An analysis of list prices of commonly prescribed drugs by Patients for Affordable Drugs found large price increases. In other news, Douglas Melton, one of the leading stem cell researchers in the world, is leaving Harvard University to join Vertex Pharmaceuticals to work on diabetes treatments.
Medicare Blockbusters List Prices Have More Than Doubled Since Launch
Two blood thinners that Medicare spent a collective $46 billion on between 2015 and 2020 have more than doubled their list prices since entering the market, according to a new analysis by Patients for Affordable Drugs. List prices don’t reflect the rebates negotiated between drug manufacturers and payers, but they are often used to determine Medicare Part D cost sharing — meaning as prices go up, patients pay more out of pocket. (Owens, 4/6)
In other pharmaceutical and biotech news —
Minnesota Insulin Safety Net Funds $6M In Supplies In 2021
More than 1,100 Minnesota residents used the state’s insulin safety net program to secure over $6 million worth of the lifesaving drug last year, the Minnesota Board of Pharmacy and the MNsure health insurance exchange said Tuesday. Eligible residents in immediate need of assistance — those who have less than a seven-day supply of insulin and will likely face significant health consequences without it — can use the emergency program to get a 30-day supply right away at their pharmacy and pay no more than a $35 copay. (4/5)
Troubles Mount For Cassava Sciences, As Enrollment Lags For Drug Studies
Cassava Sciences conceded Tuesday that only a relative handful of patients with Alzheimer’s have been enrolled in its late-stage clinical trials — a sign that ongoing investigations over the credibility of its experimental drug simufilam have made physicians and patients wary. On a company-sponsored webcast, Cassava CEO Remi Barbier said 60 patients have begun treatment across its two Phase 3 clinical trials. The studies, which randomize patients to receive either simufilam or a placebo, have been expected to enroll 1,750 patients. The studies opened in September and November of last year, respectively, so in roughly six months, Cassava has only managed to recruit 3% of the patients it needs to complete the Phase 3 program. (Feuerstein, 4/5)
Bluebird, Gene Therapy Maker, To Lay Off Employees And Reduce Costs
Bluebird Bio is reducing expenses and laying off nearly a third of its employees to preserve cash ahead of two pivotal, gene therapy approval decisions expected later this year, the company said Tuesday. The restructuring, which aims to save $160 million over the next two years, comes one month after Bluebird warned investors there was “substantial doubt” about its ability to remain solvent beyond this year. Bluebird’s financial difficulties are the result of a prolonged pileup of clinical, business, and regulatory setbacks that have put at risk its ability to deliver potentially curative treatments to patients in the U.S. born with two rare diseases — the blood disorder beta-thalassemia and the pediatric brain disease cerebral adrenoleukodystrophy, or CALD. (Feuerstein, 4/5)
Crain’s Detroit Business:
Blue Cross Blue Shield Of Michigan Offers DNA Testing For More Accurate Prescriptions
The Detroit-based insurer launched a precision medicine pilot program with 500 Medicare Advantage patients last month that uses pharmacogenomics, or genetic testing, to determine which medications will be successful based on genetic predisposition. The program provides a self-administered swab test to the patients and their physician uses the results to determine which medications will work for various common diagnoses including depression, high blood pressure, etc. Results will be delivered to the patient and their physician within three to five days of taking the test, said Julie Hessik, senior director of business development for OneOme, the third-party vendor that will be providing the tests and analysis. (Walsh, 4/5)
Stem Cell Researcher Douglas Melton Leaves Harvard For Vertex
Douglas Melton, one of the leading stem cell researchers in the world, is leaving Harvard University to join Vertex Pharmaceuticals, where he says he will pursue his deeply personal, decades-long quest to create therapies for type 1 diabetes. Both his adult children have the disease, which affects the regulation of blood sugar and afflicts 1.9 million Americans. “Given my personal interest in type 1 diabetes, I’m convinced that I could be most effective at the company that’s leading the area,” Melton told STAT in an exclusive interview. (Herper, 4/5)
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