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The Readout Damian Garde

Is sexual desire a matter of medicine?

That was the question back in 2015, when Addyi won a controversial FDA approval to treat hypoactive sexual desire disorder, or HSDD. Now, the FDA is considering a similar drug from AMAG Pharmaceuticals — one that the company hopes can succeed where Sprout Pharmaceuticals largely did not. 

But some experts see AMAG’s drug, bremelanotide, as yet another overreach from the pharmaceutical industry, an effort to reduce the complexity of human sexuality to a set of measurable dots on a chart. And then there’s Wall Street, which, mindful of Addyi’s commercial failure, has little in the way of optimism for bremelanotide's future.

An FDA decision could come as soon as Friday. 

Read more.

Merck is hunting for drugs, people

As Merck prepares to host its first big investor event in five years this afternoon, the pharmaceutical giant is reportedly embarking on two major searches: one for new cancer therapies that might brighten its future, and another for a CEO to see the plan through.

According to Bloomberg, the company is vetting internal candidates in hopes of finding a successor for Ken Frazier, the well-regarded CEO who will turn 65 in December. Merck’s board already bent the rules that would have forced Frazier into retirement, and now it’s laying the groundwork for his eventual exit, Bloomberg reported.

Separately, The Wall Street Journal said Merck is actively looking for deals that might expand its pipeline of cancer drugs. That’s probably not much of a surprise considering that Keytruda, the cancer immunotherapy that accounts for more and more of Merck’s revenue, will lose patent protection some time in the next decade.

The true value of food allergy treatments

Aimmune Therapeutics and DBV Technologies are developing experimental treatments to protect people against severe peanut allergy. Other companies are at work on treatments to protect people against allergies to other foods and ingredients.

Whether these treatments are safe and effective will be a question for the FDA to decide. But if they are approved, how do you assess their value?

The Institute for Clinical and Economic Review has tried with preliminary reports. But in a new First Opinion, Dr. Thomas Casale, the chief medical adviser for operations for Food Allergy Research and Education, argues that ICER and others must go beyond simply focusing on the direct medical costs associated with food allergies. If you want to set a cost-effective price, he says, you have to takes into account myriad quality of life issues.

Read more.

Drug pricing legislation might come sooner than later

An influential Senate committee is pressing forward with some surprisingly aggressive ideas on drug pricing, signaling that the last six months of bipartisan chatter may actually turn into legislation.

Next week, the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions committee will vote on a legislative package that includes a crackdown on how PBMs charge for drugs and the tools pharma companies use to delay generic medicines.

As STAT’s Brittany Flaherty reports, the vote will mark the first time a Senate committee has taken up drug pricing legislation this year. It follows five hearings on ways to reduce health care costs and four hearings on the cost of prescription drugs.

Read more.

More reads

  • Amazon looking to work directly with health plans and employers to sell prescription drugs, court documents reveal (STAT Plus)
  • What Bluebird Bio gets wrong in pricing for its $1.8 million drug. (Forbes)
  • ContraVir’s stock suffers record plunge after seesaw week. (MarketWatch)
  • Biden wants to cure cancer. Now Trump does, too. But cancer, like health care, is complicated. (STAT)

Thanks for reading! Until tomorrow,


Thursday, June 20, 2019


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