Saturday, January 31, 2015

POSTED: Tuesday, January 6, 2015, 12:25 PM
In this Wednesday, Sept. 24, 2014 file photo, health workers load a suspected Ebola patient into the back of an ambulance in Freetown, Sierra Leone. (AP Photo/Michael Duff, File)

Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen Pharmaceutical subsidiary said it started the first human phase of a clinical trial on a potential vaccine for Ebola, which has killed 8,153 people in Liberia, Guinea, Sierra Leone, according to World Health Organization figures.

The trial is being led by the Oxford Vaccine Group. J&J has also added production capacity to the effort, saying that more than 400,000 regimens of the vaccine have been produced and will be available by April. If the formula works, plans are in place for production of two million does through the end of 2015.

POSTED: Tuesday, January 6, 2015, 7:46 AM
Sovaldi, by Gilead Sciences, costs $1,000 a day in the U .S. Gilead Sciences
The still-new changes in the relationship between health insurers, pharmacy benefit managers and drug companies took another turn late Monday when drugmaker Gilead signed a deal with CVS Health to exclusively distribute Gilead's hepatitis C drugs, just weeks after competitor AbbVie compromised to gain exclusive distribution through Express Scripts. A link to the Bloomberg News story on the topic is here.

None of the companies revealed the discounts that resulted from the negotiations - and it often does not reach patients.

Express Scripts and CVS Health (part of the drugstore chain's parent company) are pharmacy benefit managers, who act as the middle person in managing the drug portion of health insurance plans. They are paid by health insurance companies and large employers.

POSTED: Tuesday, January 6, 2015, 5:53 AM
The Dow Jones Industrial Average, as many but not all people know, is a Wall Street stock index with 30 members. All are big American companies - and almost all of them had a bad day Monday in stock trading.

With oil prices declining, energy related companies pulled down the overall index.

Of the 30 companies, 28 had their stock decline in price.

POSTED: Monday, December 22, 2014, 10:58 AM
Hepatitis virus. (iStock)
The healthcare spending landscape shifted again Monday when Express Scripts, the nation's largest pharmacy benefits manager (PBM), said it will provide only one brand of hepatitis C medication to most new patients in its employer-sponsored health plans, effectively choosing sides between competing pharmaceutical companies hoping to make big money in this area.

St. Louis-based Express Scripts said it will only provide AbbVie's Viekira Pak - after negotiating a discount on the list price - to new patients with genotype 1, the most common form of the disease. About three million Americans have hepatitis C, with estimates reaching 200 million worldwide.

The deal is a loss for California-based Gilead and New Jersey-based Johnson & Johnson, which make competing hepatitis C medication. Some patients and doctors are likely to complain about having their choices and prescribing preferences limited by Express Scripts.

POSTED: Tuesday, December 9, 2014, 11:54 AM
File: Employees walk past a Merck sign in front of the company's building on October 2, 2013 in Summit, New Jersey. (Photo by Kena Betancur/Getty Images)
One day after saying it would spend $9.5 billion to acquire Cubist Pharmaceuticals, Merck & Co., announced that an adverse court decision about key patents for Cubist would not deter it from acquiring the smaller antibiotic drugmaker.

Cubist gets about 80 percent of its revenue from Cubicin. The U.S. district court in Delaware ruled in favor of Hospira in a patent dispute, saying that four of five patents related to Cubicin were invalid. The court said the patent that expires on June 15, 2016 is valid. The decision is subject to appeal. If it stands, Hospira would be able to sell a generic version, if approved by the FDA, once the remaining patent expires.

"The company continues to believe the acquisition of Cubist will create strong fundamental value for Merck’s shareholders," Merck said in a statement. "The combined strength of both companies will provide both incremental and long-term value, and Merck expects the transaction to add more than $1 billion of revenue to its 2015 base, with strong growth potential thereafter. The court’s decision does not change Merck’s expectation that the transaction will be neutral to modestly accretive to 2015 non-GAAP EPS. The company also continues to expect that the transaction will contribute mid-single digit accretion on a percentage basis to non-GAAP EPS in 2016, and will continue to be accretive thereafter."

POSTED: Monday, December 8, 2014, 11:10 AM
SUMMIT, NJ - OCTOBER 2: Employees walk past a Merck sign in front of the company's building on October 2, 2013 in Summit, New Jersey. The pharmaceutical company Merck & Co. announced today that it would cut 8,500 jobs and consolidate its real estate in Kenilworth, New Jersey instead of moving its headquarters to Summit as previously planned. (Photo by Kena Betancur/Getty Images)
Merck & Co. dove deeper into the antibiotic drug market Monday when it agreed to buy Cubist Pharmaceuticals for $9.5 billion, including debt.

The deal would pay shareholders $102 per share in cash, which Merck calculates is a 35 percent premium to Cubist's average closing price in the preceding five days. The agreement includes $8.4 billion for the shares and assumption of about $1.1 billion in company debt.

Merck is based in Whitehouse Station, N.J., and has large facilities in Upper Gwynedd and West Point, Montgomery County. Cubist is based in the Boston suburb of Lexington.

POSTED: Thursday, December 4, 2014, 11:35 AM
Tablets of the anti-depressant drug Paxil are shown in a drugstore in Wilmette, Illinois on Monday, December 30, 2002. (BLOOMBERG NEWS)

Drugmaker GlaxoSmithKline said Thursday it will keep several established brand-name products sold in North America and Europe after testing the market to see if they could sold for a sufficient amount of cash.

The "established" products group includes medication that still works and is for sale to patients, but no longer has market exclusivity because patents have expired, and therefore generate less profit than in the past. Examples include the heartburn drugs Tagamet and Zantac, the migraine medicine Imitrex and the antidepressant Paxil.

"The company has evaluated all bids received and has concluded, consistent with its key criteria of maximizing shareholder value, not to pursue divestment of these products," the company said in a statement.

POSTED: Wednesday, December 3, 2014, 12:17 PM
Drugmaker GlaxoSmithKline will move research and development jobs to its existing operations in the Philadelphia region, but also layoff some commercial employees in the area as part of the $1.57 billion restructuring plan that was announced in vague terms in October and explained with some detail Wednesday.

GSK, which is based in London, will significantly reduce its R&D operation in North Carolina's Research Triangle Park, moving some of those jobs to facilities in Upper Merion and Upper Providence, Montgomery County.

In a statement, GSK said the Philadelphia region and facilities in the United Kingdom will become research hubs.

About this blog
David Sell blogs about the region's pharmaceutical industry. Follow him on Facebook.

For Portions of this blog may also be found in the Inquirer's Sunday Health Section.

Reach David at

David Sell
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