HHS re­news 'call to ac­tion' with Covid boost­er ad spots

“Where’s Juan?” a soc­cer play­er asks while ner­vous­ly eye­ing the goal. “Covid, again,” a team­mate re­sponds while hold­ing up a text mes­sage. The ref­er­ee blows the whis­tle.

That’s the in­tro­duc­tion to one of the De­part­ment of Health and Hu­man Ser­vices’ lat­est Covid-19 ads de­signed to con­vince those who are dis­pro­por­tion­ate­ly af­fect­ed by the pan­dem­ic to roll up their sleeves for up­dat­ed vac­cines. The ad, ti­tled “Don’t Miss the Game,” aired on Oct. 24 as part of HHS’ broad­er “We Can Do This” cam­paign.

“If you are Lati­no, you have a high­er risk of get­ting in­fect­ed, be­ing hos­pi­tal­ized and dy­ing from Covid,” a nar­ra­tor states. “Don’t miss the game. Get an up­dat­ed Covid vac­cine to­day.”

HHS’ first “We Can Do This” TV ads de­buted back in April 2021, with the goal of en­cour­ag­ing the pub­lic to get vac­ci­nat­ed as soon as they be­came el­i­gi­ble. The ads launched in both Eng­lish and Span­ish, and HHS fo­cused in par­tic­u­lar on out­reach to “hard-hit” groups, in­clud­ing Black, Span­ish, Asian Pa­cif­ic and trib­al com­mu­ni­ties.

“Im­por­tant­ly, the ads will em­pha­size a mes­sage – We Can Do This – that is a hope­ful and uni­fy­ing call to ac­tion that we each can do our part to end this pan­dem­ic by get­ting vac­ci­nat­ed,” HHS an­nounced in 2021.

A year and a half lat­er, the health agency is re­new­ing that call to ac­tion, specif­i­cal­ly for up­dat­ed Omi­cron-spe­cif­ic boost­ers de­vel­oped by Mod­er­na and its ri­vals Pfiz­er and BioN­Tech. Two new ads were re­leased last week, in­clud­ing “Don’t Miss the Game” and “On Point,” which fea­tures a Black nar­ra­tor who is “al­ways on point” when it comes to his hair, style, yard and Covid im­mu­niza­tions.

“Let’s be re­al, I can’t be at my best if my health is slack­ing,” he says. “I stay up to date so I can stay on point for the ones I love.”

While about 68.4% of peo­ple in the US have com­plet­ed their pri­ma­ry se­ries vac­cines, on­ly 7.3% of those el­i­gi­ble — or about 22.8 mil­lion peo­ple — have re­ceived a bi­va­lent boost­er, ac­cord­ing to the CDC’s vac­cine track­er.

HHS’ cam­paign specif­i­cal­ly tar­gets those who are vac­cine-hes­i­tant and those who are dis­pro­por­tion­ate­ly af­fect­ed, as well as high-risk pop­u­la­tions. De­spite be­ing some of the hard­est hit com­mu­ni­ties, Black and His­pan­ic or Lati­no Amer­i­cans rep­re­sent on­ly about 10% and just un­der 20% of those who’ve com­plet­ed their pri­ma­ry se­ries, re­spec­tive­ly.

CDC di­rec­tor Rochelle Walen­sky said on a White House press call in Sep­tem­ber that sol­id up­take of the up­dat­ed shots in ear­ly fall could pre­vent 9,000 deaths and save the coun­try bil­lions of dol­lars in med­ical costs. Up­dat­ed shots in­clude an mR­NA com­po­nent of the orig­i­nal coro­n­avirus strain and al­so an mR­NA com­po­nent from the BA.4 and BA.5 lin­eages.

HHS’ last cam­paign push, re­leased in Sep­tem­ber, tar­get­ed at-risk adults over the age of 50. The video fea­tured old­er adults fac­ing the cam­era, as words flash across the screen: “9 out of 10 Covid deaths were peo­ple over 50. Vac­cines low­er the risk of death. So get your up­dat­ed Covid vac­cine. Now. It could save your life.”

Big Phar­ma's Twit­ter ex­o­dus; Mer­ck wa­gers $1.35B on buy­out; $3.5M gene ther­a­py; and more

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Elon Musk (GDA via AP Images)

Biggest drug com­pa­nies halt­ed Twit­ter ad buys af­ter Lil­ly in­sulin spoof

Almost all of the drug industry’s biggest advertisers cut their spending on Twitter to zero or near-zero over the last two weeks amid worries about impersonation of their brands by pranksters and the future of the social media company.

Among 18 of the biggest pharmaceutical advertisers in the US market, 12 cut their Twitter ad spending to nothing for the week beginning Nov. 14, according to Pathmatics, which tracks data on prescription drug ad spending as well as general corporate advertising. The list of drugmakers cutting spending to zero includes Merck, AstraZeneca, Eli Lilly, Novartis, Pfizer and others.

Rob Davis, Merck CEO

Up­dat­ed: No Seagen here: 'Do more' means a small $1.35B pur­chase of Ima­go for Mer­ck

Merck is making an acquisition, the Big Pharma announced before Monday’s opening bell. No, Seagen is not entering the fold, as had been speculated for quarters.

Folding under Merck’s wings will be Pfizer-backed Imago BioSciences. For nearly a year, Merck CEO Rob Davis has been saying the pharma giant needs to “do more” on the business development front after its 2021 $11.5 billion acquisition of Acceleron.

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Paul Perreault, CSL Behring CEO

CSL lands FDA ap­proval for he­mo­phil­ia B gene ther­a­py, sets $3.5M list price

The FDA has approved the world’s first gene therapy for hemophilia B, ushering into the market a treatment that’s historic in both what it promises to do and how much it will cost.

CSL will be marketing the drug, Hemgenix, at a list price of $3.5 million — which sets a new record for the most expensive single-use gene therapy in the US.

In a statement provided to Endpoints News, the Australian company noted that the current costs of treating people with moderate to severe hemophilia B can be significant over a lifetime. By some estimates, healthcare systems could spend more than $20 million per person.

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Dermavant Sciences' first consumer TV ad for its Vtama psoriasis med shows people ready for a new topical treatment.

Roivant’s Der­ma­vant de­buts first-ever TV com­mer­cial for pso­ri­a­sis cream Vta­ma

Dermavant Sciences has been marketing its first product, psoriasis med Vtama, to dermatologists for months, but on Tuesday it rolled out its first consumer campaign. The debut DTC effort including a streaming TV commercial encourages patients to a “Topical Uprising” in a nod to Vtama being a topical cream.

In the new commercial, a swell of people discards scarves and jacket coverings, gathering in the street to converge on a pharmacy to demand a steroid-free prescription. A moment of levity follows when a pharmacist says, “You know you can just talk to your doctor, right?” The gathered crowds collectively says, “Oh.”

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Stanley Erck, Novavax CEO (Andrew Harnik/AP Images)

No­vavax pulls out of Covid-19 vac­cine al­liance with Gavi

Novavax is pulling out of its Covid-19 vaccine deal with Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, a global partnership tasked with ensuring vaccine access in lower-income countries, following an alleged contract violation.

The Maryland-based company claimed on Friday that Gavi failed to purchase at least 350 million doses of its protein-based vaccine Nuvaxovid by the end of the year, per an advanced purchase agreement. Gavi, the World Health Organization and the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) are co-leaders of COVAX, an effort to ensure that all participating countries, regardless of income levels, have access to vaccines.

FDA preps for DMD drug gener­ics as Sarep­ta has yet to fin­ish its con­fir­ma­to­ry tri­al

The FDA typically releases guidance to help generic drug manufacturers develop new copycats of small molecule drugs, oftentimes in preparation for a brand name product’s patents or exclusivity to expire.

This week, FDA released such bioequivalence guidance for any generic drugmakers looking to take on Sarepta’s Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD) drug Exondys 51 (eteplirsen), even though the drug’s sponsor has yet to convert the accelerated approval to a full approval, showing clinical benefit.

Isao Teshirogi, Shionogi president and CEO (Kyodo via AP Images)

Sh­ionogi's Covid an­tivi­ral lands first ap­proval in Japan's new emer­gency ap­proval path­way

Japanese regulators on Tuesday signed off on Shionogi’s homegrown antiviral for Covid-19, known as Xocova (ensitrelvir), making it the first approval under Japan’s emergency regulatory approval system.

The emergency approval, following a back-and-forth with regulators since last February, is based on a safety profile with more than 2,000 patients who have accessed the pill, and clinical symptomatic efficacy for five typical Omicron-related symptoms (primary endpoint) and antiviral efficacy (key secondary endpoint) in patients with mild to moderate SARS-CoV-2 infection, regardless of risk factors or vaccination status, and during the Omicron-dominant phase of the pandemic.

Fu­ji­film to build $188M man­u­fac­tur­ing plant in North Car­oli­na’s re­search tri­an­gle

As the Japanese conglomerate Fujifilm continues to invest heavily in its CDMO arm, one of its manufacturing divisions is teeing up a major investment.

Fujifilm Irvine Scientific announced on Tuesday that parent Fujifilm is making a $188 million investment to build a cell culture media manufacturing site in the Research Triangle Park in North Carolina. The new site will mark Fujifilm Irvine’s fifth manufacturing site globally and its second in the US.