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Thursday, January 19, 2017

The Readout by Damian Garde & Meghana Keshavan

Good news: We're launching group subscriptions to STAT Plus, our premium site for biopharma coverage. Interested? Fill out this quick form. For more news, visit STAT. On Twitter: @damiangarde@megkesh@statnews.

Price on pricing

Congressman Tom Price, who's been tapped for HHS secretary, seems to be toeing the drug pricing waters more delicately than his nominator, President-elect Donald Trump. 

Take yesterday's confirmation hearing. When Senator Bernie Sanders asked Price if he’d back Trump’s plan to allow Medicare to directly negotiate the prices it pays for medicines — and allow drugs to be imported from other countries, Price responded: “You have my commitment to work with you to make sure drug pricing is reasonable.” 

The back-and-forth was largely unintelligible, but bottom line: Price is making no promises about pricing.

Read more.

A decade later: What does CIRM have to show for itself?

Stem cells were once poised to become the panacea of the 21st century — we were, it was proclaimed, only a few cellular breakthroughs away from re-engineering the face of medicine.

The field’s proved far more complicated. Case in point: The California Institute of Regenerative Medicine, launched more than a decade ago with the promise of $3 billion in taxpayer funds. A STAT analysis has found that CIRM has moved forward at a snail’s pace. For instance, just two clinical trials it’s funded have actually been completed.

To be sure, most of the $2.2 billion in CIRM grants thus far distributed have gone to basic science research, not human trials. Still, the numbers aren’t adding up for some:

“I am floored by the disparity,” a member of the state board that monitors CIRM told STAT. “That doesn’t settle well with me as a voter. That doesn’t settle well with me as a taxpayer. That doesn’t settle well with me as a member of the oversight committee.” 

Read more.

Why don’t we have value-based drug pricing?

Because the system is really complicated.

That was basically the gist of a Davos panel featuring Novartis CEO Joseph Jimenez and Medtronic chief Omar Ishrak. Everyone agrees that pricing based on outcomes is a societal inevitability, but ideas on just how to get there are in short supply.

For the drug industry, there’s a problem of agency: A drug that keeps people out of the hospital is arguably more valuable than one that doesn’t, but when the agent paying for drugs is not the agent paying for hospitalizations, how are you supposed to make that case?

Read more on STAT Plus.

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Biotech IPOs ahoy

The first biotech IPOs of 2017 are upon us, as the customary post-J.P. Morgan bolus of public offerings moves forward.

The latest crop is less who’s-who and more who’s-that, headlined by the Celgene-partnered Jounce Therapeutics and followed by ObsEva, Visterra, Braeburn, and AnaptsysBio. Combined, they’re looking to raise about $430 million. 

As is the case every year, biotech types will be looking to see whether they can go public at the valuations they desire. If things go well, IPO optimism will reign for at least a few weeks. If not, biotech’s shaky early-year confidence will face its first (non-Trump-related) turbulence. 

Fear of the Trump tweet is real

Yesterday, we asked you what President-elect Donald Trump’s first biopharma tweet would look like. The options: Bemoaning drug prices, bad-mouthing tax inversions, lauding job creation, or praising those who praise him.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, drug pricing won out. About 45 percent of respondents figured Trump’s inaugural biotech tweet would look something like “Biogen EXTORTING children with $750,000 drug! Drug prices are out of control. We will fix this!!!” The runner up: Roughly 29 percent of you think he’ll go after inversions.

But what no one knows is when. Allergan CEO Brent Saunders said in December that fear of a Trump tweet should dissuade any drug company from raising prices particularly steeply. That may be good advice, but following it won't stop the president-elect from jumping into this issue.

His infamous “getting away with murder” line, after all, came with no prompting whatsoever.

More reads

  • Trump's railed against inversion and lobbyists, but just appointed a longtime pharma lobbyist involved in an inversion to help run the FDA during the post-inauguration transition. (STAT Plus)
  • What Trump's libertarian pals don't understand about the FDA — or reality. (Forbes)
  • Theranos investor claims there's a conspiracy to take down Elizabeth Holmes. (Vanity Fair)
  • After the San Francisco rain: Looking on the bright side in 2017. (LifeSciVC)

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Thanks for reading! Until tomorrow,

Damian & Meghana

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