Friday, March 24, 2017

The Readout by Damian Garde & Meghana Keshavan

Welcome to The Readout, where we keep you on top of the latest in biotech. On Twitter: @damiangarde@megkesh, and @statnews.

The world is full of free-riding blackmailers

That, in so many words, is how Pfizer CEO Ian Read describes the global economy for pharma companies.

Because the likes of Europe have government control on pharma prices, they can get away without paying what Read considers their fair share of drug costs. That leaves the US, where prices are negotiated between drug companies and a heterogenous ocean of payers, picking up the bill for the globe.

“Basically you’re seeing Europe free-riding on American innovation,” Read said.

Someone who shares his view: President Trump.

Read more in STAT Plus.

Theranos to investors: Have some more shares of Theranos

Some of Theranos’ investors are suing. Theranos would like the rest to not do that. Its solution: Give them more shares of Theranos.

According to the Wall Street Journal, Theranos founder Elizabeth Holmes is offering up part of her stake in the company to investors, provided they promise not to take her to court, as at least two jilted financiers are trying to do. 

“How much are shares of Theranos even worth?” you might ask.

“Is this, like, legal?” is perhaps another question you have. 

There’s no clear answer to either, but here’s a fun tidbit: According to the Journal, Rupert Murdoch sold his $125 million stake in Theranos back to the company for a single dollar, taking a remarkable 99.999999992 percent loss on the investment. (He does, however, get quite a tax break on that loss.)

A documentary with a decidedly pro-pharma view

"The Painful Truth," a new PBS documentary, claims the opioid epidemic has been overblown and that doctors have been wrongly dissuaded from prescribing pain pills to patients who actually need them.

It fails to mention, as STAT's David Armstrong reports, that the documentary was produced by a doctor with substantial ties to opioid manufacturers. Indeed, he received more than $100,000 from several drug makers from 2013 to 2015.

"There are dozens of important stories about people with opioid addiction almost daily but rarely is there a story about people in pain," Dr. Lynn Webster, who personally financed the film with his wife, told STAT.

Read more.

We like to talk to you about biotech

Our readers have a ton of great questions, and grilled us on them yesterday during a STAT Plus online chat. We talked about generics, biosimilars, deregulation, and A(H)CA. (To be invited to our next chat, sign up for STAT Plus.)

We did our best to answer, but want to give you a go at it, too:

Reader: So what are the major differences we’d expect to see between the Gottlieb era (assuming confirmed) and the Califf/Hamburg eras?

Us: This will be fascinating. For one, Gottlieb has written things about agency dogma that, if implemented, would considerably change how it does business. But the bigger question will be how he approaches the role of commissioner. Califf, as we saw in the Sarepta thing, was pretty hands-off, stepping in only to defer to Woodcock. There's nothing stopping Gottlieb from being more heavy-handed in the drug approval process.


Skin cancer deserves gravitas, but this is funny

We’ve discussed the intricate origin stories of drug names, but Pfizer’s newly approved skin cancer medicine, Bavencio, has inspired all sorts of guesswork as to its etymology: 

More reads

  • Sanofi is reportedly close to acquiring Flexion Therapeutics and its treatment for osteoarthritis. (FiercePharma)
  • C4 Therapeutics partnered with Calico, an Alphabet-founded biotech focused on aging. (Endpoints)
  • Twists and turns in this lawsuit testing whether consumers can sue a brand-name drug maker after taking a generic. (STAT Plus)

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

Send us an email

Thanks for reading! Until next week,

Damian & Meghana

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