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The Readout Damian Garde

How lucrative are those new migraine drugs, really?

Analysts expect a new class of preventive migraine treatments to reach beyond $5 billion in annual sales. But early returns suggest the byzantine system that determines which drugs get covered in the U.S. will make reaching that mark an uphill battle.

Yesterday, the nation’s largest pharmacy benefits manager decided it would cover the migraine treatments made by Amgen and Eli Lilly but not a third, virtually identical one from Teva Pharmaceutical. That’s bad for Teva and good for its competitors, but, according to Reuters, Amgen and Lilly had to promise Express Scripts a money-back guarantee when their drugs don’t work, which comes on top of the undisclosed rebates they offered to get their feet in the door.

That all sets the stage for a bottom-ward race for all three companies. As other insurance plans determine which migraine therapies to cover, the manufactures will have to jockey for favor by offering discounts, a process that could make the whole endeavor a lot less lucrative than Wall Street once figured.

How 23andMe thinks about genetic privacy

If you spit in a tube for a genetic test, does that mean nosy Internet users can find your family? That cold-case sleuths can trawl your genome? Or profit-seeking pharma companies can get rich off your DNA?

We talked to Kate Black, 23andMe’s global privacy officer, about the burgeoning security concerns tied to genetic testing in the age of Facebook data leaks and outcry over digital privacy. 

“First and foremost, it’s important to us to make sure that we have a full picture of how our information is being used and how it’s being protected,” she said. “... Unlike Facebook, we are not in a situation where we would kind of open up our database to another set of users for a use set that we’re not familiar with or understand.”

Read more.

Pharma might get what it wants from Medicaid after all

A thing that annoys the drug industry is a rule that requires companies to offer Medicaid the lowest possible price on a given product, a provision pharma says stands in the way of new payment ideas, like paying for drugs based on how well they work.

But that could be up for a change. As STAT’s Nicholas Florko reports, a planned change to that rule was buried in a list of upcoming potential regulations released by the White House. Details are scant, and no action is expected until next summer at the earliest, but it’s a welcome sign that the industry could soon find a sympathetic ear in Washington.

Read more.

A pair of biotech researchers are $3 million richer

The Breakthrough Prize, a Silicon Valley-funded contest that bills itself as the “Oscars of science,” has chosen the duo behind Biogen’s Spinraza among its 2018 honorees, offering up the richest reward in the field.

C. Frank Bennett, head of research at Ionis Pharmaceuticals, and Adrian Krainer, a biochemist at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, will split a $3 million purse for their work discovering the treatment, which is approved to treat the rare and deadly spinal muscular atrophy. They’ll collect their award at Pierce Brosnon-hosted gala on Nov. 4.

Among the other winners are researchers from MIT, Harvard, and the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center.

Read more.

More reads

  • Trump’s plan to force pharma to advertise prices is misguided. (STAT)
  • Let’s throw a patent-burning party. (Wall Street Journal)
  • What every tech company needs: a cardiologist. (CNBC)
  • Gilead's HIV prevention pill can greatly reduce new infections. (STAT Plus)

Thanks for reading! Until tomorrow,


Thursday, October 18, 2018


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