As Con­gress bat­tles over gov­ern­ment drug price ne­go­ti­a­tion, new poll finds strong sup­port on both sides of the aisle

More than 80% of Amer­i­cans “strong­ly fa­vor” or “some­what fa­vor” al­low­ing the fed­er­al gov­ern­ment to ne­go­ti­ate with drug com­pa­nies, in­clud­ing 92% of De­moc­rats and 76% of Re­pub­li­cans polled by the Kaiser Fam­i­ly Foun­da­tion late last month and ear­li­er this month.

The poll re­leased Tues­day morn­ing comes as Con­gress re­mains dead­locked on how to find a way to give drug price ne­go­ti­at­ing pow­er to Medicare, as part of an ef­fort to help pay for a larg­er so­cial spend­ing bill from the De­moc­rats. With on­ly a slim ma­jor­i­ty in the Sen­ate, and Pelosi’s planned vote dead­line com­ing up quick­ly at the end of the month, De­moc­rats seem to be re­peat­ing their past fail­ures, find­ing holes in their buck­et of sup­port.

Sens. Kyrsten Sine­ma of Ari­zona and Bob Menen­dez of New Jer­sey, where Mer­ck, No­var­tis and J&J are based or have US head­quar­ters,, both seem, at best, to be on the fence with drug pric­ing re­forms. Ac­cord­ing to Politi­co, Rep. Scott Pe­ters, a De­mo­c­rat who like­ly won’t back drug re­forms, said that Sine­ma op­pos­es the cur­rent drug price re­form ideas, al­though Sine­ma’s spokesper­son tried to walk back those com­ments.

But the KFF poll of about 1,150 US adults, in­clud­ing 474 adults ages 65 and old­er, may bring some so­lace to De­moc­rats who thought their sup­port for drug price ne­go­ti­a­tions would hurt them at the polls.

The poll found that 84% of re­spon­dents found the fol­low­ing state­ment “very con­vinc­ing” or “some­what con­vinc­ing” that “ne­go­ti­a­tion is need­ed be­cause Amer­i­cans pay high­er prices than peo­ple in oth­er coun­tries, many can’t af­ford their pre­scrip­tions, and drug com­pa­ny prof­its are too high.”

The phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal in­dus­try has long main­tained that al­low­ing the fed­er­al gov­ern­ment to ne­go­ti­ate pre­scrip­tion drug prices in any ca­pac­i­ty will be noth­ing short of crip­pling for the en­tire in­dus­try, lead­ing to less R&D and few­er new drugs. The CBO has warned of al­most 60 few­er new drugs over three decades with a ma­jor Medicare drug price ne­go­ti­a­tions bill. And cu­ri­ous­ly, about 1 in 5 peo­ple sur­veyed on both sides of the aisle said they trust the bio­phar­ma in­dus­try on drug prices.

But KFF polling found that on­ly 6% of those sur­veyed said they think “drug com­pa­nies need to charge high prices in or­der to fund the in­no­v­a­tive re­search nec­es­sary for de­vel­op­ing new drugs,” while 93% said “that even if U.S. prices were low­er, drug com­pa­nies would still make enough mon­ey to in­vest in the re­search need­ed to de­vel­op new drugs.” This view is con­sis­tent across par­ti­san­ship and age groups, KFF said.

In­dus­try group PhRMA quick­ly crit­i­cized the KFF poll on Tues­day, say­ing in a state­ment:

It’s un­for­tu­nate when a re­spect­ed or­ga­ni­za­tion is com­pelled to put out a mis­lead­ing poll that con­tra­dicts years of its own non­par­ti­san re­search. This poll doesn’t present the whole de­bate and re­lies on straw-man ar­gu­ments to steer the pub­lic to­ward a de­sired out­come. As Kaiser has shown for years, the pub­lic over­whelm­ing­ly re­jects gov­ern­ment price-set­ting when they learn it threat­ens ac­cess to med­i­cines and fu­ture in­no­va­tion.

Biotech Half­time Re­port: Af­ter a bumpy year, is biotech ready to re­bound?

The biotech sector has come down firmly from the highs of February as negative sentiment takes hold. The sector had a major boost of optimism from the success of the COVID-19 vaccines, making investors keenly aware of the potential of biopharma R&D engines. But from early this year, clinical trial, regulatory and access setbacks have reminded investors of the sector’s inherent risks.

RBC Capital Markets recently surveyed investors to take the temperature of the market, a mix of specialists/generalists and long-only/ long-short investment strategies. Heading into the second half of the year, investors mostly see the sector as undervalued (49%), a large change from the first half of the year when only 20% rated it as undervalued. Around 41% of investors now believe that biotech will underperform the S&P500 in the second half of 2021. Despite that view, 54% plan to maintain their position in the market and 41% still plan to increase their holdings.

So — that pig-to-hu­man trans­plant; Po­ten­tial di­a­betes cure reach­es pa­tient; Ac­cused MIT sci­en­tist lash­es back; 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.

We’re incredibly excited to welcome Beth Bulik, seasoned pharma marketing reporter, to the team. You can find much of her work in our new Marketing channel — and in her weekly newsletter, Endpoints PharmaRx, which will launch in early November. Add it to your subscriptions here.

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NYU surgeon transplants an engineered pig kidney into the outside of a brain-dead patient (Joe Carrotta/NYU Langone Health)

No, sci­en­tists are not any clos­er to pig-to-hu­man trans­plants than they were last week

Steve Holtzman was awoken by a 1 a.m. call from a doctor at Duke University asking if he could put some pigs on a plane and fly them from Ohio to North Carolina that day. A motorcyclist had gotten into a horrific crash, the doctor explained. He believed the pigs’ livers, sutured onto the patient’s skin like an external filter, might be able to tide the young man over until a donor liver became available.

UP­DAT­ED: Agenus calls out FDA for play­ing fa­vorites with Mer­ck, pulls cer­vi­cal can­cer BLA at agen­cy's re­quest

While criticizing the FDA for what may be some favoritism towards Merck, Agenus on Friday officially pulled its accelerated BLA for its anti-PD-1 inhibitor balstilimab as a potential second-line treatment for cervical cancer because of the recent full approval for Merck’s Keytruda in the same indication.

The company said the BLA, which was due for an FDA decision by Dec. 16, was withdrawn “when the window for accelerated approval of balstilimab closed,” thanks to the conversion of Keytruda’s accelerated approval to a full approval four months prior to its PDUFA date.

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How to col­lect and sub­mit RWD to win ap­proval for a new drug in­di­ca­tion: FDA spells it out in a long-await­ed guid­ance

Real-world data are messy. There can be differences in the standards used to collect different types of data, differences in terminologies and curation strategies, and even in the way data are exchanged.

While acknowledging this somewhat controlled chaos, the FDA is now explaining how biopharma companies can submit study data derived from real-world data (RWD) sources in applicable regulatory submissions, including new drug indications.

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David Livingston (Credit: Michael Sazel for CeMM)

Renowned Dana-Far­ber sci­en­tist, men­tor and bio­phar­ma ad­vi­sor David Liv­ingston has died

David Livingston, the Dana-Farber/Harvard Med scientist who helped shine a light on some of the key molecular drivers of breast and ovarian cancer, died unexpectedly last Sunday.

One of the senior leaders at Dana-Farber during his nearly half century of work there, Livingston was credited with shedding light on the genes that regulate cell growth, with insights into inherited BRCA1 and BRCA2 mutations that helped lay the scientific foundation for targeted therapies and earlier detection that have transformed the field.

Marty Duvall, Oncopeptides CEO

On­copep­tides stock craters as it pulls can­cer drug Pepax­to from the mar­ket

Shares of Oncopeptides crashed more than 70% in early Friday trading after the company said it’s pulling its multiple myeloma drug Pepaxto (melphalan flufenamide) from the US market after failing a confirmatory trial. The move will force the company to close its US and EU business units and enact significant layoffs.

The FDA had scheduled an adcomm meeting next Thursday to discuss Pepaxto, which first won accelerated approval in February and costs about $19,000 per course of treatment. The committee was to weigh in on whether the confirmatory trial demonstrated a worse overall survival in the treatment arm compared to the control arm.

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No­vo CEO Lars Fruer­gaard Jør­gensen on R&D risk, the deal strat­e­gy and tar­gets for gen­der di­ver­si­ty

 

I kicked off our European R&D summit last week with a conversation involving Novo Nordisk CEO Lars Fruergaard Jørgensen. Novo is aiming to launch a new era of obesity management with a new approval for semaglutide. And Jørgensen had a lot to say about what comes next in R&D, how they manage risk and gender diversity targets at the trendsetting European pharma giant.

John Carroll: I’m here with Lars Jørgensen, the CEO of Novo Nordisk. Lars, it’s been a really interesting year so far with Novo Nordisk, right? You’ve projected a new era of growing sales. You’ve been able to expand on the GLP-1 franchise that was already well established in diabetes now going into obesity. And I think a tremendous number of people are really interested in how that’s working out. You have forecast a growing amount of sales. We don’t know specifically how that might play out. I know a lot of the analysts have different ideas, how those numbers might play out, but that we are in fact embarking on a new era for Novo Nordisk in terms of what the company’s capable of doing and what it’s able to do and what it wants to do. And I wanted to start off by asking you about obesity in particular. Semaglutide has been approved in the United States for obesity. It’s an area of R&D that’s been very troubled for decades. There have been weight loss drugs that have come along. They’ve attracted a lot of attention, but they haven’t actually ever gained traction in the market. My first question is what’s different this time about obesity? What is different about this drug and why do you expect it to work now whereas previous drugs haven’t?

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Bris­tol My­ers pledges to sell its Ac­celeron shares as ac­tivist in­vestors cir­cle Mer­ck­'s $11.5B buy­out — re­port

Just as Avoro Capital’s campaign to derail Merck’s proposed $11.5 billion buyout of Acceleron gains steam, Bristol Myers Squibb is leaning in with some hefty counterweight.

The pharma giant is planning to tender its Acceleron shares, Bloomberg reported, which add up to a sizable 11.5% stake. Based on the offer price, the sale would net Bristol Myers around $1.3 billion.

To complete its deal, Merck needs a majority of shareholders to agree to sell their shares.