As Trump lash­es out at Fra­zier again, J&J's Alex Gorsky says he's not aban­don­ing pres­i­den­t's coun­cil

See the lat­est up­date here.

J&J CEO Alex Gorsky isn’t join­ing any ex­o­dus off of the pres­i­dent’s man­u­fac­tur­ing coun­cil. And he of­fered his rea­sons why just be­fore Trump un­leashed a new at­tack on Mer­ck CEO Ken Fra­zier and the oth­ers who have fol­lowed him out of the White House group while fresh­ly stir­ring a pot of con­tro­ver­sy.

For more than a day, J&J kept qui­et in the face of queries from me and many oth­ers cov­er­ing bio­phar­ma whether its CEO Alex Gorsky would fol­low the lead of Mer­ck CEO Ken Fra­zier and re­sign from the coun­cil in protest to the way Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump han­dled a dead­ly en­counter in Char­lottesville, VA over the week­end be­tween right-wing ex­trem­ists and the pro­test­ers who greet­ed them.

Ini­tial­ly, Trump on­ly con­demned “many sides” in the vi­o­lent show­down, which erupt­ed in­to a vi­ral dis­pute over the pres­i­dent’s un­will­ing­ness to shout out against neo-Nazis, the KKK and oth­ers. That ran­kled Fra­zier, one of the few black CEOs of a For­tune 500 com­pa­ny, who de­part­ed from the coun­cil in high-pro­file fash­ion Mon­day morn­ing, trig­ger­ing an an­gry se­ries of tweets from Trump which once again point­ed­ly raised ear­li­er crit­i­cism of high drug prices.

Tues­day af­ter­noon, though, J&J put out a state­ment from Gorsky, who said he’ll stick with the coun­cil as a way to ex­press “the val­ues of Our Cre­do as cru­cial pub­lic pol­i­cy is dis­cussed and de­vel­oped.”

“Ours is an im­por­tant voice on health­care,” the state­ment con­tin­ues. “One that glob­al lead­ers at every lev­el, in and out of gov­ern­ment, need to hear. If we aren’t in the room ad­vo­cat­ing for glob­al health as a top pri­or­i­ty, if we aren’t there stand­ing up for our be­lief in di­ver­si­ty and in­clu­sion, or if we fail to speak out if the sit­u­a­tion de­mands it, then we have ab­di­cat­ed our Cre­do re­spon­si­bil­i­ty. We must en­gage if we hope to change the world and those who lead it.”

As of Tues­day af­ter­noon, four oth­er ex­ecs had joined Fra­zier in jump­ing ship, keep­ing the pot boil­ing on spec­u­la­tion of who else will fol­low. AFL-CIO chief Richard Trum­ka was the lat­est to bow out.

Gorsky, though, made a rare pub­lic pledge to stay with the coun­cil, which may well draw an an­gry re­ac­tion from the pres­i­dent’s grow­ing le­gions of crit­ics.

In a press con­fer­ence Tues­day af­ter­noon, Trump once again blast­ed Fra­zier and the oth­ers who joined with him, this time crit­i­ciz­ing Mer­ck for its man­u­fac­tur­ing work out­side the US. Fra­zier and the oth­ers, said the pres­i­dent, are leav­ing af­ter he’s lec­tured them on bring­ing jobs back to this coun­try.

“We want prod­ucts made in the coun­try,” said Trump. “Now I have to tell you some of the folks that will leave (the coun­cil), they’re leav­ing out of em­bar­rass­ment be­cause they make their prod­ucts out­side” of the US. “You have to bring this work back to this coun­try.”

Trump, though, dogged­ly stuck by his ini­tial com­ments on Char­lottesville, in­sist­ing that all sides in the con­fronta­tion were re­spon­si­ble for the vi­o­lence, and sin­gling out left­ists for their at­tack on the last sym­bols of the Con­fed­er­a­cy that still stand in the town. That po­si­tion will leave the con­tro­ver­sy front and cen­ter in the me­dia, which will make Gorsky’s de­ci­sion tough to weath­er.

The bio­phar­ma in­dus­try, in­clud­ing J&J, has been lob­by­ing hard for tax re­form, which would po­ten­tial­ly al­low the multi­na­tion­als to repa­tri­ate bil­lions in over­seas ac­counts at a low­er tax rate. And none of them have been hap­py about Trump’s erup­tions on drug prices.

As for Trump, he’s al­so still tweet­ing about how an­gry the de­fec­tions have made him.


Alex Gorsky with Don­ald Trump in the White House AP IM­AGES

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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

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

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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. 

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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.