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Friday, January 26, 2018

The Readout by Damian Garde & Meghana Keshavan

Welcome to The Readout, where we keep you on top of the latest in biotech. For more in-depth coverage of biopharma, subscribe to STAT Plus. On Twitter: @damiangarde@megkesh, and @statnews.

Going public is hard enough without surprises

Consider biotech CEOs trying to go public. For weeks, their every day is spent in nondescript offices around the country among a ceaseless parade of analysts and bankers asking the same droning questions in a process called a "roadshow," presumably because of its vaudevillian absurdity.

Now imagine how unpleasant that would be if, at the very end of that process, with that long-desired IPO literally hours away, your company realized that it should probably, maybe, tell the world about an FDA hold on its main drug, something it has known about for months.

That's what happened to Solid Biosciences and its CEO, Ilan Ganot, who presumably had quite a day on Thursday. It's unclear who knew what when, and thus we don't know whether Ganot was sitting on that little FDA tidbit. Either way, his company just managed to make a famously difficult process way, way harder.

And yet, biotech being biotech, Solid's IPO priced anyway on Thursday night — at a discount to what the company wanted — but money's money.

Sure, let's talk about cost

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"The FUTURE OF HEALTHCARE" REPORT/MCKINSEY & COMPANY

These charts come from a new report out this morning from the consulting firm McKinsey. You probably won't be surprised to hear that drug manufacturers make most of the profits from medicines, and that their profits grew in a time period roughly aligned with former President Obama's second term.

Those facts weren't highlighted in PhRMA's latest campaign, unveiled this week as "Let's Talk About Cost," aimed at shifting the blame about high drug spending onto insurers, pharmacy benefit managers, and just about anyone other than drug makers. PhRMA's new push is not to be confused with insurer Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Carolina's longstanding "Let's Talk Cost" campaign, which blames "overpriced drugs," among other things, for the soaring cost of health care.

Sponsor content by HEALTHCARE CLUB AT THE HARVARD BUSINESS SCHOOL

15th Annual Health Care Conference at Harvard Business School

Please join us for the 15th Annual Health Care Conference at Harvard Business School on Saturday, February 3, 2018. We will conduct a series of heart to heart conversations with industry leaders, exploring the future of health care in the US and abroad. Featured speakers include Jeffrey Marrazzo (CEO of Spark Therapeutics), Stéphane Bancel (CEO of Moderna Therapeutics), Seema Verma (Administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services), and Tom Mihaljevic (CEO of Cleveland Clinic).

It's not just Alex Azar and Scott Gottlieb

We talk a lot about the revolving door between the drug industry and the government that regulates, but the people at Kaiser Health News went ahead and ran the numbers.

At this moment, about 340 former congressional staffers are employed by the drug industry, according to data from Legistorm. And on the other side of the door, more than a dozen former biopharma employees are now working on Capitol Hill.

That raises obvious questions about conflict of interest, which Legistorm duly points out. But here's another thing: Let's say you're a political appointee at an agency that regulates the drug industry, and then let's say there's an administration change that leaves you without a job. You know the drug industry super well, what with all the regulating you used to do, and the government has made it pretty clear you're not welcome back. Wouldn't you perhaps consider pushing the bar on that revolving door?

Get ready for more earnings

Biogen kind of bummed everyone out with that rounding-error-sized acquisition, and Celgene bummed everyone out earlier this month, but next week gives biotech another crack at good news in the form of quarterly earnings.

Can Amgen actually make some money on that $14,000 cholesterol drug? Will Vertex Pharmaceuticals get specific on when its new cystic fibrosis combination might get approved? And is anyone going to buy anything interesting?

We'll find out next week. And then the fun picks up again the week after that, when Gilead Sciences might clue us in as to whether CAR-T can be profitable and Alexion Pharmaceuticals will get a chance to show off its retuned "tone at the top."

Stay tuned.
 

More reads

  • Xoma's latest pivot: Make money by not making drugs. (San Francisco Business Times)
  • Pharma is scolded by a big fund manager for polluting the environment. (STAT Plus)
  • Pharma gets a seat at the table at private dinner with Trump at Davos. (STAT)

Have a news tip or comment you want to send us?

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Thanks for reading! Until tomorrow,

Damian

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