Friday, March 16, 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.

We did another podcast

(Jennifer Keefe/STAT)

Did Elizabeth Holmes get off easy? Why does biotech bother with SXSW? And what does shoving a tube into a dead cow's throat have to do with biotech?

Listen as STAT's Adam Feuerstein, Rebecca Robbins, and Damian Garde chew over those very questions in the latest episode of “The Readout LOUD,” STAT’s new biotech podcast. You'll also hear from STAT reporter Eric Boodman about cow loogies, and Adam gets forced to answer for a controversial tweet.

You can listen to it here. And you can expect another episode next Thursday evening — and every Thursday evening — so be sure to sign up on iTunes, Stitcher, Google Play, or wherever you get your podcasts.

Humira's ad budget is bigger than all but 4 drug makers'


If it feels like you're bombarded with ads for Humira, well, you're not imagining it. AbbVie spent more money in 2017 advertising its blockbuster treatment for inflammatory disorders than all but three other drug makers (Pfizer, Allergan, and Eli Lilly) spent on their entire prescription drug advertising budgets, according to new estimates from Kantar Media.

All told, drug makers spent $6.1 billion on advertising last year, down 4.6 percent compared to 2016 but still up considerably over the post-recession era. (Kantar doesn't account for negotiated discounts. It counts ads on TV, radio, print, and many digital channels, but not those on social media.)

Other brand-name drugs that got the largest ad blitzes last year: Lyrica (for fibromyalgia and nerve pain), Xeljanz (for rheumatoid arthritis), Eliquis (a blood thinner), and Chantix (for smoking cessation).

How to market genetic tests to consumers without FDA oversight

When it comes to genetic testing, the gray areas of regulatory oversight seem to be widening. 

FDA reviews direct-to-consumer tests, but pays less heed to tests that require a doctor’s prescription. But some companies, such as Color Genomics and Veritas Genetics, occupy a middle ground, STAT’s Ike Swetlitz reports: Customers provide these companies with information about their health and their family, and a company-employed physician will review. From there, the doctor will order the test. 

These Color Genomics and Veritas tests are marketed to consumers — much like those offered by 23andMe — but since a doctor is involved in the process, there’s no need for the FDA.

Read more.

A crisper CRISPR?

Another day, another CRISPResque startup. This one’s founded by a particularly eminent lot — which includes the Broad’s Feng Zhang — and wields an eyebrow-raising tech: The stealthy Arbor Biotechnologies says it has discovered a new CRISPR-associated enzyme, Cas13d, that offers editing advantages over its Cas9 cousin. And it promises many more to follow.

CRISPR itself was found in bacteria. Arbor’s aim is to probe other microbes for potential: “Humans have only discovered and exploited the tip of the microbial iceberg,” co-founder David Walt of Brigham and Women’s told STAT

But news of this next-gen gene editing company caused a stock dip among CRISPR competitors. For example, Editas Medicine, which was also cofounded by Zhang, fell 6.5 percent — demonstrating how generally skittish investors are these days around CRISPR 1.0.

Read more. 

More reads

  • Getting past the bad blood of Theranos. (STAT)
  • Inside a drug pricing contract. (Axios)
  • Senate signals interest in changes to drug discount program. (STAT Plus)
  • Ionis sends nerve drug to spinout Akcea as battle with Alnylam looms. (Xconomy)

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