KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

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Are Drug Developers Experiencing An R&D Revival?

The Wall Street Journal reports on big pharma's "delicate dance." Meanwhile, news outlets also explore market trends related to orphan drugs and more on questions regarding the association between cancer and some diabetes drugs.

The Wall Street Journal: Big Pharma’s Delicate Dance On Drug Prices
Drug makers are enjoying a research-and-development revival after a fallow period. Last year the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved 45 new drugs, more than double the number in 2006. But the industry also faces growing criticism of the prices it charges for new drugs—some cancer therapies cost as much as $150,000 a year—as well as repeated price increases for older drugs. Critics say high prices are putting drugs out of reach for many patients and straining health-care budgets. (Loftus, 2/21)

Bloomberg: Alexion Tests Orphan Drug Limits
If a strategy works in the pharmaceutical industry, then you can bet someone will take it to its furthest extreme. Alexion has been a pioneer in two hot industry trends: marketing rare-disease, or "orphan," drugs and jacking up prices. It sells its drug Soliris, which treats rare blood disorders, for as much as $525,000 a year. Its newest drug Kanuma, which treats a rare genetic enzyme deficiency, could cost even more per patient per year, according to the U.K.'s health-care cost watchdog, known as NICE. (Nisen, 2/19)

The Philadelphia Inquirer: Cancer Questions Over Popular Diabetes Drug Raise Furor
Before he died early last year of pancreatic cancer, Stephen T. Johnson filed a lawsuit against Merck for not telling him his disease might be a side effect of taking Januvia, the company's blockbuster diabetes drug. The 63-year-old Philadelphia police officer knew his life was at an end, but he wanted the product labeling changed to warn other diabetics. (McCullough, 2/19)

And in the news from insurers -

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