Af­ter jump­ing ship at Eli Lil­ly, Politi­co re­ports Alex Azar may soon land top HHS job

Back at the be­gin­ning of this year, Eli Lil­ly’s US chief Alex Azar left his post dur­ing the big ex­ec­u­tive shuf­fle as Dave Ricks re­placed John Lech­leit­er at the helm. But he may be about to line up a much bet­ter job than the one he ex­it­ed.

Politi­co re­ports that Azar is a fa­vorite in the race to re­place Tom Price, the ex­pe­ri­enced po­lit­i­cal hand who had a weak­ness for pri­vate jets. De­pend­ing on who the re­porters were talk­ing to in the ad­min­is­tra­tion, Azar had ei­ther been short­list­ed or was al­ready in­for­mal­ly tapped for the job.

The move would bring Azar back to Wash­ing­ton, where he did a stint as gen­er­al coun­sel and deputy sec­re­tary at HHS un­der George W Bush. Azar — a Yale Law School grad — was on one of my pan­els about 15 months ago and ably rep­re­sent­ed Lil­ly with a sharp and con­cise rep­re­sen­ta­tion of the kind of op­por­tu­ni­ties and pit­falls a Big Phar­ma like Lil­ly has to nav­i­gate every day.

Azar did not im­me­di­ate­ly jump to an­oth­er po­si­tion in the in­dus­try, up­ping the odds that he was pushed out rather than jumped as Ricks be­gan to re­struc­ture the com­pa­ny from top to bot­tom. Azar set up a con­sul­tan­cy called Seraphim Strate­gies in Feb­ru­ary as he “ex­plored lead­er­ship op­por­tu­ni­ties.”

What­ev­er Azar’s thoughts on Lil­ly, he’d be viewed as a de­pend­able and tal­ent­ed ad­vo­cate for the in­dus­try, some­one who isn’t like­ly to dis­com­fort the Big Phar­ma play­ers.

De­pend­ing on when he’s talk­ing, Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump has been a caus­tic crit­ic of the bio­phar­ma in­dus­try’s drug pric­ing poli­cies. Just yes­ter­day he dou­bled down on his ear­li­er crit­i­cisms, not­ing that US drug prices are a mul­ti­ple of what they cost in oth­er coun­tries with a sin­gle-pay­er sys­tem — some­thing he would nev­er abide.

“Some­times it’s a frac­tion of what we pay in this coun­try,” Trump said in pre­pared re­marks. “The drug com­pa­nies frankly are get­ting away with mur­der and we want to bring our prices down to what oth­er coun­tries pay.”

We’ve been sub­si­diz­ing oth­er coun­tries, he added, “pay­ing dou­ble, triple, quadru­ple.”

But un­like his first slap­downs, this time Trump’s at­tack bare­ly caused a rip­ple in the in­dus­try, where top ex­ecs led by Mer­ck’s Ken Fra­zier ex­it­ed the pres­i­dent’s in­dus­try ad­vi­so­ry groups in the wake of the con­tro­ver­sy over the Char­lottesvil­lle, VA con­fronta­tion by ex­trem­ist or­ga­ni­za­tions.

One oth­er hot­ly ru­mored can­di­date for this job has been FDA com­mis­sion­er Scott Got­tlieb, who’s made an im­pres­sive en­try in­to a job that calls on the fed­er­al agency to bal­ance the gold stan­dard on ef­fi­ca­cy and safe­ty drug de­vel­op­ment with the man­date to speed new ap­provals. Got­tlieb re­cent­ly said he’d pre­fer to stay at the FDA, where his tal­ents lay, with­out ac­tu­al­ly rul­ing out a quick pro­mo­tion.

It ap­pears he may get his wish.

Deputy Health and Hu­man Ser­vices Sec­re­tary Alex Azar meets re­porters at de­part­ment head­quar­ters on June 8, 2006 to an­nounce the ap­proval of Gar­dasil, the first vac­cine de­vel­oped to pro­tect women against cer­vi­cal can­cer. AP Pho­to/Evan Vuc­ci

Teresa Graham, incoming Roche Pharmaceuticals CEO

In­com­ing Roche CEO builds out his top team, tap­ping Genen­tech vet to lead phar­ma di­vi­sion

Roche announced another leadership shuffle Thursday morning – the head of global product strategy, Teresa Graham, will take over as CEO of Roche Pharmaceuticals in March while the company’s corporate executive committee will make a spot for Levi Garraway, CMO and executive VP of global product development.

Thomas Schinecker will take over the top spot as Roche group CEO in March, leaving his spot as head of diagnostics.

Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) (Francis Chung/E&E News/Politico via AP Images)

In­fla­tion re­bates in­com­ing: Wyden calls on CMS to move quick­ly as No­var­tis CEO pledges re­ver­sal

Senate Finance Chair Ron Wyden (D-OR) this week sent a letter to the head of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services seeking an update on how and when new inflation-linked rebates will take effect for drugs that see major price spikes.

The newly signed Inflation Reduction Act requires manufacturers to pay a rebate to Medicare when they increase drug prices faster than the rate of inflation.

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Te­va drops out of in­dus­try trade group PhRMA

Following in AbbVie’s footsteps, Teva confirmed on Friday that it’s dropping out of the industry trade group Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA).

Teva didn’t give a reason for its decision to leave, saying only in a statement to Endpoints News that it annually reviews “effectiveness and value of engagements, consultants and memberships to ensure our investments are properly seated.”

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Sanofi CFO Jean-Baptiste de Chatillon (L) and CEO Paul Hudson (Romuald Meigneux/Sipa via AP Images)

Sanofi sees downtick in flu sales as it preps for launch of RSV an­ti­body

Sanofi expects its RSV antibody jointly developed with AstraZeneca will be available next season, executive VP of vaccines Thomas Triomphe announced on the company’s quarterly call.

Beyfortus, also known as nirsevimab, was approved in the EU back in November and is currently under FDA review with an expected decision coming in the third quarter of this year. The news comes as the FDA plans to hold advisory committee meetings over the next couple months to review RSV vaccines from Pfizer and GSK.

Christophe Weber, Takeda CEO (Photographer: Shoko Takayasu/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Take­da fo­cus­es on ‘di­verse’ pipeline prospects on heels of two ac­qui­si­tions

After a whopping $4 billion asset buy from Nimbus Therapeutics, along with a $400 million deal with Hutchmed for a colorectal cancer drug, Takeda executives touted pipeline optimism on its latest earnings call this week.

That’s because the TYK2 inhibitor for psoriasis Takeda is getting from Nimbus, along with the Hutchmed fruquintinib commercialization outside of China, are just two of what it reports are 10 late-stage development programs of promising candidates.

Regeneron CSO George Yancopoulos (L) and CEO Len Schleifer at a groundbreaking for its new Tarrytown, NY facility, June 2022 (Lev Radin/Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty Images)

In show­down with Roche, Re­gen­eron gears up for po­ten­tial Eylea ex­pan­sion amid Covid de­cline

Regeneron faced a substantial slump in overall revenue last year, but the focus still remains on some of its biggest blockbusters.

The pharma with several high-profile partnerships — Sanofi and Bayer among them — said Friday that Q4 revenue was down 31% for the quarter, and down 24% for the entire year. However, that won’t stop blockbuster expansion plans.

One of those is Eylea, the Bayer-partnered eye disease drug that has been in major competition with Roche’s Vabysmo. While Eylea is currently only approved in a 2 mg dose, the company recently filed for approval to give a 8 mg dose, in hopes of making a longer-lasting treatment.

BeiGene's new website helps direct cancer patients and caregivers to a wide variety of sources for help.

BeiGene re­veals men­tal health and can­cer care gap in study, de­buts dig­i­tal re­sources

One-fourth of cancer patients are living with depression — and another 20% suffer from anxiety. That’s according to new study results from BeiGene, conducted by Cancer Support Community (CSC), about the mental and emotional health of cancer patients.

While the fact that people with cancer are also dealing with depression or anxiety may not be surprising, what is — and was to BeiGene — is that a majority of them aren’t getting support. 60% of respondents said they were not referred to a mental health professional, and even more concerning, two in five who specifically asked for mental health help did not get it. CSC, a nonprofit mental health in cancer advocacy group, surveyed more than 600 US cancer patients.

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One of the paintings from Gilead's latest campaign making AI art to help MBC patients be 'seen and heard.'

Gilead com­bines ar­ti­fi­cial in­tel­li­gence and art to draw at­ten­tion and hope to MBC

What if you could “see” the emotions and feelings of people living with metastatic breast cancer? That’s what Gilead Sciences’ agency VMLY&R Health did last year, using artificial intelligence and sound analytics to turn the interviews of three women living with metastatic triple-negative breast cancer into works of art.

Using the sound waves, a robotic painting device translated their stories of struggle and hope into colors, contours and brush strokes. The result? An art exhibition called “Paintings of Hope” that was first displayed at ESMO in September in Paris, but has since traveled to hospitals and medical conferences in Europe and Spain.

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Medicago's vaccine greenhouse (Medicago via YouTube)

Cana­di­an plant-based vac­cine de­vel­op­er Med­ica­go shut­ters months af­ter lay­offs

Plant-based Covid-19 vaccine developer Medicago shut down this week with little fanfare. And its two subsidiaries, Medicago R&D and Medicago USA, are also closing their doors, according to a company news release.

The lone shareholder left standing, Japan-based Mitsubishi Chemical Group, “has determined not to make further investments in Medicago and to proceed with an orderly wind-up of its business and operations in Canada and in the United States.”