Roche has tak­en the Trump pledge, join­ing Pfiz­er, No­var­tis and Mer­ck in promis­ing to hold the line on drug prices

You can add yet an­oth­er Big Phar­ma to the grow­ing list of gi­ants swear­ing off US price hikes.

Roche tells me this morn­ing that they told HHS on Ju­ly 11 — the day af­ter Pfiz­er CEO Ian Read agreed to roll back a price hike in a call with the pres­i­dent — that “we will not be tak­ing any price in­creas­es for the re­main­der of the year.”

Roche’s move comes as Pfiz­er, No­var­tis and Mer­ck have all pledged to hold the line on drug prices for the rest of the year — which comes amid con­sid­er­able skep­ti­cism over just how mean­ing­ful this is. And Reuters is re­port­ing that Bay­er and Mer­ck KGaA are al­so falling in­to line.

Roche, though, al­most im­me­di­ate­ly was called out for freez­ing prices af­ter they had al­ready com­plet­ed two rounds of price hikes this year. Bloomberg re­ports that the phar­ma gi­ant raised prices on its big three can­cer drugs — Avastin, Per­cep­tion and Rit­ux­an — and oth­ers just days ago, fol­low­ing in­creas­es in Jan­u­ary.

Based on pre­vi­ous years, Roche may well have been fin­ished rais­ing prices any­way.

The move will sure­ly lead to plen­ty of new hoots from crit­ics, who have been call­ing out Mer­ck for slash­ing the price of a hep C ther­a­py that was all but dead any­way, along with oth­er drugs that had lost patent pro­tec­tion.

Im­pact­ful or not, from the per­spec­tive of the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion, this is an­oth­er big win. The op­tics on these price freezes are just what Don­ald Trump was look­ing for when he called up Pfiz­er CEO Ian Read fol­low­ing the com­pa­ny’s move to raise prices on dozens of prod­ucts.

Now it looks like we’ll soon have a ma­jor­i­ty of the top 10 promis­ing to hold the line, at least for the rest of this year.

Here’s the rest of the state­ment from Roche:

We take de­ci­sions re­lat­ed to the prices of our med­i­cines very se­ri­ous­ly and our com­mit­ment to pa­tient ac­cess and in­vest­ment in fu­ture break­throughs are re­flect­ed in our ac­tions. This ap­plies to the way we price new med­i­cines and how we change the price of those med­i­cines over time.

For ex­am­ple, our last sev­en new med­i­cines were priced less than oth­er ap­proved med­i­cines used to treat a sim­i­lar dis­ease. We re­cent­ly priced Ocre­vus, an in­no­v­a­tive treat­ment for mul­ti­ple scle­ro­sis, 25% low­er than the med­i­cine it sur­passed in clin­i­cal tri­als, and Hem­li­bra at less than half the cost of the stan­dard treat­ment for he­mo­phil­ia A with in­hibitors.

Al­so, over the past sev­er­al years, Genen­tech’s an­nu­al av­er­age net price in­crease, weight­ed by sales, was ap­prox­i­mate­ly 3% – in line with the med­ical con­sumer price in­dex (CPI).

But for pa­tients and the health­care sys­tem to ben­e­fit ful­ly from re­spon­si­ble pric­ing ac­tions, we must al­so fo­cus on im­ple­ment­ing long-term, sys­tem-wide so­lu­tions that low­er costs, while sus­tain­ing sci­en­tif­ic in­no­va­tion and ac­cess to life-chang­ing med­i­cines.

To that end, we are en­gag­ing with HHS and oth­ers to pro­pose and dis­cuss ideas and rec­om­men­da­tions that can bring about pos­i­tive, last­ing change. These in­clude en­abling the Cen­ters for Medicare & Med­ic­aid Ser­vices to ben­e­fit more di­rect­ly from pri­vate sec­tor com­pe­ti­tion for Part B med­i­cines; re­form­ing the 340B pro­gram; and im­ple­ment­ing nov­el pric­ing and re­im­burse­ment mod­els.

We’re com­mit­ted to be­ing part of the so­lu­tion and look for­ward to con­tin­u­ing these dis­cus­sions.

Mer­ck is tak­ing the ax to its US op­er­a­tions, cut­ting 500 jobs in its lat­est re­or­ga­ni­za­tion

Merck is cutting 500 jobs in its US sales and headquarters commercial teams in its latest effort to find new ways to streamline the operation.

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Alice Shaw, Lung Cancer Foundation of America

Top ALK ex­pert and can­cer drug re­searcher Al­ice Shaw bids adieu to acad­e­mia, hel­lo to No­var­tis

Jay Bradner has recruited a marquee oncology drug researcher into the ranks of the Novartis Institutes for BioMedical Research. Alice Shaw is jumping from prestigious posts intertwined through Mass General, Harvard and Dana-Farber to take the lead of NIBR’s translational clinical oncology group.

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Hal Barron, GSK's president of R&D and CSO, speaks to Endpoints News founder and editor John Carroll in London at Endpoints' #UKBIO19 summit on October 8, 2019

[Video] Cel­e­brat­ing tri­al fail­ures, chang­ing the cul­ture and al­ly­ing with Cal­i­for­nia dream­ers: R&D chief Hal Bar­ron talks about a new era at GSK

Last week I had a chance to sit down with Hal Barron at Endpoints’ #UKBIO19 summit to discuss his views on R&D at GSK, a topic that has been central to his life since he took the top research post close to 2 years ago. During the conversation, Barron talked about changing the culture at GSK, a move that involves several new approaches — one of which involves celebrating their setbacks as they shift resources to the most promising programs in the pipeline. Barron also discussed his new alliances in the Bay Area — including his collaboration pact with Lyell, which we covered here — frankly assesses the pluses and minuses of the UK drug development scene, and talks about his plans for making GSK a much more effective drug developer.

This is one discussion you won’t want to miss. Insider and Enterprise subscribers can log-in to watch the video.

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Med­ical an­i­ma­tion: Mak­ing it eas­i­er for the site and the pa­tient to un­der­stand

Medical animation has in recent years become an increasingly important tool for conveying niche information to a varied audience, particularly to those audiences without expertise in the specialist area. Science programmes today, for example, have moved from the piece-to-camera of the university professor explaining how a complex disease mechanism works, to actually showing the viewer first-hand what it might look like to shrink ourselves down to the size of an ant’s foot, and travel inside the human body to witness these processes in action. Effectively communicating a complex disease pathophysiology, or the novel mechanism of action of a new drug, can be complex. This is especially difficult when the audience domain knowledge is limited or non-existent. Medical animation can help with this communication challenge in several ways.
Improved accessibility to visualisation
Visualisation is a core component of our ability to understand a concept. Ask 10 people to visualise an apple, and each will come up with a slightly different image, some apples smaller than others, some more round, some with bites taken. Acceptable, you say, we can move on to the next part of the story. Now ask 10 people to visualise how HIV’s capsid protein gets arranged into the hexamers and pentamers that form the viral capsid that holds HIV’s genetic material. This request may pose a challenge even to someone with some virology knowledge, and it is that inability to effectively visualise what is going on that holds us back from fully understanding the rest of the story. So how does medical animation help us to overcome this visualisation challenge?

Flu Virus (Source: CDC)

FDA ex­pands Xofluza ap­proval as Roche strug­gles to catch loom­ing flu mar­ket

As a potentially powerful flu season looms, so does a big test for Roche and its new flu drug, Xofluza. The Swiss giant just got a small boost in advance of that test as the FDA expanded Xofluza’s indication to include patients at high risk of developing flu-related complications.

Xofluza (baloxavir marboxil) was approved last October in the US, the first landmark flu drug approval in 20 years and a much-needed green light for a company that had watched its leading flu drug Tamiflu get eaten alive by generics. Like its predecessor, the pill offered a reduction in flu symptoms but not a cure.

EMA backs sev­en ther­a­pies, in­clud­ing Mer­ck­'s Ebo­la vac­cine

The first-ever Ebola vaccine is on the precipice of approval after the European Medicine’s Agency (EMA) backed the Merck product in this week’s roster of recommendations.

The drugmaker $MRK began developing the vaccine, christened Ervebo, during the West African outbreak that occurred between 2014 and 2016, killing more than 11,000.

The current outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) has shown case fatality rates of approximately 67%, the agency estimated. Earlier this year, the WHO declared the outbreak — which so far has infected more than 3,000 people — a public health emergency of international concern.

Ronald Herb­st fol­lows Med­Im­mune ex­o­dus to Pyx­is CSO post; Jeff God­dard to suc­ceed CEO of AIT Bio­science

→ The outflow of top execs from MedImmune continues to fill the leadership ranks of smaller biotechs. The latest to take off is Ronald Herbst, the head of oncology research, who’s assuming the CSO post at Pyxis Oncology.  

Herbst was part of the old MedImmune organization AstraZeneca CEO Pascal Soriot restructured earlier this year, reorganizing the company and eliminating the storied subsidiary as a separate organization.

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UP­DAT­ED: J&J's Xarel­to, Amar­in's Vas­cepa are cost-ef­fec­tive, not bud­get friend­ly — ICER

ICER, an increasingly influential cost-effectiveness watchdog in the United States, has concluded in its review of treatments for cardiovascular disease that while the cost of J&J’s Xarelto and Amarin’s Vascepa meet its benchmark for value pricing — the two treatments will not likely treat as many patients as hoped without surpassing the annual budget threshold calculated by ICER for each therapy.

Mi­rati preps its first look at their KRAS G12C con­tender, and they have to clear a high bar for suc­cess

If you’re a big KRAS G12C fan, mark your calendars for October 28 at 4:20 pm EDT.

That’s when Mirati $MRTX will unveil its first peek at the early clinical data available on MRTX849 in presentations at the AACR-NCI-EORTC International Conference on Molecular Targets and Cancer Therapeutics in Boston.

Mirati has been experiencing the full effect of a rival’s initial success at targeting the G12C pocket found on KRAS, offering the biotech some support on the concept they’re after — and biotech fans a race to the top. Amgen made a big splash with its first positive snapshot on lung cancer, but deflated sky-high expectations as it proved harder to find similar benefits in other types of cancers.

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