Democratic Sen. Elizabeth Warren (MA) and Senator-elect and Peter Welch (VT) (Michael Brochstein/Sipa USA via AP images)

Pfiz­er's plan for $110+ Covid-19 vac­cines riles up US sen­a­tors

Pfiz­er’s Covid-19 vac­cine be­came the best-sell­ing med­ical prod­uct of all time in 2021, haul­ing in al­most $37 bil­lion in just one year.

But as the Big Phar­ma has seen sales de­cline with the chang­ing of the vari­ants and new gov­ern­ment funds run­ning dry, the firm’s mR­NA vac­cine will have to switch over to the com­mer­cial mar­ket at some point soon, and be cov­ered by in­sur­ance. Two key sen­a­tors are tak­ing is­sue with that switch, which comes at a much steep­er price — at least $110 per jab, rather than $19.50 per dose at the be­gin­ning of the pan­dem­ic.

De­mo­c­ra­t­ic Sen. Eliz­a­beth War­ren (MA) and Sen­a­tor-elect Pe­ter Welch (VT) sent a let­ter yes­ter­day to Pfiz­er CEO Al­bert Bourla, seek­ing in­for­ma­tion on why this price is in­creas­ing so rapid­ly.

“This price in­crease rep­re­sents pure and dead­ly greed on the part of the com­pa­ny, and could re­sult in the COVID-in­duced fa­tal­i­ties of many unin­sured Amer­i­cans that may be un­able to af­ford the vac­cine,” the sen­a­tors wrote. “Even worse, Pfiz­er’s price hike could pave the way for oth­er vac­cine man­u­fac­tur­ers like Mod­er­na and No­vavax to raise the prices of their vac­cines, harm­ing Amer­i­cans seek­ing pro­tec­tion from COVID-19 and po­ten­tial­ly wors­en­ing an on­go­ing pub­lic health cri­sis.”

In­deed, Mod­er­na has al­ready in­di­cat­ed that it al­so could charge north of $100 per shot as de­mand dries up.

While ac­knowl­edg­ing that Pfiz­er de­serves cred­it for its R&D ac­com­plish­ments in bring­ing the vac­cine, known as Comir­naty, and its an­tivi­ral to mar­ket so quick­ly, War­ren and Welch note the ex­tent that Pfiz­er ben­e­fit­ted from the fed­er­al gov­ern­ment’s sup­port, in­clud­ing its re­liance on ba­sic tech fund­ed by the gov­ern­ment and the Ju­ly 2020 ad­vanced pur­chase or­der from the fed­er­al gov­ern­ment that amount­ed to $1.95 bil­lion for 100 mil­lion dos­es.

“Pfiz­er has earned ex­tra­or­di­nary prof­its from the vac­cine,” the let­ter says. “Now, Pfiz­er’s pro­posed price hikes are es­ti­mat­ed to bring in an ad­di­tion­al $2.5 – $3 bil­lion in an­nu­al rev­enue, mark­ing yet an­oth­er mas­sive cor­po­rate pay­day from the on­go­ing pan­dem­ic.”

Among the open ques­tions from the let­ter, the sen­a­tors ask Pfiz­er, “How much prof­it does Pfiz­er es­ti­mate it would earn from the COVID vac­cine in 2023 if it does not in­crease the vac­cine’s price? What is the es­ti­mat­ed num­ber of pa­tients that will not be able to af­ford the price in­crease for the new COVID vac­cine?”

A Pfiz­er spokesper­son told End­points News: “We can con­firm re­ceipt of the War­ren-Welch let­ter. We will not get ahead of an of­fi­cial re­sponse in the me­dia.”

Am­gen lays off about 300 work­ers, cit­ing 'in­dus­try head­wind­s'

Amgen has laid off about 300 employees, a company spokesperson confirmed to Endpoints News via email Sunday night.

Employees posted to LinkedIn in recent days about layoffs hitting Amgen last week. The Thousand Oaks, CA-based biopharma, which employs about 24,000 people, said the reduction “mainly” impacted US-based workers on its commercial team.

Drug developers of all sizes, including small upstarts and pharma giants, have let employees go in recent months as the biopharma market drags through a quarters-long winter doldrum.

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Bob Bradway, Amgen CEO (Stephen Lam/Reuters)

Am­gen launch­es the first US Hu­mi­ra biosim­i­lar at two dif­fer­ent list prices

The bizarre dynamics of the US prescription drug market were on full display once again this morning as Amgen announced that it would launch the first US biosimilar for Humira, the best-selling drug of all time, at two completely different list prices.

One price for Amgen’s Amjevita (adalimumab-atto) will be 55% below the current Humira list price, which is about $84,000 per year, and another at a list price 5% below the current Humira list price, but presumably (pharma companies don’t disclose rebates) with high rebates to attract PBMs and payers.

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New York City in­vests $20M in­to biotech 'in­no­va­tion space' at the Brook­lyn Navy Yard

New York City is investing $20 million in biotech this year in the form of a 50,000-square-foot “innovation space” at the Brooklyn Navy Yard, complete with offices, research laboratories and events and programming space to grow biotech startups and companies.

Mayor Eric Adams said during his State of The City Address last Thursday that there will be an “emphasis” on making more opportunities for women and people of color to further diversify the industry. The City first reported the news.

Dirk Thye, Quince Therapeutics CEO

Af­ter piv­ot­ing from Alzheimer's to bone con­di­tions, biotech piv­ots again — and halves its head­count

When troubled public biotech Cortexyme bought a private startup named Novosteo and handed the keys to its executive team, the company — which changed its name to Quince Therapeutics — said it would shift its focus from an unorthodox Alzheimer’s approach to Novosteo’s bone-targeting drug platform.

Less than a year later, Quince is pivoting again.

The biotech has decided to out-license its bone-targeting drug platform and its lead drug, NOV004, and instead look for clinical-stage programs to in-license or acquire, according to a press release.

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Boehringer In­gel­heim touts pre­ven­tion re­sults in rarest form of pso­ri­a­sis

Boehringer Ingelheim uncorked some positive results suggesting that Spevigo can help prevent flare-ups in patients with a severe form of psoriasis, months after the drug was approved to treat existing flares.

Spevigo, an IL-36R antibody also known as spesolimab, met its primary and a key secondary endpoint in the Phase IIb EFFISAYIL 2 trial in patients with generalized pustular psoriasis (GPP), Boehringer announced on Monday. While the company is keeping the hard numbers under wraps until later this year, it said in a news release that it anticipates sharing the results with regulators.

As­traZeneca, No­vo Nordisk and Sanofi score 340B-re­lat­ed ap­peals court win over HHS

AstraZeneca, Novo Nordisk, and Sanofi won an appeals court win on Monday, as the US Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit found that the companies cannot be forced to provide 340B-discounted drugs purchased by hospitals from an unlimited number of community and specialty pharmacies.

“Legal duties do not spring from silence,” the decision says as the court makes clear that the federal government’s interpretation of the “supposed requirement” that the 340B program compels drugmakers to supply their discounted drugs to an unlimited number of contract pharmacies is not correct, noting:

Ap­peals court toss­es J&J's con­tro­ver­sial 'Texas two-step' bank­rupt­cy case

A US appeals court has ruled against Johnson & Johnson’s use of bankruptcy to deal with mounting talc lawsuits, deciding that doing so would “create a legal blind spot.”

The Third Circuit Court of Appeals reversed a previous bankruptcy court decision on Monday, calling for the dismissal of a Chapter 11 filing by J&J’s subsidiary LTL Management.

Faced with more than 38,000 lawsuits alleging its talc-based products caused cancer, J&J spun its talc liabilities into a separate company called LTL Management back in October 2021 and filed for bankruptcy, a controversial move colloquially referred to as a “Texas two-step” bankruptcy. Claimants argued that the strategy is a misuse of the US bankruptcy code — and on Monday, a panel of judges agreed.

Chad Mirkin, Flashpoint co-founder

‘The field is at a flash­point’: New Chad Mirkin-found­ed biotech hopes to make more ef­fec­tive can­cer vac­cines

Following the success of the mRNA Covid vaccines, cancer vaccines are seeing renewed interest after years of middling results. But a group of researchers suggests that more attention needs to be paid not to what goes into those vaccines, but how the parts are put together.

In a recent paper published in Nature Biomedical Engineering, researchers led by Northwestern University’s Chad Mirkin describe how the placement of different antigens in a cancer vaccine impacts its efficacy. The paper builds on past work done by Mirkin’s lab that suggests the structure, or how the parts of a vaccine are arranged, impact a vaccine’s efficacy, not just its components.

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#JPM23: Reg­u­la­to­ry un­cer­tain­ty? What about M&A? Da­ta rule? Alessan­dro Masel­li and John Car­roll take out their crys­tal balls

Endpoints editor and founder John Carroll sat down the Catalent CEO Alessandro Maselli to talk about what’s ahead in 2023. Right or wrong, this covers all the big issues faced by biopharma. This transcript has been edited for brevity and clarity.

John Carroll:

I think 2022 had to be one of the worst years ever for crystal balls. You went into 2022 thinking all sorts of nice things about what was ahead, not thinking about a European land war, maybe not thinking that the Federal Reserve was going to be jacking up interest rates as fast as they could to get ahead of inflation. Just a tremendous number of macroeconomic issues that were out there. The sudden and complete collapse of support on the markets in Nasdaq for biotech. A lot of darlings in the industry that had been out there for a while suddenly found themselves moving from a really hot market to a really cold market all of a sudden and had to make a lot of different changes in terms of strategizing.

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