Good morning, everyone, and welcome to another working week. And welcome to the newest home for Pharmalot. After a brief transition, we have finally landed at STAT. There may be, of course, a glitch now and then. Transitions can be like that. But we hope you enjoy the new format. Please write us with any suggestions. Meanwhile, we are brewing the usual cup of stimulation and have assembled some tidbits for you to peruse. Have a great day and do keep in touch …
Hepatitis C patients who use intravenous drugs were cured at a high rate by an experimental Merck drug, Bloomberg News reports, citing a study. The results may pressure on US state Medicaid programs to “more broadly cover” new drugs for some patients at a high risk of reinfection. Many state Medicaid programs require people with hepatitis C to prove they abstain from drug use before they can obtain Medicaid coverage.
In the wake of the Valeant Pharmaceuticals scandal involving a mail-order pharmacy, the largest US pharmacy benefits managers have cut off at least eight pharmacies that work closely with drug makers, Reuters reports. Meanwhile, Irmat is suing OptumRx, a PBM run by UnitedHealth Group, over plans to drop the pharmacy from its network at the end of the month.
Merck says an independent data monitoring committee recommended that it continue a study of an experimental cholesterol drug, anacetrapib, Reuters writes. The recommendation comes a month after Eli Lilly stopped testing a similar cholesterol med, which belongs to a class of drugs called CETP inhibitors. Merck is now the only major drug maker still actively developing a CETP inhibitor, which look to raise HDL, or good cholesterol.
The FDA approved a new AstraZeneca drug called Tagrisso that is intended for lung cancer patients whose tumors have a genetic mutation that affects their growth, the Associated Press says. This is one of several cancer medicines AstraZeneca hopes will rebuild its sales following patent losses on older drugs. While fending off a takeover bid from Pfizer last year, the company forecast its drug may eventually generate $3 billion in sales.
Although gene therapy may hold tremendous promise, there is already concern treatments will become steeped in controversy over high prices, The Washington Post writes. A gene therapy approved in Europe in 2012 cost close to $1 million, and prices are expected to follow suit in the US. Unlike drugs that a person takes regularly, gene therapies are designed to be given once and have lasting effects.
The World Health Organization warns that antibiotic resistance threatens to reverse gains in life expectancy and undermine surgical advances like joint replacements, STAT reports.
Andrew Lansley, the former UK health secretary, is advising Roche in its dispute over the price it charges the National Health Service for cancer drugs, The Guardian tells us.
Guido Rasi returned as head of the European Medicines Agency after a hiring flap last year over his initial appointment, which was challenged by a former Bulgarian regulator.
Merck KGaA’s Korean unit is facing problems with workers who complain the drug maker refuses to recognize their union, The Korea Times writes.
The FDA approved a long-acting Hemophilia A drug from Baxter for treating and preventing bleeding episodes in adults and adolescents, Pharma Times tells us.
India is planning incentives for state-run and private companies to produce ingredients that are used in making medicines as part of a plan to reduce dependence on suppliers in China, The Economic Times says.
Pfizer has ruled out setting up a new plant in Nigeria to manufacture the Centrum vitamin line, according to ThisDay.