Price goug­ing on drugs? Shkre­li's ju­ry se­lec­tion process re­veals some deep pub­lic anger

If the US ever does pass laws pro­hibit­ing price goug­ing on drugs, phar­ma ex­ecs would be well ad­vised to avoid any test­ing of the bound­aries. There’s clear­ly a large seg­ment of the pub­lic that’s ready to jail any­one who jacks up the price of a des­per­ate­ly need­ed treat­ment.

Harp­er’s mag­a­zine helped il­lus­trate that point when they ran ex­cerpts from the com­ments made by po­ten­tial ju­rors in the Mar­tin Shkre­li case. Shkre­li is no­to­ri­ous for rais­ing the price of Dara­prim by more than 5000%, and some of the prospec­tive ju­rors were clear­ly ready to send him right be­hind bars — with­out any need for a tri­al.

Iron­i­cal­ly, Shkre­li was nev­er charged with any­thing re­lat­ed to pric­ing, be­cause there are no re­stric­tions in the law on what you charge for a drug. What he was charged with, and re­cent­ly found guilty on three counts, was fraud re­lat­ed to ly­ing to his hedge fund in­vestors. He’ll be sen­tenced lat­er this year. But here’s what some mem­bers of the pub­lic had to say as they rel­ished the idea of lock­ing him up and throw­ing away the key.

I boiled the re­marks down to a litany of curs­es.

JU­ROR NO. 1: I think he’s a greedy lit­tle man.

JU­ROR NO. 25: This is the price-goug­ing, right, of drugs?

JU­ROR NO. 40: I’m tak­ing pre­scrip­tion med­ica­tion. I would be up­set if it went up by a thou­sand per­cent. I saw the tes­ti­mo­ny on TV to Con­gress and I saw his face on the news last night. By the time I came in and sat down and he turned around, I felt im­me­di­ate­ly I was bi­ased.

JU­ROR NO. 47: He’s the most hat­ed man in Amer­i­ca. In my opin­ion, he equates with Bernie Mad­off with the drugs for preg­nant women go­ing from $15 to $750. My par­ents are in their eight­ies. They’re strug­gling to pay for their med­ica­tion. My moth­er was telling me yes­ter­day how my fa­ther’s can­cer drug is $9,000 a month.

JU­ROR NO. 52: When I walked in here to­day I looked at him, and in my head, that’s a snake — not know­ing who he was. I just walked in and looked right at him and that’s a snake.

JU­ROR NO. 67: The fact that he raised the price of that AIDS med­ica­tion, like, such an amount of mon­ey dis­gusts me. I don’t think I’ll ever be able to for­get that. Who does that, puts prof­it and self-in­ter­est ahead of any­thing else? So it’s not a far stretch that he could do what he’s ac­cused of.

JU­ROR NO. 70: I have to­tal dis­dain for the man.

JU­ROR NO. 77: From every­thing I’ve seen on the news, every­thing I’ve read, I be­lieve the de­fen­dant is the face of cor­po­rate greed in Amer­i­ca.

JU­ROR NO. 125: I’ve read ex­ten­sive­ly about Mar­tin’s shame­ful past and his rip­ping off sick peo­ple and it hits close to me. I have a moth­er with epilep­sy, a grand­moth­er with Alzheimer’s, and a broth­er with mul­ti­ple scle­ro­sis. I think some­body that’s dealt in those things de­serves to go to jail.

JU­ROR NO. 155: I have read a lot of ar­ti­cles about the case. I think he is as guilty as they come.

JU­ROR NO. 28: I don’t like this per­son at all. I just can’t un­der­stand why he would be so stu­pid as to take an an­tibi­ot­ic which H.I.V. peo­ple need and jack it up five thou­sand per­cent. I would hon­est­ly, like, se­ri­ous­ly like to go over there —

THE COURT: Sir, thank you.

JU­ROR NO. 28: Is he stu­pid or greedy? I can’t un­der­stand.

Im­age: Get­ty

UP­DAT­ED: In sur­prise switch, Bris­tol-My­ers is sell­ing off block­buster Ote­zla, promis­ing to com­plete Cel­gene ac­qui­si­tion — just lat­er

Apart from revealing its checkpoint inhibitor Opdivo blew a big liver cancer study on Monday, Bristol-Myers Squibb said its plans to swallow Celgene will require the sale of blockbuster psoriasis treatment Otezla to keep the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) at bay.

The announcement — which has potentially delayed the completion of the takeover to early 2020 — irked investors, triggering the New York-based drugmaker’s shares to tumble Monday morning in premarket trading.

Celgene’s Otezla, approved in 2014 for psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis, is a rising star. It generated global sales of $1.6 billion last year, up from the nearly $1.3 billion in 2017. Apart from the partial overlap of Bristol-Myers injectable Orencia, the company’s rival oral TYK2 psoriasis drug is in late-stage development, after the firm posted encouraging mid-stage data on the drug, BMS-986165, last fall. With Monday’s decision, it appears Bristol-Myers is favoring its experimental drug, and discounting Otezla’s future.

The move blindsided some analysts. Credit Suisse’s Vamil Divan noted just days ago:

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Novotech CEO Dr. John Moller

Novotech CRO Award­ed Frost & Sul­li­van Best Biotech CRO Asia-Pa­cif­ic 2019

Known in the in­dus­try as the Asia-Pa­cif­ic CRO, Novotech is now lead CRO ser­vices provider for the grow­ing num­ber of in­ter­na­tion­al biotechs se­lect­ing the re­gion for their stud­ies.

Re­flect­ing this Asia-Pa­cif­ic growth, Novotech staff num­bers are up 20% since De­cem­ber 2018 to 600 in-house clin­i­cal re­search peo­ple across a full range of ser­vices, across the re­gion.

Novotech’s ca­pa­bil­i­ties have been rec­og­nized by an­a­lysts like Frost & Sul­li­van, most re­cent­ly with the pres­ti­gious Asia-Pa­cif­ic CRO Biotech of the year award for best prac­tices in clin­i­cal re­search for biotechs for the fifth year. See oth­er awards here.

Fol­low­ing news of job cuts in Eu­ro­pean R&D ops, Sanofi con­firms it’s of­fer­ing US work­ers an 'ear­ly ex­it'

Ear­li­er in the week we learned that Sanofi was bring­ing out the bud­get ax to trim 466 R&D jobs in Eu­rope, re­tool­ing its ap­proach to car­dio as re­search chief John Reed beefed up their work in can­cer and gene ther­a­pies. And we’re end­ing the week with news that the phar­ma gi­ant has al­so been qui­et­ly re­duc­ing staff in the US, tar­get­ing hun­dreds of jobs as the com­pa­ny push­es vol­un­tary buy­outs with a fo­cus on R&D sup­port ser­vices.

Bris­tol-My­ers star Op­di­vo fails sur­vival test in a matchup with Nex­avar aimed at shak­ing up the big HCC mar­ket

Bris­tol-My­ers Squibb has suf­fered an­oth­er painful set­back in its years-long quest to ex­pand the reach of Op­di­vo. The phar­ma gi­ant this morn­ing not­ed that their Check­mate-459 study com­par­ing Op­di­vo with Bay­er’s Nex­avar in front­line cas­es of he­pa­to­cel­lu­lar car­ci­no­ma — the most com­mon form of liv­er can­cer — failed to hit the pri­ma­ry end­point on over­all sur­vival.

This was a sig­nif­i­cant mile­stone in Bris­tol-My­ers’ tal­ly of PD-1 cat­a­lysts this year. Nex­avar (so­rafenib) has been the stan­dard of care in front­line HCC for the past decade, though Op­di­vo has been mak­ing head­way in sec­ond-line HCC cas­es, where it’s go­ing toe-to-toe with Bay­er’s Sti­var­ga (re­go­rafenib) af­ter re­cent ap­provals shook up the mar­ket.

Suf­fer­ing No­var­tis part­ner Cona­tus is pack­ing it in on NASH af­ter a se­ries of un­for­tu­nate tri­al events

The NASH par­ty is over at No­var­tis-backed Cona­tus. And this time they’re turn­ing off the lights.

More than 2 years af­ter No­var­tis sur­prised the biotech in­vest­ment com­mu­ni­ty with its $50 mil­lion up­front and promise of R&D sup­port to part­ner with the lit­tle biotech on NASH — ig­nit­ing a light­ning strike for the share price — Cona­tus $CNAT is back with the lat­est bit­ter tale to tell about em­ri­c­as­an, which once in­spired con­fi­dence at the phar­ma gi­ant.

Dean Hum. Nasdaq via YouTube

Gen­fit goes to Chi­na with a deal worth up to $228M for NASH drug

Fresh off the high of its Nas­daq IPO de­but, and the low of com­par­isons to Cymabay — whose NASH drug re­cent­ly stum­bled — Gen­fit on Mon­day un­veiled an up to $228 mil­lion deal with transpa­cif­ic biotech Terns Phar­ma­ceu­ti­cals to de­vel­op its flag­ship ex­per­i­men­tal liv­er drug — elafi­bra­nor — in Greater Chi­na.

The deal comes more than a week af­ter Gen­fit $GN­FT is­sued a fiery de­fense of its dual PPAR ag­o­nist elafi­bra­nor, when com­peti­tor Cymabay’s PPARδ ag­o­nist, se­ladel­par, fiz­zled in a snap­shot of da­ta from an on­go­ing mid-stage tri­al. The main goal at the end of 12 weeks was for se­ladel­par to in­duce a sta­tis­ti­cal­ly sig­nif­i­cant im­prove­ment in liv­er fat con­tent, but da­ta showed that pa­tients on the place­bo ac­tu­al­ly per­formed bet­ter.

Alex­ion wins pri­or­i­ty re­view for Ul­tomiris' aHUS in­di­ca­tion; FDA ex­pands ap­proval of Ver­tex's Symdeko

→ Alex­ion $ALXN has scored a speedy re­view for Ul­tomiris for pa­tients with atyp­i­cal he­molyt­ic ure­mic syn­drome (aHUS) af­ter post­ing pos­i­tive da­ta from a piv­otal study in Jan­u­ary. The drug is the rare dis­ease com­pa­ny’s shot at pro­tect­ing its block­buster blood dis­or­der fran­chise that is cur­rent­ly cen­tered around its flag­ship drug, Soliris, which is a com­ple­ment in­hibitor typ­i­cal­ly ad­min­is­tered every two weeks. Ul­tomiris has a sim­i­lar mech­a­nism of ac­tion but re­quires less-fre­quent dos­ing — every eight weeks. The de­ci­sion date has been set to Oc­to­ber 19. Late last year, Ul­tomiris se­cured ap­proval for noc­tur­nal he­mo­glo­bin­uria (PNH) pa­tients.

Bet­ter than Am­bi­en? Min­er­va soars on PhI­Ib up­date on sel­torex­ant for in­som­nia

A month af­ter roil­ing in­vestors with what skep­tics dis­missed as cher­ry pick­ing of its de­pres­sion da­ta, Min­er­va is back with a clean slate of da­ta from its Phase IIb in­som­nia tri­al.

In a de­tailed up­date, the Waltham, MA-based biotech said sel­torex­ant (MIN-202) hit both the pri­ma­ry and sev­er­al sec­ondary end­points, ef­fec­tive­ly im­prov­ing sleep in­duc­tion and pro­long­ing sleep du­ra­tion. In­ves­ti­ga­tors made a point to note that the ef­fects were con­sis­tent across the adult and el­der­ly pop­u­la­tions, with the lat­ter more prone to the sleep dis­or­der.

Gene ther­a­py biotech sees its stock rock­et high­er on promis­ing re­sults for rare cas­es of but­ter­fly dis­ease

Shares of Krys­tal Biotech took off this morn­ing $KRYS af­ter the lit­tle biotech re­port­ed promis­ing re­sults from its gene ther­a­py to treat a rare skin dis­ease called epi­der­mol­y­sis bul­losa.

Fo­cus­ing on an up­date with 4 new pa­tients, re­searchers spot­light­ed the suc­cess of KB103 in clos­ing some stub­born wounds. Krys­tal says that of 4 re­cur­ring and 2 chron­ic skin wounds treat­ed with the gene ther­a­py, the KB103 group saw the clo­sure of 5. The 6th — a chron­ic wound, de­fined as a wound that had re­mained open for more than 12 weeks — was par­tial­ly closed. That brings the to­tal so far to 8 treat­ed wounds, with 7 clo­sures.