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Good morning, everyone, and nice to see you again after our extended break to usher in a new year on our calendar. Quite a bit seems to have taken place while we were gone, so we are playing a game of catch-up today, which explains the lengthy list of tidbits below. Nonetheless, we hope you find them useful and, of course, that you have a productive day. And now, back to the coffee kettle for another cup of stimulation. To your health, as they say …

Bernie Sanders appears in a new television ad to support a controversial ballot measure in California that would require the state to pay the same price of prescriptions drug as the US Department of Veterans Affairs, The Hill writes. “Proposition 61 is a very, very important step forward,” Sanders says in the ad. “It will be great for the taxpayers of California and it will be a real blow against this greedy industry that will reverberate all over America.”

AstraZeneca’s Brilinta heart drug failed to help patients with serious circulatory problems in their legs, prompting the drug maker to scrap a $3.5 billion-a-year sales target for the medicine by 2023, Reuters writes. The drug did not show a benefit over Plavix, an older blood thinner, in treating peripheral artery disease. The setback follows similar disappointing results in March with the same AstraZeneca pill in another big trial in stroke patients.


As Insys Therapeutics faces several government probes over the marketing of its Subsys opioid painkiller, chief executive John Kapoor disavows any managerial issues that have led to a growing number of salespeople charged with illegally promoting the treatment. “If something happened in the field, sometimes the company may not know about it,” he tells Forbes.

A lobbying effort by three of Australia’s most powerful pharmaceutical trade groups to derail moves to make codeine drugs prescription-only has likely delayed a final decision until at least next year, the Sydney Morning Herald reports. A government committee last year issued an interim decision to remove products containing codeine from over-the-counter sales as of last June, citing growing evidence of codeine-related harm.


The US Food and Drug Administration is requiring black box warnings on hepatitis C medicines because they may reactivate hepatitis B among patients. The agency said that cases of serious liver problems or death occurred in a few cases. Among the drugs for which labels will be required are Sovaldi and Harvoni, which are sold by Gilead Sciences, Merck’s Zepatier, and Viekira Pak from AbbVie.

The Indian government is considering various measures, including heavy fines and imprisonment, in a draft version of its Drugs and Cosmetics Act to prevent drug makers from violating manufacturing norms, according to LiveMint. Currently, violations result in suspended manufacturing licenses and product recalls are voluntary, which would become mandatory if drugs fail to conform to standards of strength, quality or purity.

Johnson & Johnson says a cyber security bug in its OneTouch Ping insulin pump could be hacked and cause diabetic patients to overdose with insulin, though the hacking risk is believed to be low, Reuters tells us. Last month, the health care giant wrote doctors and patients that a hacker could identify the specific frequency the device is using and then issue commands to the pump.

The UK’s National Institute for Health and Care Excellence endorsed the use of AstraZeneca’s Tagrisso lung cancer drug after the company agreed to provide upcoming trial results and an undisclosed discount on the list price, Bloomberg News reports. The medicine becomes the first new cancer treatment to be introduced into the state-run National Health Service through such an agreement.

Eli Lilly is buying Boehringer Ingelheim Vetmedica’s US pet vaccines portfolio for $885 million in a deal that includes a manufacturing and research site, the Wall Street Journal informs us.

The UK’s NICE rejected Merck’s Keytruda as a second-line treatment for non-small cell lung cancer after determining its long-term benefits are unproven, PMLive reports.

AstraZeneca licensed an experimental medicine for inflammatory diseases to Allergan for an upfront payment of $250 million and up to $1.27 billion in additional payments, Reuters says.

Pfizer may begin making hundreds of layoffs this week at a Hospira manufacturing plant in North Carolina, according to WRAL Tech Wire.

AstraZeneca laid off about 50 sales reps in India last week and the Federation of Medical and Sales Representatives of India has threatened a countrywide protest, the Economic Times writes.

The FDA granted breakthrough status to Roche’s Actemra rheumatoid arthritis medication for giant cell arteritis, according to PMLive.

Novartis is closing research facilities in China and Switzerland, and moving another from Singapore to California, Reuters writes. About 110 jobs will be lost. At the same time, the drug maker is creating new research hubs in Basel, Switzerland, and Cambridge, Mass., and up to 60 jobs may be transferred to those locations.

Samsung BioLogics looks to raise as much as $2 billion in an initial public stock offering, according to the Wall Street Journal.

The Global Health Innovative Technology Fund, a Japanese public-private partnership formed to battle infectious diseases, received investments totaling $11.4 million to be used for a single-dose antimalarial and other medicines.

Concordia International is discussing alternatives to a leveraged buyout that include divesting a minority stake to a private equity firm in order to reduce $3 billion in debt, Reuters writes.

Merrimack Pharmaceuticals chief executive officer Robert Mulroy resigned on Monday and cut 22 percent of its workforce as part of a restructuring, the Wall Street Journal says.

  • Interesting observation from Mr K – “If something happened in the field, sometimes the company may not know about it,” he tells Forbes.” They may not but what are the chances that they won’t notice/ appreciate/ accept a spike in revenue? Slim to none.

  • For Bernie Sanders backing proposition 61. I understand the need to decrease the cost of the medications but as stated in the article the price of the medications purchased by the VA is not disclosed. Why is the proposition being written as such instead of just putting a cap on the price of medications? would this need to be something that would happen federally? any feedback would be appreciated! thank you!

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