Phar­ma 'greed' emerges as a po­tent po­lit­i­cal is­sue in a rau­cous elec­tion year

Phar­ma ex­ecs aren’t the most pop­u­lar peo­ple in the US these days, par­tic­u­lar­ly when they keep hik­ing the price of their drugs. And a sen­ate cam­paign in New Jer­sey is dri­ving that point home — right to the hilt.

Over the last few days Bob Hug­in’s po­lit­i­cal op­po­nents fight­ing the Re­pub­li­can ex-Cel­gene CEO’s cam­paign in New Jer­sey have been run­ning a bit­ter ad spot fea­tur­ing can­cer sur­vivor Pam Holt. Holt notes that Cel­gene’s Revlim­id costs a dol­lar a pill to make, and Cel­gene charges $600 for it, af­ter more than dou­bling what it orig­i­nal­ly cost when it hit the mar­ket.

“He was the CEO of the drug com­pa­ny that dou­bled the price on us, while he made $100 mil­lion,” she tells the cam­era. “Now he wants to be your sen­a­tor. But I’ll al­ways know him as the guy who made a killing off can­cer pa­tients like me.”

Cel­gene has al­ready in­di­rect­ly come in for some point­ed crit­i­cism from HHS sec­re­tary Alex Azar af­ter push­ing the price 20% last year. And now the com­pa­ny has re­port­ed­ly fol­lowed up with a 5% hike, with plans to leave it at that.

That’s prob­a­bly not great tim­ing from Hug­in’s per­spec­tive. Bob Menen­dez’s cam­paign float­ed a web­site called Health­News­NJ to paint him as a greedy phar­ma ex­ec. And the Menen­dez cam­paign chief has tak­en to call­ing Hug­in’s pay at Cel­gene “blood mon­ey.”

Cel­gene’s heavy re­liance on an ever-ris­ing price for Revlim­id to swell rev­enue is a stan­dard strat­e­gy at the big bio­phar­ma com­pa­nies. But these at­tack ads show that it has be­come a po­lit­i­cal hot pota­to, fu­el­ing a back­lash with broad im­pli­ca­tions for all the big play­ers. 

Just last week, af­ter Don­ald Trump promised we’d all be see­ing falling prices, Pfiz­er went ahead — like oth­ers — with price hikes on dozens of its port­fo­lio prod­ucts. Then the phone rang. 

The pres­i­dent called Pfiz­er CEO Ian Read per­son­al­ly to per­suade him to de­lay a big round of price hikes on their port­fo­lio, and got him to slam the brakes on the move — at least for now. 

Will oth­ers fol­low, or risk draw­ing the same un­wel­come spot­light?

Hug­in left his po­si­tion as Cel­gene chair­man to run for the Sen­ate, and there’s noth­ing he can do about the price of Revlim­id now. But he is push­ing back against the at­tack ad. His cam­paign just post­ed a new 30-sec­ond spot fea­tur­ing the fa­ther of an­oth­er can­cer pa­tient who says the phar­ma ex­ec pro­vid­ed Revlim­id when his in­sur­ance com­pa­ny wouldn’t cov­er it for his son.

“It’s not the drugs,” he says. “It’s not the prof­its. It’s a very per­son­al thing for Bob Hug­in.”


Im­age: Bob Hug­in at a pri­ma­ry elec­tion, June 5, 2018. AP IM­AGES

Biotech in­vestors and CEOs see two paths to growth, but are they equal­ly vi­able?

The dynamic in the biotech market has been highly volatile in the last few years, from the high peaks immediately after the COVID vaccine in 2021, to the lowest downturns of the last 20 years in 2022. This uncertainty makes calling the exact timing of the market’s turn something of a fool’s errand, according to Dr. Chen Yu, Founder and Managing Partner of TCG Crossover (TCG X). He speaks with RBC’s Noël Brown, Head of US Biotechnology Investment Banking, about the market’s road ahead and two possible paths for growth.

Casey McPherson shows his daughters Rose (left) and Weston around Everlum Bio, a lab that he co-founded to spark a treatment for Rose and others with ultra-rare conditions. (Ilana Panich-Linsman)

Fa­ther starts lab af­ter in­tel­lec­tu­al prop­er­ty is­sues stymie rare dis­ease drug de­vel­op­ment

Under bright lab lights, Casey McPherson holds his 6-year-old daughter, Rose. His free hand directs Rose’s gaze toward a computer screen with potential clues in treating her one-of-a kind genetic condition.

Gray specks on the screen show her cells that scientists reprogrammed with the goal of zeroing in on a custom medicine. McPherson co-founded the lab, Everlum Bio, to spark a treatment for Rose — and others like her. A regarded singer-songwriter, McPherson never imagined going into drug development.

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Vlad Coric, Biohaven CEO

Vlad Coric charts course for new Bio­haven with neu­ro­science push and Big Phar­ma vets on board

What’s Biohaven without its CGRP portfolio? That’s what CEO Vlad Coric is tasked with deciding as he maps out the new Biohaven post-Pfizer takeover.

Pfizer officially scooped up Biohaven’s CGRP assets on Monday, including blockbuster migraine drug Nurtec and the investigational zavegepant, for $11.6 billion. As a result, Coric spun the broader pipeline into an independent company on Tuesday — with the same R&D team behind Nurtec but about 1,000 fewer staffers and a renewed focus on neuroscience and rare disease.

In AstraZeneca's latest campaign, wild eosinophils called Phils personify the acting up often seen in uncontrolled asthma

As­traZeneca de­buts an­noy­ing pur­ple ‘Phil’ crea­tures, per­son­i­fied asth­ma eosinophils ‘be­hav­ing bad­ly’

There are some odd-looking purple creatures lurking around the halls of AstraZenca lately. The “Phil” character cutouts are purple, personified eosinophils with big buggy eyes and wide mouths, and they’re a part of AZ’s newest awareness effort to help people understand eosinophilic asthma.

The “Asthma Behaving Badly” characters aren’t only on the walls at AZ to show the new campaign to employees, however. The “Phils” are also showing up online on the campaign website, and in digital and social ads and posts on Facebook and Instagram.

Christophe Bourdon, Leo Pharma CEO

Leo Phar­ma looks 'be­yond the skin' in atopic der­mati­tis aware­ness cam­paign

As Leo Pharma aims to take on heavyweight champ Dupixent in atopic dermatitis, the company is launching “AD Days Around the World,” an awareness campaign documenting real patient stories across Europe.

The project, unveiled on Monday, spotlights four patients: Marjolaine, Laura, Julia and África from France, Italy, Germany and Spain, respectively, in short video clips on the challenges of living with AD, the most common form of eczema.

Ying Huang, Legend CEO

Lentivi­ral vec­tor ramp-up: J&J and Leg­end to in­vest $500M in New Jer­sey man­u­fac­tur­ing to sup­port Carvyk­ti

In response to a question on manufacturing scale at Legend Biotech’s R&D day yesterday, the company’s top exec said its partnership with Johnson & Johnson will be doubling its investment in its New Jersey manufacturing center and will be investing a total of $500 million.

With an eye on their BCMA-directed CAR-T therapy Carvykti (cilta-cel), approved in February as a fifth-line treatment for multiple myeloma, Legend CEO Ying Huang said that the ramp-up in production and the decision to manufacture its own lentiviral vectors — currently in shortage worldwide — means they won’t have to deal with that shortage.

Mar­ket­ingRx roundup: No­var­tis re­cruits NFL coach for Leqvio cam­paign; Pfiz­er pro­motes ‘Sci­ence’ merch on so­cial me­dia

Novartis is turning to a winning coach to talk about Leqvio and the struggles of high cholesterol — including his own. Bruce Arians, the retired NFL head coach of the Arizona Cardinals and Super Bowl-winning Tampa Bay Buccaneers, is partnering with the pharma for its “Coaching Cholesterol” digital, social and public relations effort.

In the campaign, Arians talks about the potential for “great comebacks” in football and heart health. Once nicknamed a “quarterback whisperer,” he is now retired from fulltime coaching (although still a front-office consultant for Tampa Bay), and did a round of media interviews for Novartis, including one with People and Forbes.

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Amy West, Novo Nordisk head of US digital innovation and transformation (Illustration: Assistant Editor Kathy Wong for Endpoints News)

Q&A: No­vo Nordisk dig­i­tal in­no­va­tion chief Amy West dis­cuss­es phar­ma pain points and a health­care 'easy but­ton’

Amy West joined Novo Nordisk more than a decade ago to oversee marketing strategies and campaigns for its US diabetes portfolio. However, her career path shifted into digital, and she hasn’t looked back. West went from leading Novo’s first digital health strategy in the US to now heading up digital innovation and transformation.

She’s currently leading the charge at Novo Nordisk to not only go beyond the pill with digital marketing and health tech, but also test, pilot and develop groundbreaking new strategies needed in today’s consumerized healthcare world.

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Benjamine Liu, TrialSpark CEO

Paul Hud­son and Tri­alSpark's mu­tu­al de­sire to speed up de­vel­op­ment con­verges in three-year, six-drug goal

A unicorn startup that originally set out to hasten clinical studies for biopharma partners dug further into its revised path of internal drug development by linking arms with Sanofi in a pact that the biotech’s CEO said originated from the top.

TrialSpark and the Big Pharma on Tuesday committed to in-licensing and/or acquiring six Phase II/Phase III drugs within the next three years.

“I’ve known Paul Hudson for a while and we were discussing the opportunity to really re-imagine a lot of different parts of pharma,” TrialSpark CEO Benjamine Liu told Endpoints News, “and one of the things that we discussed was this opportunity to accelerate the development of new medicines in mutual areas of interest.”

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