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The Readout Damian Garde & Meghana Keshavan

Is Sputnik V falling out of orbit?

Does President Biden really care about drug prices? And why is it so hard to find pipette tips?

We cover all that and more this week on “The Readout LOUD,” STAT’s biotech podcast. First, STAT Washington correspondent Rachel Cohrs joins us to explain why President Biden’s endorsement for drug pricing reform rang hollow to many advocates. Next, virologist Angela Rasmussen calls in to discuss the controversy around a Russian-produced vaccine for Covid-19. Finally, STAT’s Kate Sheridan joins us to talk about how a shortage of cheap, little-discussed plastic tools is hobbling scientific labs around the world.

Listen here.

The world is going to spend $157 billion on Covid-19 vaccines

That’s according to a new analysis from the market research firm IQVIA, and the figure, weighed against the estimated multitrillion-dollar toll of the pandemic, suggests the world is getting quite a bargain.

As STAT’s Ed Silverman reports, the cost of Covid-19 vaccines is a small fraction of projected global spending on medicine. IQVIA expects the world’s drug budget to increase between 3% and 6% annually in the coming years, reaching roughly $1.6 trillion by 2025.

Almost all countries are expected to see a slowdown in their rate of annual spending through 2025 compared with the previous five-year period, according to IQVIA. That single-digit expected spending growth is largely tied to what the firm believes will be an above-average number of new medicines reaching the market in the near future. Offsetting that expense is about $166 billion in savings tied to patent expiries. 

Read more.

ALS patients have jumped through hoops for years. Where are the new drugs?

Patients with ALS and their families have sat through hours of FDA advisory meetings, pharmaceutical listening sessions, and compassionate-use debates, all in the name of speeding the discovery and development of new treatments for the devastating disease.

But after decades of following the rules and jumping through hoops, the prognosis ALS patients face today is little better than Lou Gehrig’s in 1939. As ALS advocate Mary Catherine Collet put it, “We’ve been played.”

To Collet, there remains a maddening amount shroud of secrecy between the FDA’s process for reviewing new medicines and the drug industry’s policies for providing treatments to patients outside of clinical trials. In place of meaningful changes to the process, the ALS community has received only encouraging words and polite nods, she writes. The fear, according to Collet, is that “the disruptors with ALS today will soon be dead, and the people who are nodding affirmatively but not acting may be just waiting them out.”

Read more.

Pharma’s first-quarter malaise persists

Bristol Myers Squibb and Merck became the latest major drug makers to underperform expectations in the first quarter of 2021, providing yet more evidence that the pandemic’s toll on the industry might have a longer tail than expected.

Bristol Myers missed Wall Street’s projections on both revenue and profits, results that sent its share price down nearly 5% and cut about $7 billion from its valuation yesterday. The problem traced to Bristol Myers’ stable of top-selling cancer treatments, including Revlimid and Opdivo, which posted disappointing sales. Merck likewise missed on the top and bottom lines, shedding $8 billion of value in the process.

It’s shaping up to be a bruising week for the world’s largest pharmaceutical firms, with GlaxoSmithKline reporting a 15% decline in sales compared to the same period last year, Amgen missing earnings and revenue projections for the first time in three years, and Eli Lilly surprising the market with a downbeat quarter and a reduction to its 2021 projections.

More reads

  • Top Senate Democrat heads back to drawing board on drug pricing. (STAT+)
    AstraZeneca struggles with data needed for Covid-19 vaccine’s approval. (Wall Street Journal)
  • The dark horse of the vaccine race may be this French biotech. (Bloomberg)
  • Lander fends off controversy, pledges broader access to STEM careers during Senate confirmation hearing. (STAT+)

Thanks for reading! Until next week,

Friday, April 30, 2021


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