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

Here comes the oral GLP-1 drug for di­a­betes — but No­vo Nordisk is­n't dis­clos­ing Ry­bel­sus price just yet

Novo Nordisk’s priority review voucher on oral semaglutide has paid off. The FDA approval for the GLP-1 drug hit late Friday morning, around six months after the NDA filing.

Rybelsus will be the first GLP-1 pill to enter the type 2 diabetes market — a compelling offering that analysts have pegged as a blockbuster drug with sales estimates ranging from $2 billion to $5 billion.

Ozempic, the once-weekly injectable formulation of semaglutide, brought in around $552 million (DKK 3.75 billion) in the first half of 2019.

As Nas­daq en­rolls the fi­nal batch of 2019 IPOs, how have the num­bers com­pared to past years?

IGM Biosciences’ upsized IPO haul, coming after SpringWorks’ sizable public debut, has revved up some momentum for the last rush of biotech IPOs in 2019.

With 39 new listings on the books and roughly two more months to go before winding down, Nasdaq’s head of healthcare listings Jordan Saxe sees the exchange marking 50 to 60 biopharma IPOs for the year.

“December 15 is usually the last possible day that companies will price,” he said, as companies get ready for business talks at the annual JP Morgan Healthcare Conference in January.

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A fa­vorite in Alex­ion’s C-suite is leav­ing, and some mighty sur­prised an­a­lysts aren’t the least bit hap­py about it

Analysts hate to lose a biotech CFO they’ve come to trust and admire — especially if they’re being blindsided by a surprise exit.

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Oxitec biologist releases genetically modified mosquitoes in Piracicaba, Brazil in 2016 [credit: Getty Images]

In­trex­on unit push­es back against claims its GM mos­qui­toes are mak­ing dis­ease-friend­ly mu­tants

When the hysteria of Zika transmission sprang into the American zeitgeist a few years ago, UK-based Oxitec was already field-testing its male Aedes aegypti mosquito, crafted to possess a gene engineered to obliterate its progeny long before maturation.

But when a group of independent scientists evaluated the impact of the release of these genetically-modified mosquitoes in a trial conducted by Oxitec in Brazil between 2013 and 2015, they found that some of the offspring had managed to survive — prompting them to speculate what impact the survivors could have on disease transmission and/or insecticide resistance.

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[via AP Images]

Pur­due threat­ens to walk away from set­tle­ment, asks to pay em­ploy­ees mil­lions in bonus­es

There are two updates on the lawsuit against Purdue Pharma over its role in fueling the opioid epidemic, as the Sackler family threatens to walk away from their pledge to pay out $3 billion if a bankruptcy judge does not stop outstanding state lawsuits against them. At the same time, the company has asked permission to pay millions in bonuses to select employees.

Purdue filed for chapter 11 bankruptcy this week as part of its signed resolution to over 2,000 lawsuits. The deal would see the Sackler family that owns Purdue give $3 billion from their personal wealth and the company turned into a trust committed to curbing and reversing overdoses.

Aerial view of Genentech's campus in South San Francisco [Credit: Getty]

Genen­tech sub­mits a big plan to ex­pand its South San Fran­cis­co foot­print

The sign is still there, a quaint reminder of whitewashed concrete not 5 miles from Genentech’s sprawling, chrome-and-glass campus: South Francisco The Industrial City. 

The city keeps the old sign, first erected in 1923, as a tourist site and a kind of civic memento to the days it packed meat, milled lumber and burned enough steel to earn the moniker “Smokestack of the Peninsula.” But the real indication of where you are and how much has changed both in San Francisco and in the global economy since a couple researchers and investors rented out an empty warehouse 40 years ago comes in a far smaller blue sign, resembling a Rotary Club post, off the highway: South San Francisco, The Birthplace of Biotech.

While No­var­tis ban­ish­es Zol­gens­ma scan­dal scars — Bio­gen goes on a Spin­raza 'of­fen­sive'

While Novartis painstakingly works to mop up the stench of the data manipulation scandal associated with its expensive gene therapy for spinal muscular atrophy (SMA) Zolgensma— rival Biogen is attempting to expand the use of its SMA therapy, Spinraza. 

The US drugmaker $BIIB secured US approval for Spinraza for use in the often fatal genetic disease in 2016. The approval covered a broad range of patients with infantile-onset (most likely to develop Type 1) SMA. 

Jason Kelly. Mike Blake/Reuters via Adobe

Eye­ing big ther­a­peu­tic push, Gink­go bags $290M to build a cell pro­gram­ming em­pire

Ginkgo Bioworks is on a roll. Days after publicizing a plan to nurture new startups via partnerships with accelerators Y Combinator and Petri, the Boston biotech says it has raised another $290 million for its cell programming platform to reach further and wider.

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UP­DAT­ED: Speak­er Nan­cy Pelosi to un­veil bill for fed­er­al­ly ne­go­ti­at­ed drug prices

After months of buzz from both sides of the aisle, Speaker Nancy Pelosi will today introduce her plan to allow the federal government to negotiate prices for 250 prescription drugs, setting up a showdown with a pharmaceutical industry working overtime to prevent it.

The need to limit drug prices is a rare point of agreement between President Trump and Democrats, although the president has yet to comment on the proposal and will likely face pressure to back a more conservative option or no bill at all. Republican Senator Chuck Grassley is reportedly lobbying his fellow party members on a more modest proposal he negotiated with Democratic Senator Ron Wyden in July.