScan is known to diabetes patients worldwide for its OneTouch brand of glucose meters, insulin pumps, and related products. J&J said the deal is expected to close by the end of the year, assuming it clears regulatory requirements and other customary closing conditions. LifeScan earned $1.5 billion in revenue in 2017.

Pharma Shells Out $100B on M&A in 2018 So Far, With More to Come: Report

After an unusually slow 2017, deal-making in Big Pharma roared back to life in the first half of this year, with $100 billion spent on mergers and acquisitions so far. And with such names as Johnson & Johnson and Allergan mulling both acquisitions and selloffs of some of their core assets, it’s likely the M&A boom will continue through 2018. All in all, the M&A landscape in Big Pharma this year is already a far cry from 2017, when there were 101 deals, only 14 of which were worth more than $1 billion, BioSpace reported. The industry is well on its way to surpassing last year’s M&A total already.

Biogen to Spend $700M to Build Its Stake to 49.9% in Biosims Joint Venture With Samsung

After Biogen reported first-quarter results back in April, CFO Jeff Cappello said the company would get further involved in an “attractive value creation” opportunity: its biosimilars joint venture with Samsung BioLogics. Biogen says it’ll pay Samsung BioLogics about $700 million to build its stake in the joint venture to 49.9%. The exact value will depend on timing and exchange rates. Biogen’s move to scoop up more share comes as its stalwart multiple sclerosis franchise operates in an increasingly competitive field.

Johnson & Johnson Has the Most Bucks for Biopharma M&A, Astellas the Easiest Target: Analyst

The recent surprise of Takeda’s acquisition of Shire and available financing provide further evidence that almost any such potential transaction could be possible. After going through the balance sheets of 20 biopharma companies with the largest market caps, Porges and colleagues found that, at peak leverage ratios, the group could collectively borrow $460 billion in M&A war chests even without counting leverage capacity of target or potential synergies. The top three companies with the most options for takeovers coincide with the top three with the highest 2017 revenues. Johnson & Johnson, Roche and Pfizer have $65 billion, $55 billion and $41 billion leverage capacity, respectively—cash and debt—while Novartis, Merck & Co. and Gilead also have mid-level options, according to Leerink’s report.

Universal Flu Vaccine Biotech Seeks Big Pharma Partnership for Phase 3 Testing: CEO

Problems with seasonal flu shots have been well documented, and now U.K. biotech Imutex believes it has the next big advance for flu vaccine technology. The company reported phase 2b data showing that its universal flu shot, FLU-v, boosted immune responses and lowered infection rates. Other companies, including global giants Sanofi and Johnson & Johnson, are also working on advancing flu vaccine technology. FluGen and Vaccitech are among the biotechs with universal flu programs.

When a Health Insurer Also Wants to Be a Hospice Company

Hospice, the business of caring for those who are nearing death, has become a booming multibillion-dollar industry that is attracting more and more for-profit companies, including one of the nation’s major insurers, Humana. Humana plans to buy two hospice chains that together would create the industry’s biggest operator with hundreds of locations in dozens of states. The Medicare Payment Advisory Commission, which does research for Congress, estimates that for-profit companies running hospices, which make up about two-thirds of the industry, had an overall profit margin of 16 percent, compared to about break-even for nonprofits.

Amazon, Berkshire Hathaway and JPMorgan Name C.E.O. for Health Initiative

Amazon, Berkshire Hathaway and JPMorgan Chase, the powerful triumvirate that announced its hope to overhaul the health care of its employees and set an example for the nation, said that it had picked one of the country’s most famous doctors to lead the new operation: Dr. Atul Gawande. Dr. Atul Gawande, a Harvard surgeon and staff writer for The New Yorker magazine, will become chief executive of the new company. He said he was not stepping down from his current medical and other duties to take the job.

Disability Applications Plunge as the Economy Strengthens

The number of Americans seeking Social Security disability benefits is plunging, a startling reversal of a decades-old trend that threatened the program’s solvency. It is the latest evidence of a stronger economy pulling people back into the job market or preventing workers from being sidelined in the first place. In addition to stronger economic growth, the drop reflects newly tightened standards for eligibility and the increasing number of baby boomers who are leaving the program because they have become eligible for Social Security retirement benefits and Medicare.

Gilead’s Kite Taps Eisai Cancer Vet Amoroso to Lead the Charge for CAR-T Sales

Just one month after naming a new head of corporate development, Gilead is strengthening its top management team again—this time plucking an oncology vet to head up its entrance into the burgeoning market for CAR-T cancer treatments. Gilead unit Kite, which won FDA approval for the CAR-T drug Yescarta last year, has hired Michael Amoroso as SVP and head of worldwide commercial efforts in cell therapy. Amoroso’s previous experience as SVP of Eisai’s oncology business group in the U.S. will help as Gilead seeks to build on its existing portfolio, expand its commercial presence in cell therapy in the U.S. and around the world, and advance new products to market.

Success of Blood Test for Autism Affirmed

One year after researchers published their work on a physiological test for autism, a follow-up study confirms its exceptional success in assessing whether a child is on the autism spectrum. A physiological test that supports a clinician’s diagnostic process has the potential to lower the age at which children are diagnosed, leading to earlier treatment. Results of the study, which uses an algorithm to predict if a child has autism spectrum disorder (ASD) based on metabolites in a blood sample, published online today, appear in the June edition of Bioengineering & Translational Medicine.


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