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The Readout Damian Garde & Meghana Keshavan

The latest Alzheimer's failure doesn't bode well for Biogen

There have been scores of failed attempts to treat Alzheimer’s disease by targeting toxic brain plaques. But each has come packaged with an explanation that justifies trying again — maybe trial was too short, or the patient population wasn't selected carefully enough, or some other variable went wrong. 

But the latest negative results — a four-year trial enrolling people genetically predisposed to Alzheimer’s — are harder to dismiss with that kind of explanation.  In trial data presented in Vienna, Roche's amyloid-targeting drug gantenerumab showed a dramatic reduction in brain plaques compared to placebo, but had no significant effect on patients’ cognitive abilities. 

That result confounds the idea that reducing amyloid should slow the progression of Alzheimer’s. And it could cast doubt on the already controversial case for Biogen's aducanumab, which will soon undergo FDA review. 

Read more.

Newsflash: Biosimilars are cheaper than branded biologics

Employers have lost a significant amount money by not using by not using the biosimilar versions of a pair of widely prescribed biologic drugs, STAT’s Ed Silverman writes. A new study from the ERISA Industry Committee — a health and benefit advocacy for large corporations — found that 13 of the largest U.S. employers could have saved an average of $1.5 million if they had switched to the biosimilar versions of Remicade, a treatment for rheumatoid arthritis and Crohn's disease, and Neupogen, a bone marrow stimulant for patients with cancer. 

The study also suggests that biosimilars as a whole could ultimately save the U.S. health care system billions of dollars — if they’re actually used. 

Read more.

When will things go back to normal?

What if a pandemic strikes when you’re already sick? And what does Ken Burns know about genomics?

We discuss all that and more on the latest episode of “The Readout LOUD,” STAT’s biotech podcast. Our STAT colleague Sharon Begley joins us to discuss the debate over just when the U.S. can return to normalcy amid the coronavirus pandemic. Then, we speak to patient advocate Gunnar Esiason about how the pandemic lockdown affects people with chronic diseases. Finally, physician and Pulitzer Prize-winning author Siddhartha Mukherjee joins us to talk about about the upcoming Ken Burns-produced documentary based on his book, “The Gene: An Intimate History." 

Listen here

The Covid-19 testing crisis continues

One in three patients infected with Covid-19 may be getting false negatives when tested for the virus, the Wall Street Journal reports.

There are only preliminary data on the accuracy of the tests, but anecdotally, many providers are noticing discrepancies in their sensitivity. The report raises questions about the reliability of new coronavirus test kits from manufacturers around the country. including those developed by the CDC.

“The whole testing field is in flux,” one epidemiologist told the Journal. “The thing that is different this time is most of these tests are going through a really rapid validation process. As a result we can’t be completely confident on how we perform.”

More reads

  • Venture-backed Celuarity receives FDA approval for early trials of a new cell therapy for Covid-19. (TechCrunch)
  • Gilead's Kite taps Teneobio to build next-gen CAR-Ts for multiple myeloma. (FierceBiotech)
  • Pitt team makes progress on possible Covid-19 vaccine. (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette)

Thanks for reading! Until next week,

Friday, April 3, 2020

STAT

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