Monday, November 14, 2016

The Readout by Damian Garde & Meghana Keshavan

Welcome to The Readout, where we keep you on top of all the biotech news. For more, visit STAT. On Twitter: @damiangarde@megkesh, and @statnews.

Exit Bagger

The impeccably named Rich Bagger, left, will no longer be steering Donald Trump's transition team. (Mel Evans/AP)

Rich Bagger, the biopharma exec who's been running Donald Trump's transition team since the summer, is headed back to Celgene.

This might come as a disappointment to biotech types who thought he might parlay his place in Trump world into a job running Health and Human Services, where he presumably would be pretty friendly to the industry.

It probably also irks any biotech reporter who had planned to publish a profile of the guy this morning. Cough.

Anyway, if such a profile existed, it would quote a bunch of people saying Bagger is “a workhorse, not a showhorse,” and “one of the grownups in the room,” respected by Republicans and Democrats alike within New Jersey’s often bruising political realm. Asked how Trump-averse people should feel about Bagger’s role, Kean University political science professor Merle Treusch said his presence showed “it’s not like [the transition] is going to be run by a bunch of crazies or people who have no experience.”

In other news, Peter Thiel is on the team now. It's led by Vice President-elect Mike Pence, who bumped out New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, who is having something of a year.

Who's going to run Health and Human Services?

Among the great many unknowns of a Trump transition is who the president-elect will pick to lead Health and Human Services, which presides over the FDA, CMS, CDC, and other key federal acronyms.

STAT's Dylan Scott takes a look at some of the reported short-listers, including some friends of biopharma and at least one person with some interesting thoughts on the pyramids. 

And speaking of Trump, we've got a new way to keep tabs on how the incoming president is shaping the world of health and medicine. Sign up for STAT's Trump in 30 Seconds, delivered daily, for a quick rundown of the latest presidential news related to biopharma, hospitals, science, and health policy.

Up today: A wonk-fest on the 'pharms race'

The only certain outcome on US drug spending trends, according to MIT applied economics professor Ernst Berndt: “There will be no détente in the pharms race.”

Berndt will be presenting today on drug pricing before a committee that’s part of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. A number of scientists, doctors, public health researchers, economists and drug industry players will examine issues of drug access, affordability, and efficacy. They’ll also address the role of drug patents, regulatory policy, and reimbursement. 

Columbia University’s Frank Lichtenberg will discuss whether new cancer drugs are cost effective in the US. We took a peek at his presentation, and feel it’s well suited for an NAS crowd. Here’s a slide that shows some of the mathematical modeling it takes to analyze drug efficacy: 


Let's rename Valeant

It may be time to wave farewell to one of the industry's least beloved brands. (valeant)

Hedge fund billionaire and fitness guru Bill Ackman, of silver hair and tongue, has taken the proverbial bath on his roughly $4 billion investment in the star-crossed Valeant Pharmaceuticals, as the company’s reputation and market value have spiraled ever downward over the past year.

But, hey, if you don’t like what people are calling you, change your name altogether. And Valeant may do just that, Ackman told CNBC. Just as Philip Morris became Altria and ValuJet became AirTran, Valeant could take up a new moniker that doesn’t call to mind price hikes, accounting scandals, or a friendly digestive tract.

So what should the new Valeant be called?

Bausch & Lomb
Ouroboros Therapeutics
Philidor Pharmaceuticals
Gut Guy & Co.

More reads

  • Immigrant scientists are frightened of what a Donald Trump presidency might portend. (BuzzFeed)
  • A post-Brexit relocation of the EMA would cause a "tremendous disruption," GlaxoSmithKline CEO Andrew Witty said. (Bloomberg)
  • A hepatitis C crisis batters a state unable to afford the cure. (STAT)
  • Shares of PTC Therapeutics jumped after European regulators recommended keeping the company's muscular dystrophy drug on the market. (Endpoints)

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Thanks for reading! Until tomorrow,

Damian & Meghana

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