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New en­tries, price hikes spur changes among the 20 most ex­pen­sive drugs — though not the kind politi­cians like to see

No matter how hard politicians in Washington DC pound on pharma companies for setting astronomical drug prices, they can’t seem to change one thing: The most expensive keep getting more expensive.

List prices for the most costly therapies, of course, is not fully representative of all prescription drugs for a variety of reasons, not the least because patients almost never end up paying that full amount — a fact the biopharma world likes to highlight. But the update on GoodRx’s running list of the 20 most expensive drugs in the US is still illustrative of the unabating trend of megapricing.

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AstraZeneca executives at earnings conference, February 2020 (Natalie Grover for Endpoints News)

Coro­n­avirus out­break clouds As­traZeneca's Q4 re­sults and 2020 out­look

LONDON — With nearly a fifth of total sales coming from China, AstraZeneca counts the coronavirus-hit nation as one of its biggest growth drivers. The impact of the deadly epidemic has unsurprisingly weighed on the British drugmaker’s fourth-quarter results.

On Friday, AstraZeneca posted fourth-quarter sales of $6.25 billion, just shy of Wall Street estimates. Nearly $1.2 billion of that product revenue came from China.

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Lars Fruergaard Jørgensen, chief executive officer of Novo Nordisk A/S, (via Getty Images)

The list of the 11 block­busters-to-be in line for a 2020 launch high­light agony and ec­sta­sy of drug R&D

For all the talk about unmet medical need and patients first and so on, the key criteria investors watch for any new drug in the pipelines is peak sales projection. Are you going to hit the blockbuster mark, at $1 billion-plus, or are you going to be an also-ran in the sales department?

Of course, analysts’ peak sales projections by themselves are of limited value in many cases. When the PCSK9 drugs started arriving 5 years ago, Repatha was billed as a $2.5 billion peak earner. They’re nowhere near that, with new competition threatening current levels. And if Biogen’s controversial Alzheimer’s drug aducanumab (submission planned but not on the list) is approved, per chance, will payers cover it?

Maybe not. And then those $10 billion in peak sales assumptions would go straight down the drain.

But, analysts are analysts, and peak sales projections have to be factored in when assessing the top experimental drugs up for a launch in the year ahead.

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8 years af­ter its OK, Ei­sai yanks its flail­ing obe­si­ty drug from the mar­ket af­ter FDA flagged high­er can­cer rate

CAMELLIA-TIMI 61 was supposed to be the trial that would resolve the FDA’s concerns about Belviq as Eisa investigators showed that the weight loss drug didn’t increase incidences of cardiovascular events. Instead, it unearthed new issues that’s now led to its demise.

At regulators’ request, Eisai said it’s withdrawing both the original and extended release version of Belviq from the US market, where it earned a little more than $28 million from April to December 2019.

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Roche scores its first PD-L1 win in Chi­na, go­ing straight for SCLC niche

Just weeks after AstraZeneca’s Imfinzi became the first and only approved PD-L1 drug in China, regulators have ushered in Roche’s Tecentriq to the checkpoint frenzy.

The Swiss pharma giant is going straight for a niche that it knows well: extensive-stage small cell lung cancer. Per its estimates, two thirds of SCLC patients have reached this phase by the time they are diagnosed, leading to a poor prognosis and an average 5-year survival rate of 2% despite the use of chemo.

Af­ter FDA hold and tri­al fail­ure, Ipsen writes down its big ac­qui­si­tion — but they're not giv­ing up

Nearly a year ago, at the same time Roche shelled out $4.3 billion on Spark Therapeutics, Paris-based Ipsen bought its own billion-dollar acquisition: Clementia and their late-stage program for a pair of rare bone diseases.

Since then, the results have not been great, either for the drug or for Ipsen. And today, the company reported in its yearly earnings that it has taken a €669 million ($728 million) partial impairment on the drug, known as palovarotene. The company had spent $1.3 billion to acquire the drug.

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Kåre Schultz (via YouTube)

Af­ter years of busi­ness and law­suit-fu­eled de­cline, is a Te­va turn­around in sight?

For five years, Teva’s stock tumbled amid a potent cocktail of serious and widespread legal allegations, declining company and industry-wide revenue and debt that creaked more heavily each passing year. Now, their CEO and some investors think they can see the light.

Teva released their quarterly earnings report yesterday, and the stock took a 10% jump, to over $13. That’s still a drop in the bucket compared with the years leading up to 2016, when the stock briefly pushed past $70, but a noticeable bump after a half-decade of almost direct decline.

No­var­tis chris­tens new UK HQ in West Lon­don, kick­ing off its big in­clisir­an CV tri­al

Swiss drugmaker Novartis has joined its big pharma compatriot GSK by officially moving its UK headquarters to West London.

The move to White City — opposite Imperial College London’s campus — was planned in 2018. The relocation from Novartis’ site at Frimley in Surrey included some 600 staffers to the 54,000-square-feet at The WestWorks, part of the rebirth of the old BBC Media Village campus in the White City area that is now considered home to an emerging life sciences cluster with companies such as Autolus, Gamma Delta and Synthace.

Roger Perlmutter, Merck

Catch­ing up with Roche, Mer­ck racks up pos­i­tive da­ta in front­line triple neg­a­tive breast can­cer

Merck’s Keytruda may not have qualified as a second- or third-line treatment of triple negative breast cancer, but the PD-1 inhibitor is showing promise for the first-line setting in a Phase III trial.

Investigators for the KEYNOTE-355 study report that Keytruda plus chemotherapy significantly improved progression-free survival for patients with metastatic TNBC whose tumors express PD-L1 compared to chemo alone, hitting a co-primary endpoint.

Lil­ly, No­vo Nordisk fight in­sulin biosim­i­lars with tweaks to FDA draft guid­ance

As Americans with diabetes continue to die because they cannot afford their insulin, two of the three insulin manufacturers in the US are doing their best to try to alter FDA draft guidance that seeks to bring more insulin competition to market.

The draft guidance, unveiled last November, explains how insulin biosimilar developers may not need to conduct comparative clinical immunogenicity studies under certain circumstances.