Teva Walks Away From Settlement Talks With DOJ Over Accusations It Colluded With Rivals To Inflate Prices
Read about the biggest pharmaceutical development and pricing stories from the past week in KHN's Prescription Drug Watch roundup.
The New York Times:
A Drug Company Wagers The U.S. Won’t Dare Charge It With Crimes
In the coming days, the Justice Department will make an important decision: whether to file criminal charges against one of the world’s largest pharmaceutical companies for allegedly colluding with rivals to inflate the prices of widely used drugs. The company, Teva Pharmaceutical Industries, is betting that in the middle of a deadly pandemic, the Trump administration won’t dare to come down hard on the largest supplier of generic drugs in the United States. It is a high-stakes gamble that could affect millions of Americans who rely on Teva’s dozens of inexpensive generic drugs, as well as its brand-name products like Copaxone, for multiple sclerosis, and Ajovy, for migraines. Teva officials say criminal charges could cripple the Israeli company and potentially leave it unable to sell drugs to federal programs like Medicare. (Benner, Enrich and Thomas, 5/15)
Gilead's Remdesivir Could Become A 'Multi-Year Commercial Opportunity'
As speculation mounts over pricing for remdesivir, a Gilead Sciences (GILD) executive suggested the experimental medicine will likely sell for much less than the nearly $30,000 it was recently valued at in a cost-effectiveness model, according to a Wall Street analyst. At the same time, the drug maker believes remdesivir has the potential to become a “multi-year commercial opportunity,” rather than provide just a surge in sales for a year or two, Leerink analyst Geoffrey Porges wrote in an investor note sent on Monday that summarized a conversation he had with Gilead chief financial officer Andrew Dickinson. (Silverman, 5/18)
Alexion Faces Pressure To Sell From Activist Investor
When Elliott Management knocks, it’s difficult not to answer the door. The New York investment firm led by legendary activist investor Paul Singer is known for its persistence as it pressures companies to improve their share prices — and its willingness to turn hostile when necessary... Now, Alexion could become the latest major Boston-area company to be reshaped under Elliott’s watchful eye. (Chesto, 5/18)
The Star Tribune:
Minnesota Has A New Drug Price Transparency Law. Here's What It Does
Drug companies will have to notify Minnesota consumers about big prescription medication price hikes, under a major compromise measure signed into law on Tuesday. The new price transparency law, which passed both chambers of the Legislature with bipartisan support, is the result of more than a year of negotiations between legislators and interest groups. Its enactment comes amid increased political pressure for lawmakers to do something to address the rising cost of prescription drugs. (Van Oot, 5/13)
Covid-19 Crisis Spurs Request To Block Oklahoma Drug Pricing Law
An Oklahoma law regulating pharmacy benefit managers like Express Scripts and OptumRx should be put on hold in light of the ongoing Covid-19 health crisis, a trade group representing the industry told a federal judge. The Pharmaceutical Care Management Association on Wednesday sought a preliminary injunction blocking Oklahoma’s enforcement of the law, which the group says will drive up prescription drug prices and “divert resources away from responding to the COVID-19 crisis.” (Wille, 5/14)
COVID-19 Drugs And Vaccines Are Coming—But To Whom?
The rush is on to come up with a viable vaccine against COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus. Scores of academic institutions and companies around the world are hard at work, and at least eight vaccine candidates have reached or are approaching the clinical trial stage. Oxford University’s Jenner Institute is currently leading the race and due to start large-scale human trials by the end of May. This week, a Massachusetts-based biotech firm, Moderna, announced that its coronavirus vaccine had safely produced protective antibodies in human volunteers in early-stage testing. (Hillman, 5/19)
Democrats Punt On Drug-Pricing Overhaul In Virus Relief Measure
House Democratic leaders omitted drug pricing changes from a new, $3 trillion stimulus measure, signaling that coronavirus-related legislation won’t address a main policy priority of their caucus. Some senior Democrats and consumer advocacy groups have sought to include in every one of the five coronavirus packages introduced in the House this year “anti-profiteering” language aimed at denying pharmaceutical companies exclusive rights to produce Covid-19 vaccines or treatments and measures to prohibit high prices for the medicines. (Ruoff, 5/13)
Pfizer Says Efficacy Of Its Duchenne Gene Therapy Outweighs Side Effects
Pfizer’s experimental gene therapy to treat Duchenne muscular dystrophy appeared to improve muscle function in a study of nine boys, but also resulted in serious drug reactions in three of those children, the company said Friday. The data are being presented at a virtual session of the American Society of Gene & Cell Therapy. Duchenne, which affects 12,000 children in the U.S., almost all of them boys, is a genetic disease in which muscles degenerate due to lack of a key protein called dystrophin, eventually leading to death. Several companies have been developing gene therapies that work by using viruses to sneak a truncated, but still functional, protein into cells. (Herper, 5/15)
San Francisco Chronicle:
New HIV Drug ‘Highly Effective’ At Preventing Infection, Study Shows
A new HIV drug injected every two months effectively reduces the rate of infection, and provides longer and stronger protection than taking pills, a global trial published Monday revealed. The four-year trial, conducted by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases in the U.S. and six other countries, injected a drug called cabotegravir every two months into 4,570 men and transgender women who have sex with men and are at high risk of contracting HIV. (Moench, 5/18)
Biotech’s New Top Lobbyist Is A Social Justice Advocate. Will Industry Listen?
Michelle McMurry-Heath doesn’t talk about biotech the way her peers do. Where other executives and experts might bring up “access,” and “reimbursement,” McMurry-Heath talks about fairness and ethics. “Science is the social justice issue of our age,” McMurry-Heath said. “Making sure that knowledge gets out to the people who need it, that, to me, is a justice issue.” The question is whether biotech will embrace McMurry-Heath’s point of view — and whether it will have any impact on lawmakers. (Florko and Herper, 5/14)
High Cost Of Cancer Drugs Does Not Reflect Clinical Benefit
The cost of cancer drugs continues to escalate with each new product that comes on the market, often presenting formidable challenges to both patients and healthcare systems. But a new analysis suggests these high costs cannot be justified with respect to clinical benefit. (Nelson, 5/13)