KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

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Big Pharma To Spend Millions To Rebrand Image As ‘More Lab Coat, Less Hoodie’

News outlets report on stories related to pharmaceutical drug pricing.

BuzzFeed: Here’s How Big Pharma Plans To Clean Up After Martin Shkreli
Martin Shkreli was everywhere last year. After hiking the price of an antiparasitic pill from $13.50 to $750 as the then-CEO of Turing Pharmaceuticals, the unapologetic, indicted, and widely reviled “pharma bro” helped ensure that the issue of skyrocketing drug prices made news almost daily. No wonder Stephen Ubl, who runs the pharma industry’s lobbying group, said that moving on from Shkreli and doing damage control are the top priorities for drug makers in 2017. (Lee, 1/10)

Stat: Pharma's Plan To Combat A Bad Rep: More Ads
The drug industry’s top lobbying group has a plan for the $100 million in extra dues it will soon be collecting from members: a stepped-up ad campaign highlighting just how hard it is to invent new treatments. PhRMA, which just raised its annual fees by 50 percent, is hoping to counter the industry’s worsening reputation, brought on but increased public scrutiny of escalating drug prices. One facet of that effort will be a national ad campaign, PhRMA President and CEO said Monday at the J.P. Morgan Healthcare Conference. (Garde, 1/9)

Stat: A Year After Scantily-Clad Model Scandal, Mixer During JPM Tries To Help Women In Biotech Advance
A year ago here at the drug industry’s annual confab, the investor relations firm LifeSci Advisors infamously sparked outrage when it hired models in tight dresses in an effort to bring gender balance to its party. Things were different this year at the JP Morgan Healthcare Conference. Instead of a throwing a party, LifeSci’s founder Michael Rice sponsored a Women In Bio networking mixer. In brief comments to a small group of mostly women who attended, he earnestly championed the industry’s female professionals and emphasized the need to promote them, as LifeSci has made it a priority to do for the past year. (Robbins, 1/11)

MarketWatch: If Trump Tries To Lower Drug Prices, ‘God Help Him,’ Says Top Medicare Official
President-elect Donald Trump said on the campaign trail that Medicare should negotiate for lower drug prices. “God help him,” Acting Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Administrator Andy Slavitt said at the JP Morgan Health Care Conference in San Francisco on Monday. “He’s not wrong, but you need a lot of ... to coin a phrase that’s been used, a fair amount of stamina if you are going to deal with the pharmaceutical industry on this topic.” (Court, 1/10)

The Wall Street Journal: ‘Take Your Medicine’ Is Big Pharma’s Best Prescription
It may be time for big pharma to revisit an old, familiar problem: helping patients adhere to prescription drug regimens. Last year was a relatively fallow one for new drug approvals while attempted price increases on drugs already on the market attracted unwanted attention from politicians and regulators. But improving patients’ ability to stick with doctor’s orders marks an area of opportunity for drug companies to generate growth. (Grant,1/10)

Stat: Today's New Drugs Come Through The Pipeline No Faster Than 20 Years Ago
New drugs are moving more quickly to market today compared with those launched during the height of the Great Recession, but the pipeline is no faster than it was two decades ago. That’s a key finding of a new report, released jointly on Monday by QuintilesIMS Institute and STAT, that illustrates shifting forces that have high stakes for drug innovation and pricing. The report, which analyzed the lifespans of 667 new drugs launched in the United States over the past two decades, was prepared independently by the QuintilesIMS Institute, in consultation with STAT. (Robbins, 1/9)

Stat: Biopharma Expects A Lot Of M&A This Year
Despite the outcomes of both the presidential election and the Brexit vote, this could be a banner year for biopharma mergers and acquisitions, according to two new reports. Biopharma valuations leveled off substantially in 2016, which sets the stage this year for several new divestitures and megadeals, according to a new report from consulting firm EY. (Keshavan, 1/9)

CNN Money: Trump Threat Fails To Halt Drug Price Hikes In 2017
Will Donald Trump target his Twitter cannon on drug companies next? The president-elect put the pharmaceutical industry on notice last month about rising drug prices. "I'm going to bring down drug prices," Trump told Time. The warning immediately sent biotech stocks tumbling. However, in the first few days of 2017, drug companies have already put in place a wave of significant price hikes, despite Trump's cautionary comments. (Egan, 1/4)

Stat: Joe Biden Says He'll Push Pharma Companies To Make Drugs Affordable
Vice President Joe Biden on Monday told a packed ballroom of biopharma investors and executives that after leaving the White House he plans to push their industry to make drugs affordable for patients. “We’re going to convene a national conversation with pharmaceutical companies— many of you who are here … biotech companies and others — to ensure patients can afford treatments,” Biden said. “Too many Americans are forced to sell their homes, to go into bankruptcy, so their loved ones can get care and hope for a cure. This needs to change while still not undermining the profit motive making sure there’s a genuine reward for effort.” (Scott and Robbins, 1/9)

The CT Mirror: How Can States Tackle Rising Medication Prices?
States have a range of options when it comes to tackling rising prescription drug prices, an expert told Connecticut policymakers Tuesday. There’s a bully-pulpit approach – think President-elect Donald J. Trump and the auto industry – or the more industry-friendly concept of tying payments to whether the drugs deliver value, like fewer hospitalizations. There’s proposing legislation to increase transparency in drug pricing, or treating certain medications as critical goods that should be regulated like water and electricity. (Levin Becker, 1/11)

Bloomberg: Cheating Death Can Cost $200,000 As Cancer Leads Sales
Years before becoming a top cancer specialist, Eric Winer used to save money on his own medical care by talking U.S. pharmacists into giving him expired treatments for free. Winer, who has a bleeding disorder known as hemophilia, knew the drugs would still work for a brief time after the official use-by date. The young physician was trying to stay within his insurer’s spending limit and avoid having to pay out of pocket one day. Decades later, he recollects that anxious time as he tries to make sense of the soaring prices of drugs for his own cancer patients. (Kresge, 1/6)

Bloomberg: Valeant Sells $2.1 Billion In Assets To Ease Debt Burden
Valeant Pharmaceuticals International Inc. agreed to sell about $2.1 billion in assets in two deals, an important first step in the struggling drugmaker’s endeavor to get cash and begin easing its debt burden. L’Oreal SA, the Paris-based cosmetic giant, will pay Valeant $1.3 billion for three skin-care brands, according to a statement Tuesday. Valeant will also sell its Dendreon Pharmaceuticals unit to closely held Chinese conglomerate Sanpower Group Co. for about $820 million. Valeant’s shares and bonds jumped after the news. (Serafino and Koch, 1/10)

Bloomberg: Drought Of Biotech IPOs As Health Investors Await Trump 
Where are all the biotech IPOs? Last quarter was the slowest three-month period for drug company initial public offering in four years, according to Bloomberg data. And in all of 2016, only 36 biotech and pharmaceutical companies went public in the U.S., according to data gathered by Bloomberg, compared with 68 in 2015 and a record 85 in 2014. The long drought comes ahead of the health-care industry’s biggest gathering of companies and investors, the J.P. Morgan Healthcare Conference in San Francisco, which begins Monday. The week before the massive conference typically serve as a launchpad for fresh offerings. This year? Nothing. (Chen, Barinka and Greifeld, 1/9)

The Washington Post: Drugmakers Question The Future Of Drug Prices Under Trump
The biggest biopharmaceutical event of the year kicks off this week as 450 health-care companies and thousands of investors descend on this city for a week of dealmaking, networking and trying to read the tea leaves for what President-elect Donald Trump will do — or not do — about drug prices. The J.P. Morgan Healthcare Conference, held Monday through Thursday, brings together leaders from across the health-care ecosystem: drug companies that are household names, up-and-comers trying to launch the next big medicine and insurers who help pay for it all. At packed sessions and investor meetings scattered across a soggy, rain-soaked city, hundreds of companies will set the tone for the next year. But they face an added layer of uncertainty this year, trying to divine what a president-elect who has been critical of high drug prices and vowed to repeal the Affordable Care Act will mean for business. (Johnson, 1/9)

The New York Times: Specialty Pharmacies Say Benefit Managers Are Squeezing Them Out
From its storefront in Union City, N.J., Prime Aid Pharmacy caters to patients with a wide range of ailments, from rheumatoid arthritis to hepatitis C. The business prides itself on getting patients their necessary drugs, employs a staff that speaks 10 languages and delivers medications by car in New York and New Jersey. “Especially during the winter, when mail deliveries don’t always get there on time, it’s very important to have local delivery,” said Yana Shtindler, the pharmacy’s administrator. But these days, Prime Aid is struggling to stay in business. (Thomas, 1/9)

Stat: Should Both Sanofi And Regeneron Drugs Remain Available?
As Sanofi prepares a do-or-die appeal to continue selling a pricey cholesterol drug, a key issue may turn on the extent to which patient access to the medicine is considered to be in the public interest. The drug maker and its partner, Regeneron Pharmaceuticals, lost a stunner when a federal court judge late Thursday issued a permanent injunction preventing the companies from marketing their Praluent injectable cholesterol medicine. The judge did so in response to a jury verdict last year that found the product infringed patents held by Amgen on its own drug, which is called Repatha. (Silverman, 1/6)

Stat: FDA Wants To Know: Do Docs And Consumers Recognize Fake Ads
Deceptive pharmaceutical advertising has popped up before, but now the US Food and Drug Administration wants to know the extent to which doctors and consumers can actually recognize misleading or false promotions. And so, the agency plans to run a pair of studies to find out, according to a Federal Register notice that ran on Wednesday. (Silverman, 1/6)

KGW: New Oregon Coalition To Fight Rising Drug Prices
Some of Oregon’s most influential political, consumer and labor groups are taking a stand against prescription drug costs. The new coalition, called Oregonians for Affordable Drug Prices, wants state lawmakers to take action. In a poll, the coalition found 80 percent of Oregonians feel prescription drug prices are too high. (Iboshi, 1/5)

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