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The Readout Damian Garde

The thing about pain ...

… is that it’s not all bad. The chronic pain that keeps millions from a good night’s sleep is different from the sharp pangs that warn you not to keep your hand on a hot stove. 

But for the drug industry, desperate to craft therapies that can relieve pain without the risk of addiction, how do you weave a treatment that blunts chronic agony without dampening the useful kind?

“This is a big question, and I’m not sure there’s an easy answer to it,” said Sulayman Dib-Hajj, a neuroscience researcher at Yale University. “If there were, we would have better drugs on the market right now.”

Read more.

What do we make of Biogen?

Yesterday, an Alzheimer’s drug that does not belong to Biogen failed in a late-stage trial. Biogen lost a few billion dollars of market cap on the news, which, again, was tied to a drug it does not own.

Is that fair? The two treatments — the failed one belongs to Roche — are both predicated on the idea that the advance of Alzheimer’s is tied to toxic brain plaques called beta-amyloid, and thus bad news for one could be ominous for the other. Quite literally nothing has worked in the amyloid space, so Roche's failure looks like yet another argument against Biogen's continued investment. 

At the same time, Biogen’s drug, still in late-stage trials, attacks amyloid in a different way. In a prior trial, Biogen’s treatment cleared the plaques better than anyone had ever seen. And, interestingly, Biogen’s comparatively worse safety record could be a benefit, as scientists believe a certain amount of brain swelling is a sign amyloid drugs are actually working.

We probably won’t know whether Biogen’s therapy actually works until 2020. But what do you think? In light of the Roche failure, Biogen is ______ likely to succeed.

just as

The CRISPR babies scandal has stronger U.S. ties than anyone thought

Months after Chinese scientist He Jiankui shocked the world by revealing the birth of CRISPR-edited twins, STAT has learned that a prominent U.S. researcher was far more involved in the widely condemned experiment than was previously disclosed.

Michael Deem, a biophysicist at Rice University, is named as the senior author of a scientific paper detailing He’s work, suggesting he was instrumental in an effort that has drawn almost universal criticism. Deem, who was once He’s Ph.D. adviser, had previously distanced himself from the experiment.

The scientific community needs to get to the bottom of what Deem did and when, outside researchers said, both to understand the past and to ensure such risky experiments don’t happen in the future.

Read more.

Pharma is having one of those years

Spare a thought for the multinational drug maker in your life.

It has been a painful earnings season for the biggest names in pharma, with missed targets, disappointing outlooks, and a prevailing sense that 2019 is just generally going to be a drag.

Raising drug prices, pharma’s time-honored means of boosting revenue, just isn’t working anymore. According to the latest data, the growth of list prices — the ones that don’t reflect rebates — is down year over year. And net prices — the ones that do reflect rebates — grew about in line with inflation in 2018.

That’s in part why pharma’s 2019 sales forecasts have been poorly received by Wall Street. But, adding to the industry’s frustration, pharma's financial situation is unlikely to resonate in Washington.

The Democrats who now run the House have vowed to hold the drug business to account for its price increases, regardless of whether those increases no longer make the industry much money, leaving pharma in the unenviable position of answering for an unpopular practice that isn’t even that lucrative anymore.

More reads

  • Romney to speak before closed-door meeting of drug industry CEOs (STAT)
  • Scientists engineer chickens to make cancer drugs. (BBC)
  • Document: Facing blame for seeding the opioid crisis, Purdue explored its next profit opportunity — treating addiction. (STAT)
  • Senate to 'compel' pharma CEO testimony. (BioCentury)
  • A new NIH rule won’t be enough to make clinical research more inclusive. (STAT)

Thanks for reading! Until tomorrow,


Thursday, January 31, 2019


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