The CEO of a major U.S. pharmaceutical company was in the news this week, but for a change not because of the cost of drugs. Merck CEO Kenneth Frazier (pictured) was the first of what quickly became a line of CEOs to exit President Trump’s manufacturing council, leading to its dissolution altogether. Frazier was widely praised by other life sciences leaders, even as he drew Trump’s ire.
Elsewhere, the Affordable Care Act got a temporary helping hand, New York biotech got another boost, and the market for a new type of ovarian cancer drug got even more crowded. Let’s round it all up.
Frazier Takes a Stand, Obamacare Still Stands
—Merck (NYSE: MRK) CEO Kenneth Frazier was the first business leader to publicly admonish President Trump for his response to the violence in Charlottesville, VA, last Saturday. Frazier resigned from Trump’s manufacturing council on Monday, and though Trump quickly pounced with a few disparaging tweets, several other CEOs sided with Frazier and left the council. It was disbanded on Wednesday.
—Frazier’s move was lauded by several biotech leaders, among them Yumanity Therapeutics CEO Tony Coles in this op-ed.
—In this post, meanwhile, Ovid Therapeutics CEO Jeremy Levin and Decibel Therapeutics CEO Steve Holtzman called on the biopharmaceutical industry to speak up about any conflicts between itself and the agenda of the Trump Administration, regardless of the blowback it might receive from the White House.
—One day after the Congressional Budget Office released a report showing that ending the cost-sharing reduction payments that subsidize some Obamacare plans would increase the number of uninsured and raise the federal deficit, the Trump administration said it would make those payments this month.
News From the Beltway & New York Steps
—FDA commissioner Scott Gottlieb accused drugmakers of “gaming the system” to block cheaper generic drugs from the market, a practice he vowed to stop, according to a report in USA Today.
—South Carolina is suing Purdue Pharma, accusing the Stamford, CT, company of unfair and deceptive marketing that stem from the drugmaker’s claims its opioid painkiller oxycodone hydrochloride (OxyContin) is not addictive, Reuters reported.
—Two real estate developers, Taconic Investment Partners and Silverstein Properties, have opened the latest biotech startup space in New York, the Hudson Research Center, on the West Side of Manhattan. One of the key problems the building may help solve, according to Taconic vice president Matthew Weir: providing space for startups that have graduated from the area’s growing network of incubators.
Clinical Advances & Setbacks
—Ophthotech’s (NASDAQ: OPHT) pegpleranib (Fovista), an age-related macular degeneration therapy that was once one of the most closely watched ophthalmic drugs in clinical development, failed its third Phase 3 trial. Shares of Ophthotech, once worth over $78 apiece, now trade at just $2.75.
—Bristol-Myers Squibb (NYSE: BMY) reported mixed results from a Phase 3 trial testing a combination of its two immunotherapy drugs, nivolumab (Opdivo) and ipilimumab (Yervoy), in newly diagnosed kidney cancer patients. The news marks the latest clinical stumble for cancer immunotherapy combinations, hundreds of which are being tested in trials for a variety of cancers.
—Novo Nordisk’s (NYSE: NVO) type 2 diabetes drug semaglutide beat Indianapolis drugmaker Eli Lilly’s (NYSE: LLY) dulaglutide in reducing blood sugar and body weight, according to results from a Phase 3 trial that compared the two drugs head to head.
—Olaparib (Lynparza), an ovarian cancer drug whose partial rights Merck acquired from AstraZeneca (NYSE: AZN) last month, received an additional approval from the FDA to treat ovarian cancers regardless of whether or not patients have the BRCA genetic mutation. AstraZeneca’s earlier approval of the drug only covered patients who have the mutation.
And the Awards (Could) Go To…
Frank Vinluan contributed to this report.