Industry Briefs October 2015

Clinton Takes Aims at Drug Prices

Hillary Clinton recently announced her plan to cut down on high drug prices if elected as president in 2017. The three main components to her “plan of attack” are ideas that have already failed to pass through Congress. She first wants to give Medicare the power to directly negotiate drug prices with pharmaceutical companies.

The former First Lady noted she would then like to facilitate importation of drugs to America from countries where prices are highly controlled and abolish tax breaks for direct-to-consumer advertising. Although, she notes these plans have failed before, she expressed confidence in reintroducing these initiatives, according to USA Today, along with a few others. Clinton also wants to limit the co-pays insurers can charge and put a limit on market exclusivity to boost the generic drug market.


Approved Antipsychotic Faces Tough Competition

After going through revisions two years ago, Allergan and partner Gedeon Richter have finally received approval for their antipsychotic drug Vraylar. Developed for the treatment of schizophrenia and bipolar disorder in adults, Vraylar now faces stiff competition in this disease area as many other knock-offs have come to market during that same two-year period.

In fact, since Bristol-Myer’s Squibb’s antipsychotic, Abilify, went off patent this year, drug makers including Denmark’s Lundbeck, in collaboration with Otsuka, have launched a number of generics for the same indications now available to patients with these conditions—which means Vraylar will need to find its own place in the market if the companies expect to make any profit.

Teva Agrees to $2.3 Billion Rimsa Buyout

During the past few months, multiple U.S. pharma companies, including Sanofi, Pfizer, Abbott, Teva Pharmaceuticals and Takeda all expressed an interest in purchasing the Mexican generic drugmaker, Representaciones e Investigaciones Medicas, also known as Rimsa. But Teva Pharmacuetical’s interest, however, recently resulted in an agreement to purchase the generic drug manufacturer (and other assets) for $2.3 billion, according a report by Bloomberg Surveillance.

This deal heralds Big Pharma’s active interest in Mexico’s expanding healthcare market as potentially the industry’s next big growth area. Other companies from around the globe have accelerated activities in Mexico as well, including Ireland’s Perrigo, which bought Patheon’s gel-capsule manufacturing plant for $34 million dollars cash. Novo Nordisk is now also said to be targeting Mexico for the launch of their new obesity pill, Victoza.

Veeva Pays $130 Million Plus for Zinc Ahead

As a company that provides cloud-based software to the life science industry, Veeva Systems recently acquired Zinc Ahead, a content management solution company for more than $130 million cash. The company is putting a team in place that will provide the life sciences market with an end-to-end solution in digital content. With this new acquisition, Veeva’s goal is to help companies manage compliance and reduce regulatory risks and eliminate the lack of efficiency that the large volumes of content and the proliferation of digital channels can produce.

“The Zinc Ahead team brings decades of experience in commercial content management and will add considerable domain expertise to this rapidly growing area for Veeva,” Peter Gassner, CEO of Veeva, said in a statement. “The merging of Veeva and Zinc Ahead will create a best-in-class solution that supports every step in the digital content lifecycle.”

Publicis Develops Business Intelligence Practice

To better optimize health outcomes data and readily apply it to marketing strategies, Publicis Health Media (PHM), together with Dave Nussbaum and Sharon Patent formerly of Symphony Health Solutions developed a new, innovative practice called Business Intelligence (BI). A first in the health media environment, BI is designed to personalize specific messages for specific patients. According to Matt McNally, PHM president, Nussbaum and Patent, both leading health data innovators “…are helping us create vital tools and ways of thinking that support brands as they assess the HCP-patient relationship.”

Turing’s 5,000% Price Hike Still in Effect

After Martin Shkreli, CEO of Turing Pharmaceuticals, made the recent call in September to raise prices of the toxoplasmosis drug, Daraprim, by a whopping 5,000%, not only did public outcry become fierce, but biotech stocks also plummeted as well. As a whole, the pharma market bore the brunt of the outrage due to public perception regarding unethical drug pricing on the part of large pharma companies. Brent Saunders, CEO of Allergan, was one of the only major pharma executives to take a stance on the incident, saying that Shkreli’s decision was one “egregious situation,” and noted that it does not represent all of the pharma industry.

After coming under such extreme fire, the 32-year-old CEO attempted to defend the price hike in interviews with NBC and ABC news and other media outlets, but then indicated that he would lower the price enough to make it affordable to the public while still making a small profit for Turing. At press time, no change in the drug’s price has been reported.

Will Entresto Be a Blockbuster?

After Novartis’ recent FDA approval on a new heart failure medication, Entresto, a NYT report noted that the anticipation for this medication, combined with an absence of similar competing heart failure medications, all but guarantees Entresto will be a blockbuster. That prediction is borne out by Novartis’ own social media tracking conducted through healthcare insights company, Treato. Since the drug’s approval, tracking indicates a 1,400% increase in consumer interest and conversation, and demand is predicted to be high. Novartis estimates the drug will bring in revenues to the tune of $5 billion.

UnitedHealth’s Lawsuit Progresses

After four years in the making, a brief filed regarding the class action lawsuit against UnitedHealth, addresses the company’s failure to comply with the Employee Retirement and Income Security Act. In Integrated Orthopedics v. UnitedHealth Group, Zuckerman Spaeder will lead a charge that claims that UnitedHealth orders “take-backs” from providers, making 1.6 million such demands annually without giving providers any time to refute false claims. This court case could potentially affect every provider that has filed a claim with UnitedHealth. Questionable health insurance industry practices have been rebuked before in the Supreme Court by precedents set by novel legal approaches from Zuckerman Spaeder partners D. Brian Hufford and Jason S. Cowart.

Regan, Campbell and Ward Form New Company

Eighteen years to the day since they founded their first advertising agency, Maureen Regan, Richard Campbell and Brendan Ward have formed a new healthcare communications company, MRB Partners. The agency will be headquartered in New York City.

“Since leaving our last company we have been looking for ways to apply our hard-won experience,” explains Campbell. “We’re confident that we have found something that no one else can offer.”


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