Trump scolds phar­ma ex­ecs, de­mand­ing low­er prices, more US man­u­fac­tur­ing while promis­ing to slash FDA regs

Some of the top CEOs of the phar­ma in­dus­try got to­geth­er with Pres­i­dent Trump Tues­day morn­ing look­ing for com­mon ground. In­stead, they got an­oth­er lec­ture on drug pric­ing, a re­newed promise that the FDA will speed up new drug ap­provals with just a frac­tion of the old reg­u­la­tions in play, and as­sur­ances of an FDA pick wait­ing in the wings who will help put every­thing in or­der.

“We have to get the prices way down,” said Trump, flanked by Cel­gene CEO Bob Hug­in and Mer­ck CEO Ken Fra­zier. “The pric­ing has been as­tro­nom­i­cal for our coun­try.”

But there was a car­rot of­fered along with the stick, as Trump re­peat­ed­ly hit on his promise to slash drug reg­u­la­tions to help speed new drug ap­provals.

“We’re al­so go­ing to be stream­lin­ing the process,” he told the ex­ecs, “so that from your stand­point when you have a drug that you can ac­tu­al­ly get it ap­proved in­stead of wait­ing many, many years.”

“We’re go­ing to get the ap­proval process much faster,” he said. “We’re go­ing to be cut­ting reg­u­la­tions at a lev­el peo­ple have nev­er seen be­fore,” he added. Peo­ple can still be pro­tect­ed, he said, “but in­stead of 9,000 pages it can be 100 pages. And you don’t have to dou­ble up and quadru­ple up. We have com­pa­nies that have more peo­ple work­ing on reg­u­la­tions than they have work­ing at the com­pa­ny.”

To il­lus­trate his point, Trump came up with an anec­dote of a dy­ing pa­tient with just weeks to live, un­able to get an ex­per­i­men­tal ther­a­py. Those days, he vowed, are over. And he in­sist­ed that the com­pa­nies would be re­quired to do far more of their drug man­u­fac­tur­ing in­side the coun­try.

“You have to get your com­pa­nies back here,” he said, re­peat­ing a pledge to re­duce the reg­u­la­to­ry work­load need­ed to get a new plant ap­proved and in op­er­a­tion.

Trump signed a new ex­ec­u­tive or­der Mon­day or­der­ing that every gov­ern­ment agency would be re­quired to elim­i­nate two reg­u­la­tions on the books, for every one they want to add.

Said the pres­i­dent: “I’ll op­pose any­thing that makes it hard­er for small­er, younger com­pa­nies to take the risk of bring­ing a prod­uct to a vi­brant­ly com­pet­i­tive mar­ket. That in­cludes price fix­ing by the biggest dog in the mar­ket, Medicare, which is what’s hap­pen­ing. But we can in­crease com­pe­ti­tion and bid­ding wars big time.”

Trump al­so lev­eled a blast at the rest of the world, which have re­lied on high prices in the US to sub­si­dize their own dis­count­ed rates.

“We’re go­ing to end glob­al free­load­ing,” he pledged. “You’re go­ing to get your prod­ucts ei­ther ap­proved or not ap­proved, but its not go­ing to take 15 years,” he said, cit­ing av­er­age cost of drug de­vel­op­ment at $2.5 bil­lion. Both of those fig­ures are hot­ly de­bat­ed in bio­phar­ma, where poor R&D re­turns in Big Phar­ma have long in­flat­ed the cost and time it takes to get a new drug to mar­ket.

“We’re go­ing to be chang­ing a lot of the rules,” Trump not­ed about the FDA, adding that he has an FDA com­mis­sion­er who’s been picked out and will be named soon. He al­so seemed to ze­ro in on safe­ty as a key con­sid­er­a­tion of quick ap­provals, echo­ing a sug­ges­tion from Jim O’Neill, a Lib­er­tar­i­an close to Trump sup­port­er Pe­ter Thiel, who’s ad­vo­cat­ed ap­provals based on ev­i­dence of safe­ty alone. O’Neill is one of sev­er­al ru­mored can­di­dates for the top job at the FDA.

Along with Hug­in and Fra­zier, David Ricks at Eli Lil­ly, Joe Jimenez at No­var­tis and oth­ers joined the ses­sion.

Aerial view of Genentech's campus in South San Francisco [Credit: Getty]

Genen­tech sub­mits a big plan to ex­pand its South San Fran­cis­co foot­print

The sign is still there, a quaint reminder of whitewashed concrete not 5 miles from Genentech’s sprawling, chrome-and-glass campus: South Francisco The Industrial City. 

The city keeps the old sign, first erected in 1923, as a tourist site and a kind of civic memento to the days it packed meat, milled lumber and burned enough steel to earn the moniker “Smokestack of the Peninsula.” But the real indication of where you are and how much has changed both in San Francisco and in the global economy since a couple researchers and investors rented out an empty warehouse 40 years ago comes in a far smaller blue sign, resembling a Rotary Club post, off the highway: South San Francisco, The Birthplace of Biotech.

Here comes the oral GLP-1 drug for di­a­betes — but No­vo Nordisk is­n't dis­clos­ing Ry­bel­sus price just yet

Novo Nordisk’s priority review voucher on oral semaglutide has paid off. The FDA approval for the GLP-1 drug hit late Friday morning, around six months after the NDA filing.

Rybelsus will be the first GLP-1 pill to enter the type 2 diabetes market — a compelling offering that analysts have pegged as a blockbuster drug with sales estimates ranging from $2 billion to $5 billion.

Ozempic, the once-weekly injectable formulation of semaglutide, brought in around $552 million (DKK 3.75 billion) in the first half of 2019.

As Nas­daq en­rolls the fi­nal batch of 2019 IPOs, how have the num­bers com­pared to past years?

IGM Biosciences’ upsized IPO haul, coming after SpringWorks’ sizable public debut, has revved up some momentum for the last rush of biotech IPOs in 2019.

With 39 new listings on the books and roughly two more months to go before winding down, Nasdaq’s head of healthcare listings Jordan Saxe sees the exchange marking 50 to 60 biopharma IPOs for the year.

“December 15 is usually the last possible day that companies will price,” he said, as companies get ready for business talks at the annual JP Morgan Healthcare Conference in January.

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Oxitec biologist releases genetically modified mosquitoes in Piracicaba, Brazil in 2016 [credit: Getty Images]

In­trex­on unit push­es back against claims its GM mos­qui­toes are mak­ing dis­ease-friend­ly mu­tants

When the hysteria of Zika transmission sprang into the American zeitgeist a few years ago, UK-based Oxitec was already field-testing its male Aedes aegypti mosquito, crafted to possess a gene engineered to obliterate its progeny long before maturation.

But when a group of independent scientists evaluated the impact of the release of these genetically-modified mosquitoes in a trial conducted by Oxitec in Brazil between 2013 and 2015, they found that some of the offspring had managed to survive — prompting them to speculate what impact the survivors could have on disease transmission and/or insecticide resistance.

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[via AP Images]

Pur­due threat­ens to walk away from set­tle­ment, asks to pay em­ploy­ees mil­lions in bonus­es

There are two updates on the lawsuit against Purdue Pharma over its role in fueling the opioid epidemic, as the Sackler family threatens to walk away from their pledge to pay out $3 billion if a bankruptcy judge does not stop outstanding state lawsuits against them. At the same time, the company has asked permission to pay millions in bonuses to select employees.

Purdue filed for chapter 11 bankruptcy this week as part of its signed resolution to over 2,000 lawsuits. The deal would see the Sackler family that owns Purdue give $3 billion from their personal wealth and the company turned into a trust committed to curbing and reversing overdoses.

David Grainger [file photo]

'Dis­con­nect the bas­tard­s' — one biotech's plan to break can­cer cell­s' uni­fied de­fens­es

Chemotherapy and radiotherapy are the current gladiators of cancer treatment, but they come with well-known limitations and side-effects. The emergence of immunotherapy — a ferocious new titan in oncologist’s toolbox — takes the brakes off the immune system to kill cancer cells with remarkable success in some cases, but the approach is not always effective. What makes certain forms of cancer so resilient? Scientists may have finally pieced together a tantalizing piece of the puzzle, and a new biotech is banking on a new approach to fill the gap.

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A fa­vorite in Alex­ion’s C-suite is leav­ing, and some mighty sur­prised an­a­lysts aren’t the least bit hap­py about it

Analysts hate to lose a biotech CFO they’ve come to trust and admire — especially if they’re being blindsided by a surprise exit.

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Scott Gottlieb, AP Images

Scott Got­tlieb is once again join­ing a team that en­joyed good times at the FDA un­der his high-en­er­gy stint at the helm

Right after jumping on Michael Milken’s FasterCures board on Monday, the newly departed FDA commissioner is back today with news about another life sciences board post that gives him a ringside chair to cheer on a lead player in the real-world evidence movement — one with very close ties to the FDA.

Aetion is reporting this morning that Gottlieb is joining their board, a group that includes Mohamad Makhzoumi, a general partner at New Enterprise Associates, where Gottlieb returned after stepping out of his role at the FDA 2 years after he started.

Gottlieb — one of the best connected execs in biopharma — knows this company well. As head of FDA he championed the use of real-world evidence to help guide drug developers and the agency in gaining greater efficiencies, which helped set up Aetion as a high-profile player in the game.

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While No­var­tis ban­ish­es Zol­gens­ma scan­dal scars — Bio­gen goes on a Spin­raza 'of­fen­sive'

While Novartis painstakingly works to mop up the stench of the data manipulation scandal associated with its expensive gene therapy for spinal muscular atrophy (SMA) Zolgensma— rival Biogen is attempting to expand the use of its SMA therapy, Spinraza. 

The US drugmaker $BIIB secured US approval for Spinraza for use in the often fatal genetic disease in 2016. The approval covered a broad range of patients with infantile-onset (most likely to develop Type 1) SMA.