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The Readout Damian Garde

Happy 20th birthday to biotech's biggest event



It’s 2020, which means it has been two full decades since J.P. Morgan took over biotech’s biggest conference, the eponymous event that brings deals, rumors, and crowded rooms.

As a platinum anniversary gift, we here at STAT decided to look back over the past 20 years of J.P. Morgan conferences and pick out the lights, high or low, that tell the story of biotech in the millennium. There are cameos from Sam Waksal and Martin Shkreli, victories for Genentech and Vertex, and the infamous afterparty that brought long-festering gender issues into the spotlight.

Read more.

The founder of Ionis is betting on personalized medicine in the most literal sense

Antisense pioneer Stanley Crooke has a new job: The former Ionis Pharmaceuticals CEO will be heading up the nonprofit n-Lorem Foundation, which aims to create N-of-1 drugs — hyper-individualized antisense oligonucleotide therapies for patients with ultra-rare diseases. 

Such treatments entered the spotlight back in 2018, when Boston Children's researchers revealed they'd created a bespoke therapy for a young girl named Mila Makovec with the rare, inherited Batten's disease. News of the drug, milasen, led to an influx of patient interest — with parents of other children with such rare disorders clamoring for their own individualized treatment.

Crooke has contributed $1.5 million of his own money to the nonprofit, Chemical & Engineering News writes. Biogen has donated $1 million, and several individuals have also given money to the effort.

How Purdue downplayed Oxy's risks

In 2007, when Purdue Pharma pleaded guilty in federal court to misbranding OxyContin, Purdue admitted that sales representatives had misleadingly told prescribers that the painkiller "potentially creates less chance for addiction" and that it "had less abuse potential [and] was less likely to be diverted" than other opioids. Now, STAT has obtained memos written by Purdue sales reps about their conversations with prescribers that provide a glimpse into that behavior. 

Some prescribers raised concerns about the misuse of OxyContin in the early years of its launch, but the sales reps were ready to respond. "Oxy is long-acting, has fewer peaks than other oxycodone combos, less addictive value," one sales rep wrote in a 1997 memo. "Pushed hard on no buzz, less abuse," read another memo from the following day. 

The memos, as well as Purdue's launch plan for OxyContin, were recently made public following a yearslong legal battle launched by STAT to release records that were gathered in a lawsuit from the state of Kentucky against Purdue.

Read more.

What exactly is Celgene doing?

For years, Celgene has been accused of exploiting an FDA loophole to delay generic competition to Revlimid, the company’s blockbuster cancer drug. Last year, the company agreed to a $55 million settlement to make a related lawsuit go away, and everyone figured that was that.

Then, as STAT’s Ed Silverman reports, Celgene backed out of the deal, baffling experts in the process. The only thing that’s changed since 2019 is that Celgene is now a subsidiary of Bristol-Myers Squibb, but it’s unclear why the parent company would balk at a $55 million settlement after paying $74 billion to close the merger. Bristol-Myers didn’t respond to request for comment.

In the meantime, lawyers are left scratching their heads.

“It’s extremely rare and I can’t think of another situation where that happened,” said Carl Tobias, a professor at the University of Richmond law school, who tracks the pharmaceutical industry and product liability litigation.

Read more.

More reads

  • Trump should do more to bolster Senate drug pricing effort, Grassley says. (STAT Plus)
  • January is often a big month for biotech mergers and acquisitions. (Barron's)
  • Did a high-profile program really slash hospital spending? Or was it a cautionary tale of ‘regression to the mean’? (STAT)

Thanks for reading! Until tomorrow,

Thursday, January 9, 2020


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