To tackle soaring prescription drug costs, Canada creates new agency to negotiate prices; DMC clears phIII testing of Cytokinetics’ Amgen-partnered heart drug

→ Americans aren’t the only ones crying hoarse about soaring prescription drug prices. In its 2019 budget unveiled on Tuesday, neighboring Canada has decided to do something substantive about  drug prices (in contrast to most other nations with universal healthcare, Canada does not cover prescriptions leaving its citizens to tackle those costs with public or private insurance plans). Akin to the UK’s NICE, the country is setting up the “Canadian Drug Agency” that will be tasked with assessing the cost-effectiveness of drugs, and negotiating prescription drug prices on behalf of Canadians. “Prescription drug spending in Canada has risen dramatically over the last three decades — from $2.6 billion in 1985 to $33.7 billion in 2018…negotiating better prices could help lower the cost of prescription drugs for Canadians by up to $3 billion per year in the long term,” the government said in a statement.

Cytokinetics’ Amgen $AMGN -partnered heart drug, omecamtiv mecarbil, has passed its first interim analysis test in a late-stage study called GALACTIC-HF — a data monitoring committee has signed off on the trial continuing as planned. The drug is a cardiac myosin activator, designed to enhance cardiac function, and is also being evaluated in a separate phase III trial called METEORIC-HF.  Cytokinetics’ shares $CYTK rose about 4% to $8.92 in early trading.

→ A basket of drugmakers including Alkermes $ALKS, Anavex $AVXL, Cadent Therapeutics, Lundbeck, Merck $MRK, Sage $SAGE, and Takeda $TAK, are joining forces to aid schizophrenia drug development by working together to identify biomarkers for the hard-to-treat disease. Psychiatric disorders like schizophrenia are notoriously tricky to treat, due to the lack of validated biomarkers, and trial data are often blurred by an inflated placebo effect.

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Recursion Pharmaceuticals Salt Lake City, UT
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