New year, new (high­er) drug prices

Surg­ing drug prices in the Unit­ed States are a thorny yet key bi­par­ti­san is­sue as an­oth­er pres­i­den­tial elec­tion beck­ons. While US Pres­i­dent Trump strug­gles to make good on his promise to low­er drug prices, the in­dus­try, which has long thrived in its lais­sez-faire ecosys­tem, has per­sis­tent­ly ar­gued that gov­ern­ment in­ter­ven­tion will sti­fle in­no­va­tion. And now, as the new year kicks off, a cadre of drug­mak­ers has qui­et­ly in­flat­ed prices on more than 250 drugs, ac­cord­ing to a Reuters re­port.

From Gilead to Pfiz­er, big phar­ma has clicked up­grade on their stick­er prices — large­ly by the mid-sin­gle-dig­it per­cent­age in­creas­es. As the spot­light on drug pric­ing in­ten­si­fied, with pa­tients, pol­i­cy­mak­ers, and politi­cians de­cry­ing the mag­ni­tude and fre­quen­cy of hikes, a raft of drug­mak­ers pre­vi­ous­ly pledged to not raise their prices by more than 10% an­nu­al­ly.

British drug­mak­er GSK is set to raise US prices on more than 30 drugs in the range of 1% and 5%, Reuters re­port­ed, cit­ing da­ta from health­care re­search firm 3 Ax­is Ad­vi­sors.

Among the Pfiz­er hikes, there are no­table in­creas­es on a trio of block­busters — the can­cer drug Ibrance, the blood-thin­ner Eliquis and the vac­cine Pre­vnar. The US drug­mak­er has lift­ed its prices by 5%, 6%, and 7.3% re­spec­tive­ly in the Unit­ed States. The com­pa­ny in­tends to boost US prices on around 27% of its port­fo­lio by an av­er­age of 5.6%, the wire ser­vice re­port­ed.

Ever­core ISI’s Umer Raf­fat of­fered a snap­shot of Pfiz­er’s hikes, among oth­er key drug­mak­ers, in re­cent years in a note pub­lished on Wednes­day.

Source: Ever­core ISI, 2020

Click on the im­age to see the full-sized ver­sion

Bris­tol-My­ers, which swal­lowed Cel­gene in a $74 bil­lion deal last year, al­so in­creased the prices of 10 drugs on Wednes­day, in­clud­ing a 1.5% hike on its im­munother­a­pies Op­di­vo and Yer­voy. Cel­gene’s cash cow Revlim­id was giv­en a 6% raise, Reuters re­port­ed, adding that the com­pa­ny has promised not to is­sue hikes high­er than 6% this year.

Source: Ever­core ISI, 2020

Click on the im­age to see the full-sized ver­sion

Gilead, Bio­gen, Lil­ly, and Te­va al­so took a range of hikes on some key drugs — all up to and equal to 6%.

Source: Ever­core ISI, 2020

Click on the im­age to see the full-sized ver­sion

Source: Ever­core ISI, 2020

Click on the im­age to see the full-sized ver­sion

Source: Ever­core ISI, 2020

Click on the im­age to see the full-sized ver­sion

Source: Ever­core ISI, 2020

Click on the im­age to see the full-sized ver­sion

Am­gen, Mer­ck and the prices of some oth­er key drugs from drug­mak­ers al­ready fea­tured above are ex­pect­ed in the com­ing days and months, Raf­fat not­ed.

Law­mak­ers left, right and cen­ter all ar­gue drug prices in the Unit­ed States are too high — and the in­dus­try holds the crown for the least fa­vored sec­tor by Amer­i­cans, falling be­hind the fed­er­al gov­ern­ment it­self — but so far no­body can agree on just how to make the US health care sys­tem great again. Last month, the HHS opened the door to a pol­i­cy that al­lows for the im­por­ta­tion of drugs from Cana­da.

The De­moc­rats’ drug pric­ing bill — HR 3, un­veiled by Speak­er Nan­cy Pelosi in Sep­tem­ber — was re­cent­ly passed by the House and could com­pel man­u­fac­tur­ers to com­ply with the prices set by the HHS, or face an ex­cise tax of up to 95% of sales, which in turn could trig­ger fi­nan­cial loss­es due to drug sales. The Sen­ate, with a Re­pub­li­can ma­jor­i­ty, is un­like­ly to en­dorse it.

The GOP has cooked up its own leg­is­la­tion. The 350-page bill, HR19, pro­pos­es cre­at­ing the role of a ‘chief phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal ne­go­tia­tor’ to ad­vo­cate on be­half of Amer­i­can pa­tients in trade agree­ments with re­spect to pre­scrip­tion drug prices. In ad­di­tion, the bill al­so seeks to lim­it an­nu­al out-of-pock­et costs for Medicare ben­e­fi­cia­ries; re­quires in­sur­ance com­pa­nies to make in­for­ma­tion about drug prices trans­par­ent at doc­tor’s of­fices; and ‘stream­lines’ the reg­u­la­tion of over-the-counter prod­ucts.

Bris­tol My­ers is clean­ing up the post-Cel­gene merg­er pipeline, and they’re sweep­ing out an ex­per­i­men­tal check­point in the process

Back during the lead up to the $74 billion buyout of Celgene, the big biotech’s leadership did a little housecleaning with a major pact it had forged with Jounce. Out went the $2.6 billion deal and a collaboration on ICOS and PD-1.

Celgene, though, also added a $530 million deal — $50 million up front — to get the worldwide rights to JTX-8064, a drug that targets the LILRB2 receptor on macrophages.

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GSK presents case to ex­pand use of its lu­pus drug in pa­tients with kid­ney dis­ease, but the field is evolv­ing. How long will the mo­nop­oly last?

In 2011, GlaxoSmithKline’s Benlysta became the first biologic to win approval for lupus patients. Nine years on, the British drugmaker has unveiled detailed positive results from a study testing the drug in lupus patients with associated kidney disease — a post-marketing requirement from the initial FDA approval.

Lupus is a drug developer’s nightmare. In the last six decades, there has been just one FDA approval (Benlysta), with the field resembling a graveyard in recent years with a string of failures including UCB and Biogen’s late-stage flop, as well as defeats in Xencor and Sanofi’s programs. One of the main reasons the success has eluded researchers is because lupus, akin to cancer, is not just one disease — it really is a disease of many diseases, noted Al Roy, executive director of Lupus Clinical Investigators Network, an initiative of New York-based Lupus Research Alliance that claims it is the world’s leading private funder of lupus research, in an interview.

Fangliang Zhang, AP Images

UP­DAT­ED: Leg­end fetch­es $424 mil­lion, emerges as biggest win­ner yet in pan­dem­ic IPO boom as shares soar

Amid a flurry of splashy pandemic IPOs, a J&J-partnered Chinese biotech has emerged with one of the largest public raises in biotech history.

Legend Biotech, the Nanjing-based CAR-T developer, has raised $424 million on NASDAQ. The biotech had originally filed for a still-hefty $350 million, based on a range of $18-$20, but managed to fetch $23 per share, allowing them to well-eclipse the massive raises from companies like Allogene, Juno, Galapagos, though they’ll still fall a few dollars short of Moderna’s record-setting $600 million raise from 2018.

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As it hap­pened: A bid­ding war for an an­tibi­ot­ic mak­er in a mar­ket that has rav­aged its peers

In a bewildering twist to the long-suffering market for antibiotics — there has actually been a bidding war for an antibiotic company: Tetraphase.

It all started back in March, when the maker of Xerava (an FDA approved therapy for complicated intra-abdominal infections) said it had received an offer from AcelRx for an all-stock deal valued at $14.4 million.

The offer was well-timed. Xerava was approved in 2018, four years after Tetraphase posted its first batch of pivotal trial data, and sales were nowhere near where they needed to be in order for the company to keep its head above water.

Drug man­u­fac­tur­ing gi­ant Lon­za taps Roche/phar­ma ‘rein­ven­tion’ vet as its new CEO

Lonza chairman Albert Baehny took his time headhunting a new CEO for the company, making it absolutely clear he wanted a Big Pharma or biotech CEO with a good long track record in the business for the top spot. In the end, he went with the gold standard, turning to Roche’s ranks to recruit Pierre-Alain Ruffieux for the job.

Ruffieux, a member of the pharma leadership team at Roche, spent close to 5 years at the company. But like a small army of manufacturing execs, he gained much of his experience at the other Big Pharma in Basel, remaining at Novartis for 12 years before expanding his horizons.

Covid-19 roundup: Ab­b­Vie jumps in­to Covid-19 an­ti­body hunt; As­traZeneca shoots for 2B dos­es of Ox­ford vac­cine — with $750M from CEPI, Gavi

Another Big Pharma is entering the Covid-19 antibody hunt.

AbbVie has announced a collaboration with the Netherlands’ Utrecht University and Erasmus Medical Center and the Chinese-Dutch biotech Harbour Biomed to develop a neutralizing antibody that can treat Covid-19. The antibody, called 47D11, was discovered by AbbVie’s three partners, and AbbVie will support early preclinical work, while preparing for later preclinical and clinical development. Researchers described the antibody in Nature Communications last month.

Is a pow­er­house Mer­ck team prepar­ing to leap past Roche — and leave Gilead and Bris­tol My­ers be­hind — in the race to TIG­IT dom­i­na­tion?

Roche caused quite a stir at ASCO with its first look at some positive — but not so impressive — data for their combination of Tecentriq with their anti-TIGIT drug tiragolumab. But some analysts believe that Merck is positioned to make a bid — soon — for the lead in the race to a second-wave combo immuno-oncology approach with its own ambitious early-stage program tied to a dominant Keytruda.

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Pfiz­er’s Doug Gior­dano has $500M — and some ad­vice — to of­fer a cer­tain breed of 'break­through' biotech

So let’s say you’re running a cutting-edge, clinical-stage biotech, probably public, but not necessarily so, which could see some big advantages teaming up with some marquee researchers, picking up say $50 million to $75 million dollars in a non-threatening minority equity investment that could take you to the next level.

Doug Giordano might have some thoughts on how that could work out.

The SVP of business development at the pharma giant has helped forge a new fund called the Pfizer Breakthrough Growth Initiative. And he has $500 million of Pfizer’s money to put behind 7 to 10 — or so — biotech stocks that fit that general description.

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Leen Kawas, Athira CEO (Athira)

Can a small biotech suc­cess­ful­ly tack­le an Ever­est climb like Alzheimer’s? Athi­ra has $85M and some in­flu­en­tial back­ers ready to give it a shot

There haven’t been a lot of big venture rounds for biotech companies looking to run a Phase II study in Alzheimer’s.

The field has been a disaster over the past decade. Amyloid didn’t pan out as a target — going down in a litany of Phase III failures — and is now making its last stand at Biogen. Tau is a comer, but when you look around and all you see is destruction, the idea of backing a startup trying to find complex cocktails to swing the course of this devilishly complicated memory-wasting disease would daunt the pluckiest investors.