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The Readout

Is Akcea late to its own party?

Akcea Therapeutics is waiting by the phone as the FDA considers inotersen, a drug for the rare disease hATTR. But it's quite likely that Alnylam Pharmaceuticals, whose hATTR treatment is also under FDA review, is going to get the market about two months before.

Will that, coupled with concerns about patient compliance, put Akcea at a competitive disadvantage?

Akcea CEO Paula Soteropoulos told STAT's Kate Sheridan that her company's hATTR trial was different enough from Alnylam's to make an apples-to-apples comparison difficult.

"We’ve talked to physicians, especially those who have been investigators in both, and they feel that there’s not much difference in the drugs," Soteropoulos said. "It will come down to patient preference."

For her takes on how much inotersen will cost, plus the potential of Akcea's other near-approval drug, read more.

Imagine a world without drug rebates

Pfizer CEO Ian Read thinks the shadowy rebate system that helps make U.S. drug pricing so complex will be a thing of the past, all thanks to the Trump administration.

“I believe we are going to go to a marketplace where we don’t have rebates,” Read said during Pfizer's earnings call yesterday, adding that “rebates are going away.” 

As it stands, manufacturers set list prices and then dole out rebates to pharmacy benefits managers in exchange for access to actual patients. What PBMs do with those rebates is secret and the matter of much debate.

The Trump administration has floated the idea of doing away with rebates entirely and leaving the matter up to drug companies and payers. And Read is betting that's exactly what will come to pass.

What do you think? Will his vision of pharma's future come to pass?


The NIH and the perils of private money

The NIH has a finite budget. And so, in the interest of supporting science, the feds long ago got clever and formed a nonprofit that would help the publicly funded institution raise research money from private sources without dirtying its hands by dealing directly with industry.

The issue, as STAT's Lev Facher reports, is things don't always work out cleanly. This year, there was a study on the effects of alcohol that got canceled after NIH realized the likes of Anheuser-Busch were so involved as to render the results untrustworthy. Before that, a partnership with the NFL ran aground along similar lines.

Now, the NIH is working to ensure that those failures are isolated incidents and not emblematic of a broader cultural problem.

Read more.

Share your movie-science lowlight reel

Dear scientists reading this,

You know when you're watching a movie, enjoying its piebald humor or thrilling action or whatever, when suddenly you're forced to endure an intelligence-insulting depiction of science that makes you want to become a Hollywood consultant just to spare future filmgoers?

We want to hear about it. STAT is compiling a list of movies in which the life sciences go nonsensically awry, whether by spawning an apocalyptic race of superapes or a similarly apocalyptic ubervirus that brings humanity to its knees.

Share your nominations by replying to this email, and please explain what you found so irksome.

More reads

  • Ancestry, 23andMe and others say they will follow these rules when giving DNA data to businesses or police. (Washington Post)
  • Regeneron founders: The real health care problem is bigger than you think. (Forbes)
  • Why Americans spend so much on health care, in 12 charts. (Wall Street Journal)
  • California lawmaker admonishes Lilly for failing to comply with transparency law. (STAT Plus)

Thanks for reading! Until tomorrow,


Wednesday, August 1, 2018


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