Al­ler­gan CEO Brent Saun­ders takes a pric­ing pledge: Preda­to­ry prac­tices must end

Brent Saun­ders, Al­ler­gan

Caught in the lat­est tem­pest over dra­mat­ic price hikes for old ther­a­peu­tics, Al­ler­gan CEO Brent Saun­ders is swear­ing off the prac­tice, vow­ing to main­tain a fair pric­ing pol­i­cy that could well in­spire oth­ers in the busi­ness to fol­low suit.

This pledge in­cludes lim­it­ing Al­ler­gan’s an­nu­al price hikes to mod­est sin­gle-dig­it in­creas­es, and Saun­ders says Al­ler­gan will nev­er again jack up prices with­out a sig­nif­i­cant in­crease in costs as prod­ucts near the loss of patent pro­tec­tion, di­verg­ing from a stan­dard in­dus­try prac­tice he ad­mits the com­pa­ny has fol­lowed in the past.

In a blog post to­day, Saun­ders says:

Where we in­crease price on our brand­ed ther­a­peu­tic med­i­cines, we will take price in­creas­es no more than once per year and, when we do, they will be lim­it­ed to sin­gle-dig­it per­cent­age in­creas­es. Our ex­pec­ta­tion is that the over­all cost of our drugs, net of re­bates and dis­counts, will not in­crease by more than low-to-mid sin­gle dig­its per­cent­ages per year, slight­ly above the cur­rent an­nu­al rate of in­fla­tion.

There’s more. Saun­ders says that if the in­dus­try is ex­pect­ed to con­tin­ue to in­vest huge amounts in R&D, there has to be a way to prop­er­ly re­ward in­no­va­tion. Drug re­search, he adds, is done in a frag­ile ecosys­tem that will quick­ly col­lapse with­out ap­pro­pri­ate prices for new ther­a­pies.

“This ecosys­tem can quick­ly fall apart if it is not con­tin­u­al­ly nour­ished with the con­fi­dence that there will be a longer term op­por­tu­ni­ty for ap­pro­pri­ate re­turn on in­vest­ment in the long R&D jour­ney,” writes Saun­ders.

The in­dus­try has been quick to main­tain the same po­si­tion on R&D, not­ing that bio­phar­ma tra­di­tion­al­ly in­vests a rel­a­tive­ly large per­cent­age of its rev­enue in re­search. But Saun­ders com­mit­ment to a spe­cif­ic pric­ing pol­i­cy may take more than a few in­dus­try ex­ecs by sur­prise. Reg­u­lar, dou­ble-dig­it price hikes have be­come a main­stay in the in­dus­try, fol­lowed by all the big play­ers.

That prac­tice, though, has come un­der fire as My­lan, Valeant and Tur­ing have all come un­der fire in the last year for big price hikes on old­er prod­ucts that no one is in­vest­ing in. And the storm of protest has spurred Hillary Clin­ton to of­fer a new plan to rein in drug prices, mak­ing this a po­tent po­lit­i­cal is­sue in the run up to the fall elec­tion.

The in­dus­try lob­by­ing group BIO, mean­while, has de­cid­ed to counter the cur­rent shock­wave by launch­ing an ad­ver­tis­ing cam­paign aimed at high­light­ing the good drug de­vel­op­ers do. These kinds of feel-good cam­paigns about the pos­i­tive as­pects of new drugs, though, aren’t like­ly to even make a dent in the pub­lic rage fo­cused on price goug­ing. I asked BIO’s Jim Green­wood for a com­ment on Saun­der’s plan, but he de­clined to re­spond.

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Ursula von der Leyen, President of the European Commission

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As Americans were waking up for their Black Friday rituals, they were greeted with the news that a new mutation of the Covid-19 virus has appeared and been sequenced — after it caught an international flight to Hong Kong. And two of the leading Covid-19 vaccine developers promised delivery of a new vaccine “within 100 days” if necessary while a third spelled out its 3-prong strategy hours later.

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Thanks­giv­ing edi­tion: Top 15 End­points sto­ries of 2021; Can you name that vac­cine?; Mer­ck­'s Covid an­tivi­ral dis­ap­points; FDA nom­i­nee's in­dus­try ties; and more

Welcome back to Endpoints Weekly, your review of the week’s top biopharma headlines. Want this in your inbox every Saturday morning? Current Endpoints readers can visit their reader profile to add Endpoints Weekly. New to Endpoints? Sign up here.

Happy Thanksgiving to all those who are celebrating it — although, if we are being honest, this week’s abbreviated edition is really for those who are not. Wherever you’re tuning in from, we appreciate your support, hope you find this recap helpful and we wish you a wonderful weekend.

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Troy Wilson, Kura CEO

UP­DAT­ED: FDA hits the red light on an ear­ly-stage AML study af­ter a pa­tient dies

The FDA has slapped a clinical hold on the early-stage program for one of Kura Oncology’s cancer drugs following a patient’s death in a clinical trial.

The biotech $KURA reported early Wednesday that the Phase Ib study of KO-539 for acute myeloid leukemia would be halted, suspending enrollment, while researchers and the FDA probed the death. Patients already on the drug can continue taking it.

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What were End­points read­ers tun­ing in­to this year? Here’s a look at our 15 most pop­u­lar re­ports of the year (so far)

At the beginning of this year, I laid out a basic objective for Endpoints News as we headed to our 5th anniversary. We’ve long been doing a fine job covering the breaking news in R&D — if I do say so myself — but we needed to expand our horizons on industry coverage, increase the staff and go much, much deeper when the stories demanded it.

In a phrase: broader and deeper.

It’s safe to say, based on our daily web traffic, that you all seemed to like this idea. We’ve doubled the staff — thanks to a growing group of paid subscribers — ramped up the daily report and now publish a regular slate of in-depth articles. And traffic — those clicks you always read about — have gone up in volume too. Monthly sessions are up 43%, to close to 1.5 million. Unique readers are up 63%, to 874,480 in October, after setting a record of close to a million the month before. Page views are running at 3 million-plus a month. And the overall number of subscribers has surged to 124,000.

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Mar­ket­ingRx roundup: Am­gen, Lil­ly, Bio­haven mi­graine brand re­call low, study says; No­var­tis looks to re­make drug launch mod­el

Forget the migraine marketing brand wars. When it comes to patients, many can’t even name one despite substantial advertising efforts, according to a new study from Phreesia that concludes CGRP migraine drugmakers still need to work on brand recognition.

Almost half (47%) of the patients Phreesia surveyed couldn’t name one preventative migraine brand. The best performer was Topamax, a small molecule anticonvulsant that’s been around since 2004, which 26% of migraine patients could recall. Among the new CGRP brand names recognized, Amgen’s Aimovig ranked highest with 8% recall, while Eli Lilly’s Emgality and Biohaven’s Nurtec tied at 7% and Teva’s Ajovy was remembered by 3% of patients.

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Emma Walmsley, GlaxoSmithKline CEO (Fang Zhe/Xinhua/Alamy Live News)

Glax­o­SmithK­line places a risky bet on Ar­row­head­'s RNA drug in the fail­ure-strewn NASH field

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GSK will pay $120 million in upfront cash and $910 million in downstream milestones to develop and sell ARO-HSD, Arrowhead Pharmaceuticals’ RNA interference drug targeting fatty liver disease nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH), the companies said Monday.

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Name that vac­cine: From Comir­naty to Spike­vax to Nu­vax­ovid, Covid-19 shot­s' brand names re­main lit­tle-known

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Joan Perelló, Sanifit CEO

Joan Perel­ló set out 17 years ago to de­vel­op a drug. And to­day he's be­ing re­ward­ed with a $424M biotech buy­out

Joan Perelló beat all the odds with his little Spanish biotech startup Sanifit.

Working on the far perimeter of the big US/European drug development scene, he took a drug born out of his PhD work and got enough seed cash to get started. That’s one near miracle. In the second near miracle he gathered a previously unheard of venture raise in Spain — helping build an industry ecosystem from scratch — to pursue a successful search for solid human data for his drug, SNF472. And while gathering a virtual team of developers from Europe and the US, the CEO/co-founder steered it into the late-stage arena.

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