“Our report shows that Eli Lilly has failed to deliver on its promise to put a more-affordable insulin product on the shelves,” said Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn), who teamed with Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.). The cost of insulin has become a stand-in for a larger battle of drug costs because the life-saving medication’s price tag has skyrocketed. In other pharmaceutical news: a dwarfism drug, a bankrupt startup, a novel partnership, a Parkinson’s treatment, and more.
Lawmakers Say A Lilly Program To Offer Half-Price Insulin Is A Bust
Several months ago, Eli Lilly (LLY) launched a new version of its Humalog insulin at half of the list price, a move the company claimed would help lower costs for people with diabetes and blunt criticism of its pricing. But a new survey by a pair of lawmakers finds the new version is often out of stock at pharmacies, many of which were unaware the product was available. The findings prompted renewed criticism of the drug maker for failing to take steps to ensure its strategy would lower costs for consumers. (Silverman, 12/16)
Controversial Dwarfism Drug, After Clearing Pivotal Study, Heads To The FDA
A treatment for the most common cause of dwarfism met its goal of increasing height in a pivotal study, the drug’s maker said Monday, setting the stage for Food and Drug Administration approval. The company, BioMarin, enrolled 121 children with achondroplasia, the most common cause of dwarfism. Those who got the treatment, called vosoritide, grew 1.6 centimeters more over the course of a year than those who received placebo, BioMarin said. That’s enough to declare the trial a success, but it falls below the 2 centimeters that Wall Street analysts had expected. The company didn’t disclose any other data from the study but said there were no serious side effects associated with vosoritide. (Garde, 12/16)
Bankrupt Startup UBiome Auctioned For 1% Of Its Original Valuation
Bankrupt microbiome-testing startup uBiome, once valued at $600 million by Silicon Valley investors, preliminarily sold its patents at auction to a DNA-testing outfit called Psomagen for less than 1% of the company’s original value on Monday, a person with direct knowledge of the matter told STAT. Psomagen is a genetic sequencing company that sells personal DNA tests including a gut health test, according to its website. A subsidiary of South Korean biotech Macrogen, the company has at least 25 U.S. employees, all based in Maryland, according to LinkedIn. On Monday, Psomagen offered $7 million for uBiome’s patents portfolio and related intellectual property, according to the source and public bankruptcy documents. (Bodwin, 12/16)
U.S. Approves Roche’s $4.3 Billion Purchase Of Spark Therapeutics
Swiss drugmaker Roche has won U.S. antitrust approval for its $4.3 billion deal to buy gene therapy specialist Spark Therapeutics clearing the way for Roche’s push into treating rare diseases including hemophilia A. The Federal Trade Commission said on Monday it had approved the deal, which was originally announced in February, without requiring any asset sales to ensure the planned merger complies with antitrust law. (12/16)
In Novel Partnership, Biotech VC Firm Doles Out Grants For Cancer Research
The whole point of a biotech venture capital firm is to make money for itself and its investors. But one fund is doing something counterintuitive: giving away some of its money. On Tuesday, Boston-based venture firm MPM Capital and the American Association for Cancer Research announced the first grants from the AACR-MPM Transformative Cancer Research Grants Program. The program is entirely funded with money MPM Capital collects for managing the $471 million UBS Oncology Impact Fund. (Sheridan, 12/17)
Is Tasigna (Or Nilotinib) Worth Testing For Parkinson’s?
A leukemia drug may have cleared another hurdle as a potential treatment for Parkinson’s disease. But critics say it’s still not clear whether the drug, nilotinib (brand name Tasigna), is truly safe or effective for this use. In a study of 75 people with Parkinson’s, nilotinib appeared to improve quality of life and boost the chemical dopamine, a team from Georgetown University Medical Center reported Monday in JAMA Neurology. (Hamilton, 12/16)
North Carolina Health News:
Mecklenburg County PrEP Update
It’s been almost a year since President Trump announced that Mecklenburg would be a target for a national initiative to eradicate new HIV diagnoses and four years since Mecklenburg County Public Health started organizing its “Getting to Zero” initiative with a similar goal. In a two-year project, researchers at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte and Mecklenburg County Public Health have started looking at the demographics of people taking pre-exposure prophylaxis, or PrEP, the drug which has been shown to almost completely prevent HIV transmission. (Duong, 12/17)
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