Many ques­tions, few an­swers in Sen­ate hear­ing on opaque US drug pric­ing sys­tem

The Sen­ate Health, Ed­u­ca­tion, La­bor & Pen­sions com­mit­tee on Tues­day dis­cussed with rep­re­sen­ta­tives of the phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal sup­ply chain how the drug de­liv­ery sys­tem af­fects what pa­tients pay.

Al­though none of the com­ments and ar­gu­ments for re­duc­ing the price of phar­ma­ceu­ti­cals were new, pan­elists and sen­a­tors even seemed to dis­agree on what ex­act­ly is caus­ing prices in the US to be so much high­er than the rest of the world.

Lori Reil­ly

Mark Mer­ritt, pres­i­dent of the Phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal Care Man­age­ment As­so­ci­a­tion, point­ed his fin­ger at phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal man­u­fac­tur­ers, while PhRMA’s EVP Lori Reil­ly point­ed to hos­pi­tals, PBMs and in­sur­ance plans.

Mark Mer­ritt

The hear­ing al­so in­clud­ed tes­ti­mo­ny from As­so­ci­a­tion for Ac­ces­si­ble Med­i­cines (AAM and for­mer­ly the Gener­ic Phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal As­so­ci­a­tion), the Health­care Dis­tri­b­u­tion Al­liance and the Amer­i­can Phar­ma­cists As­so­ci­a­tion, though most of the ques­tions were di­rect­ed at PhRMA.

Re­bates, Im­ports and More Ne­go­ti­a­tion?

Lamar Alexan­der (R-TN) ques­tioned the pan­el on why re­bates are nec­es­sary and whether they can be re­moved to sim­pli­fy the sys­tem.

Mer­ritt told Alexan­der, “We would be OK with that,” and even PhRMA’s Reil­ly said that would be one op­tion, though she not­ed that PBMs and health plans would be op­posed to such a move.

Alexan­der al­so float­ed the idea of al­low­ing drugs to be im­port­ed from oth­er coun­tries with cheap­er prices, to in­crease US com­pe­ti­tion, though all the wit­ness­es said they op­pose the use of im­ports to low­er prices.

Oth­er sen­a­tors took is­sue with the com­pli­cat­ed drug pay­ment sys­tem and sup­ply chain, though sug­gest­ed changes brought up by both De­moc­rats and Re­pub­li­cans were not well re­ceived by the pan­elists.

Tam­my Bald­win (D-WI) sug­gest­ed more trans­paren­cy on phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal com­pa­nies and re­search and de­vel­op­ment spend­ing, which Reil­ly said is nec­es­sary for the en­tire sup­ply chain.

Bill Cas­sidy (R-LA) sin­gled out price in­creas­es for cer­tain med­i­cines, such as in­sulins, that oc­cur near the end of a com­pa­ny’s mo­nop­oly, though Reil­ly coun­tered that the in­creas­es are meant to help boost com­pa­nies’ bot­tom lines so they can in­vest in de­vel­op­ing the next gen­er­a­tion of med­i­cines.

Eliz­a­beth War­ren (D-MA) brought up the fact that phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal com­pa­nies’ mo­nop­o­lies on cer­tain drugs can de­crease ac­cess be­cause the prices are so high and she ques­tioned Reil­ly on whether the US gov­ern­ment should be al­lowed to fur­ther ne­go­ti­ate drug prices (as Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump has sug­gest­ed).

But Reil­ly said that any fur­ther gov­ern­ment ne­go­ti­a­tion would be con­sid­ered “price con­trols,” and al­though every oth­er coun­try in the world us­es price con­trols, Reil­ly said oth­er coun­tries lack the ac­cess to in­no­v­a­tive med­i­cines that Amer­i­cans en­joy.

Al Franken (D-MN) ques­tioned the pan­elists on why Amer­i­cans pay more than near­ly any oth­er coun­try for med­i­cines and Reil­ly said that mak­ing oth­er coun­tries pay more might low­er costs in the US, though it’s un­clear how that would work.


First pub­lished here. Reg­u­la­to­ry Fo­cus is the flag­ship on­line pub­li­ca­tion of the Reg­u­la­to­ry Af­fairs Pro­fes­sion­als So­ci­ety (RAPS), the largest glob­al or­ga­ni­za­tion of and for those in­volved with the reg­u­la­tion of health­care and re­lat­ed prod­ucts, in­clud­ing med­ical de­vices, phar­ma­ceu­ti­cals, bi­o­log­ics and nu­tri­tion­al prod­ucts. Email news@raps.org for more in­for­ma­tion.

Author

Zachary Brennan

managing editor, RAPS

Nick Leschly via Getty

UP­DAT­ED: Blue­bird shares sink as an­a­lysts puz­zle out $1.8M stick­er shock and an un­ex­pect­ed de­lay

Blue­bird bio $BLUE has un­veiled its price for the new­ly ap­proved gene ther­a­py Zyn­te­glo (Lenti­Glo­bin), which came as a big sur­prise. And it wasn’t the on­ly un­ex­pect­ed twist in to­day’s sto­ry.

With some an­a­lysts bet­ting on a $900,000 price for the β-tha­lassemia treat­ment in Eu­rope, where reg­u­la­tors pro­vid­ed a con­di­tion­al ear­ly OK, blue­bird CEO Nick Leschly said Fri­day morn­ing that the pa­tients who are suc­cess­ful­ly treat­ed with their drug over 5 years will be charged twice that — $1.8 mil­lion — on the con­ti­nent. That makes this drug the sec­ond most ex­pen­sive ther­a­py on the plan­et, just be­hind No­var­tis’ new­ly ap­proved Zol­gens­ma at $2.1 mil­lion, with an­a­lysts still wait­ing to see what kind of pre­mi­um can be had in the US.

Gene ther­a­pies seize the top of the list of the most ex­pen­sive drugs on the plan­et — and that trend has just be­gun

Anyone looking for a few simple reasons why the gene therapy field has caught fire with the pharma giants need only look at the new list of the 10 most expensive therapies from GoodRx.

Two recently approved gene therapies sit atop this list, with Novartis’ Zolgensma crowned the king of the priciest drugs at $2.1 million. Right below is Luxturna, the $850,000 pioneer from Spark, which Roche is pushing hard to acquire as it adds a gene therapy group to the global mix.

Endpoints News

Basic subscription required

Unlock this story instantly and join 53,000+ biopharma pros reading Endpoints daily — and it's free.

Ted Love. HAVERFORD COLLEGE

Glob­al Blood Ther­a­peu­tics poised to sub­mit ap­pli­ca­tion for ac­cel­er­at­ed ap­proval, with new piv­otal da­ta on its sick­le cell dis­ease drug

Global Blood Therapeutics is set to submit an application for accelerated approval in the second-half of this year, after unveiling fresh data from a late-stage trial that showed just over half the patients given the highest dose of its experimental sickle cell disease drug experienced a statistically significant improvement in oxygen-wielding hemoglobin, meeting the study's main goal.

Endpoints News

Basic subscription required

Unlock this story instantly and join 53,000+ biopharma pros reading Endpoints daily — and it's free.

J&J gains an en­thu­si­as­tic en­dorse­ment from Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump for their big new drug Spra­va­to

Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump has lit­tle love for Big Phar­ma, but there’s at least one new drug that just hit the mar­ket which he is en­am­ored with.

Trump, ev­i­dent­ly, has been read­ing up on J&J’s new an­ti-de­pres­sion drug, Spra­va­to. And the pres­i­dent — who of­ten likes to break out in­to a full-throat­ed at­tack on greedy drug­mak­ers — ap­par­ent­ly en­thused about the ther­a­py in a meet­ing with of­fi­cials of Vet­er­ans Af­fairs, which has long grap­pled with de­pres­sion among vet­er­ans.

In a boost to Rit­ux­an fran­chise, Roche nabs quick ap­proval for po­latuzum­ab ve­dotin

Roche’s lat­est an­ti­body-drug con­ju­gate has crossed the FDA fin­ish line, gain­ing an ac­cel­er­at­ed ap­proval a full two months ahead of sched­ule.

Po­livy, or po­latuzum­ab ve­dotin, is a first-in-class drug tar­get­ing CD79b — a pro­tein promi­nent in B-cell non-Hodgkin lym­phoma. It will now be mar­ket­ed for dif­fuse large B-cell lym­phoma as part of a reg­i­men that al­so in­cludes the chemother­a­py ben­damus­tine and a ver­sion of rit­ux­imab (Rit­ux­an).

An in­censed Cat­a­lyst Phar­ma sues the FDA, ac­cus­ing agency of bow­ing to po­lit­i­cal pres­sure and break­ing fed­er­al law

Af­ter hint­ing it was ex­plor­ing the le­gal­i­ty of the FDA’s ap­proval of a ri­val drug from fam­i­ly-run com­pa­ny Ja­cobus Phar­ma­ceu­ti­cals, Cat­a­lyst Phar­ma­ceu­ti­cals on Wednes­day filed a law­suit against the health reg­u­la­tor — ef­fec­tive­ly ac­cus­ing the agency of bow­ing to po­lit­i­cal pres­sure sur­round­ing sky­rock­et­ing drug prices.

Be­fore Cat­a­lyst’s Fir­dapse (which car­ries an av­er­age an­nu­al list price of $375,000) was sanc­tioned for use in Lam­bert-Eaton myas­thenic syn­drome (LEMS) by the FDA, hun­dreds of pa­tients had been able to ac­cess a sim­i­lar drug from com­pound­ing phar­ma­cies for a frac­tion of the cost, or Ja­cobus’ for free, as part of an FDA-rat­i­fied com­pas­sion­ate use pro­gram. But the ap­proval of the Cat­a­lyst drug — ac­com­pa­nied by mar­ket ex­clu­siv­i­ty span­ning sev­en years — ef­fec­tive­ly pre­clud­ed Ja­cobus and com­pound­ing phar­ma­cies from sell­ing their ver­sions.

Plagued by de­lays, As­traZeneca HQ costs soar to £750M as it edges to­ward 2020 com­ple­tion

In the lat­est up­date on As­traZeneca’s de­lay-prone HQ project, the phar­ma gi­ant re­vealed that the cost of con­struc­tion has swelled to £750 mil­lion ($956 mil­lion) — more than dou­ble the orig­i­nal es­ti­mate in 2013.

The move-in date is still in 2020, a spokesper­son con­firmed, af­ter As­traZeneca pushed pro­ject­ed com­ple­tion from 2016 to 2017, and then to the spring of 2019. While the ini­tial plan called for a £330 mil­lion (then $500 mil­lion) in­vest­ment, the cost bal­looned to £500 mil­lion ($650 mil­lion), and more in the most re­cent up­date.

Fresh analy­sis spot­lights car­dio ben­e­fit of J&J's In­vokana in di­a­betes pa­tients with­out his­to­ry of CV dis­ease

In­vokana sales may be mut­ed, but the di­a­betes drug is set to get some love af­ter its mak­er J&J un­veiled da­ta at the Amer­i­can Di­a­betes As­so­ci­a­tion meet­ing on Tues­day sug­gest­ing the med­i­cine can con­fer a car­dio­vas­cu­lar ben­e­fit in pa­tients who do not have pre­ex­ist­ing CV dis­ease.

Back in April, J&J had re­port­ed that in the late-stage CRE­DENCE study, the SGLT2 drug scored a 30% re­duc­tion in the risk of a com­pos­ite of ail­ments: a pro­gres­sion to the dou­bling of serum cre­a­ti­nine, end-stage kid­ney dis­ease and re­nal or car­dio­vas­cu­lar death. In terms of sec­ondary end­points, the drug was al­so found be heart-pro­tec­tive: low­er­ing the risk of CV death and hos­pi­tal­iza­tion for heart fail­ure by 31%, as well as ma­jor ad­verse CV events by 20%. In March, the com­pa­ny sub­mit­ted an ap­pli­ca­tion to ex­pand In­vokana’s la­bel to re­flect its im­pact on chron­ic kid­ney dis­ease.

Sil­i­con Val­ley's most an­tic­i­pat­ed slide deck just dropped. What does it mean for bio­phar­ma's dig­i­tal teams?

These aren’t the typ­i­cal slides you’d see at End­points — no mol­e­cules, clin­i­cal pro­grams, or p-val­ues. In­stead, we’ll talk dig­i­tal and in­ter­net trends, fac­tors that elite glob­al brands — re­gard­less of in­dus­try — must first mea­sure and un­der­stand be­fore de­ploy­ing prod­ucts in­to the world. That’s a con­cept that most of our Big Phar­ma au­di­ence is in tune with. Dig­i­tal aware­ness is key to suc­cess in the dis­cov­ery, de­vel­op­ment, and mar­ket­ing of new bio­phar­ma­ceu­ti­cals, and most of the ma­jors now have a chief dig­i­tal of­fi­cer: No­var­tis, Sanofi, and Pfiz­er, just to name a few.