Pharmaguy's Insights Into Drug Industry News
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Pharmaguy's Insights Into Drug Industry News
Pharmaguy curates and provides insights into selected drug industry news and issues.
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'Pharma bro' Martin Shkreli found guilty of 3 of 8 charges, including securities fraud

'Pharma bro' Martin Shkreli found guilty of 3 of 8 charges, including securities fraud | Pharmaguy's Insights Into Drug Industry News | Scoop.it

A federal jury Friday found notorious "Pharma bro" Martin Shkreliguilty of three counts of securities fraud — but acquitted him of five other criminal counts related to hedge funds investors and a drug company he founded.

 

The split verdict in Shkreli's trial came at about 2:37 p.m. on the fifth day of jury deliberations, after a more-than-month-long trial in Brooklyn, New York, federal court.

 

At that trial, prosecutors claimed Shkreli had defrauded multiple investors in his two hedge funds out of millions of dollars, only to repay them with stock and cash that he looted from a the biotech company he created, Retrophin.

 

While the seven-woman, five-man jury clearly accepted some of the prosecution's evidence, it rejected other parts of their argument.

 

The mixed decision perplexed many in the courtroom, including the 34-year-old Shkreli, who first drew widespread public scorn in 2015 for raising the price of a lifesaving drug by more than 5,000 percent.

 

He looked over quizzically at one of this lawyers, Marc Agnifilo, each of the three times that Judge Kiyo Matsumoto interrupted a set of "not guilty" announcements she was reading off of the jury's verdict sheet with a "guilty" one.

 

A juror who was quoted anonymously by the New York Times, said "In some of the counts at least we couldn't find that he intentionally stole from them and the reasoning was to hurt them."

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“I Literally Learned from This Guy,” Says Martin Shkreli of Marathon CEO Jeff Aronin Who Set Price of Duchenne Drug at $89,000

“I Literally Learned from This Guy,” Says Martin Shkreli of Marathon CEO Jeff Aronin Who Set Price of Duchenne Drug at $89,000 | Pharmaguy's Insights Into Drug Industry News | Scoop.it

In a controversial move, Marathon Pharmaceuticals is charging $89,000 a year for a decades-old drug that was approved by US regulators on Thursday, but has sold for a fraction of the price in other countries. Known as deflazacort, the steroid will be used to treat Duchenne muscular dystrophy, a rare disease that mostly affects young boys, causing muscles to deteriorate and leading to an early death.

 

The pricing, however, has upset some patient groups, who say that online pharmacies in the UK and Canada sell the medicine for about $1,000 annually, and the approval will preclude imports. They also note the drug received orphan designation, since it treats a rare disease for a small patient population, which means Marathon has seven years of exclusive marketing before rival medicines become available.

 

“It shows they have no appreciation for the cost to the health care system,” said Christine McSherry, who runs The Jett Foundation, a nonprofit group that advocates on behalf of children with DMD. “They’re taking a drug that costs less than $2 and jacking up the price. This affects entire landscape and this is sort of move that causes premiums to rise.” She pays $1,600 a year from a UK pharmacy.

 

This is not the first time that Marathon chief executive Jeff Aronin has generated controversy over his pricing strategies. In years past, the Federal Trade Commission and Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), a harsh critic of high drug prices, have attacked his moves, although more recently, a company that he once ran was praised by Martin Shkreli for its pricing maneuvers.

 

In 2008, the FTC filed a lawsuit against Ovation Pharmaceuticals, which Aronin ran at the time, accusing the company of price gouging and illegally maintaining a monopoly. Ovation bought the only two medicines that were approved to treat premature babies born with a potentially life-threatening congenital heart defect — and then increased prices nearly 1,300 percent.

 

The FTC eventually lost the lawsuit, but the episode did not go unnoticed by Shkreli. The infamous pharma bro, who gained notoriety after buying an older drug and raising the price by 5,000 percent — and then taunting critics on social media — recently praised Ovation on his web site. “These guys invented price increases,” he wrote. “I, literally, learned it from them.” And he noted Ovation was later sold for $900 million.

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PhRMA Pissed That They Get No Respect, Lashes Out at Martin Shkreli, Gets Less Respect in Return!

PhRMA Pissed That They Get No Respect, Lashes Out at Martin Shkreli, Gets Less Respect in Return! | Pharmaguy's Insights Into Drug Industry News | Scoop.it

[Opinions of Mike Rea, CEO of IDEA Pharma] Martin Shkreli’s name has become synonymous with pharmaceutical industry greed. He’s drawing fire as our villain, our Joker. But like Heath Ledger, Shkreli has stolen the movie.

 

When, as CEO of Turing Pharmaceuticals, Shkreli abruptly raised the price of a decades-old medication more than fiftyfold, he earned scorn from others in the pharmaceutical industry, Congress, the media, and the American public.

 

More than a year later, a new public relations campaign by the industry trade group PhRMA has cast Shkreli as a scoundrel in a hoodie who does not represent an industry of angels wearing white lab coats (read “PhRMA's Dark Inspirational Video Starts a 6-Month Offensive: ‘Less Hoodies, More White Coats’"; http://sco.lt/4xLMLR).

 

I understand why PhRMA feels compelled to discredit and distance itself from Shkreli… Yet I’m more than a little appalled by the tone-deaf nature of the latest plea from PhRMA that says, “trust us, we got this; pharmaceutical development is really hard; you wouldn’t believe the economics but sometimes, despite the odds, we give you a great new medicine.”

 

Although industry lobbyists have tried to paint Shkreli as “not us,” some of his jabs, cringe-worthy though they may be, are on target. Shkreli has called attention to the hypocrisy in his vilification, calling out companies that pulled back from selling drugs to his company only to raise the price by 400 percent overnight, as well as companies whose entire annual increases in revenue came from boosting prices instead of launching new products.

 

[File This Under "I Told You So": #Pharma More like Shkreli Than It Likes to Admit; http://sco.lt/5yXsfJ]

 

Shkreli may choose to communicate in a way that most pharmaceutical company CEOs won’t (but read “NYT Editors: Shkreli No Different Than Other Pharma Leaders”; http://sco.lt/99SFft), but what he is saying is often something we all need to hear. In choosing to speak when most apparently prefer the “strategy” of see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil, Shkreli has been an easy sacrifice to appease the critics.

 

I don’t like Shkreli’s business model. But the industry created it and defended it well before he came along — and is still using it. Sadly, the issue has become more about magnitude than ethics. Who decided that Allergan’s 9 percent yearly increases are OK while Mylan’s 400 percent increase isn’t? This issue isn’t something the pharmaceutical community has discussed.

 

The answer to fixing the pharmaceutical industry’s reputation doesn’t lie in vilifying Shkreli. Instead, we must choose to be different. We need to regain our ethical core and to be, once again, known as ethical pharma. And that’s where we need real leadership.

Pharma Guy's insight:

Thanks to dumb PR people, PhRMA and Shkreli are now linked forever in the minds of the public!

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"Pharma Bro" Martin Shkeli Suspended from Twitter But Not for Raising Drug Prices

"Pharma Bro" Martin Shkeli Suspended from Twitter But Not for Raising Drug Prices | Pharmaguy's Insights Into Drug Industry News | Scoop.it

Martin Shkreli, the former Turing Pharmaceuticals executive who became known as ‘‘Pharma Bro’’ after he dramatically hiked the price of a drug, was suspended from Twitter on Sunday afternoon. A person at Twitter who is familiar with the matter but declined to be quoted directly confirmed that Shkreli’s suspension was related to his harassment of journalist Lauren Duca.

Duca, a freelance journalist, recently wrote a viral op-ed for Teen Vogue titled ‘‘Donald Trump is gaslighting America.’’ During a combative appearance on Tucker Carlson’s Fox News show just before Christmas, Carlson told Duca that she should stick to writing about ‘‘thigh-high boots,’’ and Duca told Carlson that he was ‘‘unprofessional’’ and a ‘‘partisan hack.’’ The exchange resulted in her receiving thousands of angry messages, including a rape threat on Christmas Day.

A few days ago, Shkreli started trolling Duca on Twitter.

 

Further Reading:

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Martin Shkreli to Get 2nd 15 Minutes of Fame Off-Broadway

Martin Shkreli to Get 2nd 15 Minutes of Fame Off-Broadway | Pharmaguy's Insights Into Drug Industry News | Scoop.it

Characters like Martin Shkreli don’t come along every day. The fellow who jacked up the price of a cancer drug from $13.50 to $750 and then got arrested on unrelated fraud charges, all the while flirting with women online, boasting of his own genius and earning wall-to-wall contempt, seems more like a satirist’s villain than a live person.

 

He is both. On Thursday, Shkreli, wearing khaki trousers, a blue blazer and his infamous smirk, appeared in Brooklyn federal court for a scheduling conference. Watching from the public benches was an acting student on a mission -- to glean what he could from his first sighting of the 33-year-old ex-pharmaceutical executive he is to portray at a midtown theater next week.

 

The musical, “Martin Shkreli’s Game,” part of the Midtown International Theater Festival, takes as its conceit yet another facet of the man that has outraged many -- his purchase for $2 million of the single copy of a Wu-Tang Clan album, keeping the work to himself (and claiming that he hasn’t bothered to listen to it).

 

The plot involves an effort by the rap group and actor Bill Murray to steal the album back. It will not endear potential jurors to Shkreli. One of its songs is “I’m Martin F-----g Shkreli and You Can All Go F--- Yourselves,” in which Swailes Caldwell sings that he is “the richest damn Albanian to walk this earth” while gliding on a hoverboard.

 

The contempt for the former Turing Pharmaceuticals chief executive hardly ends there. An early scene has Swailes Caldwell barking into a phone his view of the terminally ill: “If they can’t afford $750 a pill for Daraprim, they shouldn’t have gotten cancer in the first place.”

 

At a recent rehearsal, director Jono Hustis instructed actors on how to pronounce Shkreli: “Make it gross coming out of your mouth - like it’s applesauce and you’re swishing with it.”

 

Menawhile, Philadelphia-based writer Rob Wesley (@eastwes on Twitter) posted on Twitter a fantasy contract Shkreli signed for the album, “Once Upon a Time in Shaolin.” Wesley highlighted a clause that said the album could be stolen with no legal repercussions but the “said heist or caper can only be undertaken by currently active members of the Wu-Tang Clan and/or actor Bill Murray.” (Murray has a reputation for showing up in unexpected places as a kind of random event-bomber.)

The joke, retweeted 9,422 times with more than 8,100 likes, got the attention of Esher and Gundrum, classmates at the BMI Musical Theatre Workshop. They turned it into their play.

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Thank You Martin Shkreli for Goosing FDA to Act More Expeditiously to Approve Generics!

Thank You Martin Shkreli for Goosing FDA to Act More Expeditiously to Approve Generics! | Pharmaguy's Insights Into Drug Industry News | Scoop.it

In a significant move, the Food and Drug Administration late last week made a policy change that may prevent companies from pulling a Martin Shkreli.

The agency plans to expedite reviews of applications for generic drugs where only one treatment is currently sold. The shift was prompted by public outrage that erupted last fall when Turing Pharmaceuticals, which Shkreli ran before he was indicted for securities fraud, bought a life-saving drug called Daraprim and promptly jacked up the price by 5,000 percent, from $13.50 a tablet to $750.

“We identified a gap and were able to identify a path forward,” an FDA spokeswoman wrote us. “The change being made (allows the agency) to capture circumstances when the only approved product on the market is a generic drug.”

Even though Turing does not hold a patent on the medicine, used to treat a rare parasitic infection known as toxoplasmosis, the company was able to increase the price as it did because there was no generic competition. The drug maker runs a closed distribution system, and as a result, Turing has a monopoly on Daraprim. Even if a generic drug maker wanted to enter what was suddenly a more lucrative market, any company would encounter a delay winning FDA approval since the agency faces a huge backlog of applications.

“This is a big deal,” said John Rother, who heads the National Coalition on Healthcare, a collection of insurers, employers, and unions, among others, that have objected to rising prices. “This should provide a faster way to inject competition in the marketplace, so that the price gougers can’t get away with what they’re doing.”

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Pharma Should Keep Its Books Closed, Says Rich Meyer

Pharma Should Keep Its Books Closed, Says Rich Meyer | Pharmaguy's Insights Into Drug Industry News | Scoop.it

The idea that pharma should have to “open their books” is shortsighted.  Pharma companies, like most companies, are public companies and as much as we don’t like it have shareholders who expect a return on their investment.


OK. I get it.  Prices for prescription drugs are ridiculously high and in most cases unjustifiable.  Patients, consumers and politicians are angry and they want to point fingers, but in an era when anger is at a high point we have to remember that we are a capitalist economy.  Pay for profit health is the law if the land for most healthcare industries and CEO’s, who want their golden parachutes, want high drug prices to validate their enormous salaries.


I’m not happy with high drug costs, but asking pharma to open the books is not the answer.  Everytime a new drug gets priced in the stratosphere, it moves voters and politicians closer to moving to a single payer system which is pharma’s worst nightmare.

Pharma Guy's insight:

Shkreli is the only pharma CEO (except perhaps for the CEO of Pfizer) who told it like it is: "My investors expect me to maximize profits"; http://sco.lt/5yXsfJ 


Most other pharma CEOs try to weasel out of it by saying the high cost of R&D/innovation is the reason why drug prices are so high. To that argument, it is legitimate to demand proof other than the guesstimates from Tufts, which can't be independently verified because no one else has access to the books.


Also read "Obama Wants #Pharma to Open Its Books to Justify High Drug Prices"; http://sco.lt/4qFClN 

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File This Under "I Told You So": #Pharma More like Shkreli Than It Likes to Admit

File This Under "I Told You So": #Pharma More like Shkreli Than It Likes to Admit | Pharmaguy's Insights Into Drug Industry News | Scoop.it

Martin Shkreli may be the poster boy for sky-high drug prices, but price hikes are pervasive, and the entire pharmaceutical industry shares the blame.


 At a recent health care conference, Merck chief executive Ken Frazier appeared onstage shortly after Shkreli and insisted that “he is not us.” The pharmaceutical industry, Frazier explained, invests in research, develops innovative medicines, and seeks to find cures. Shkreli, he insisted, is an aberration who exists to exploit pricing in order to make a quick buck.


But while Shkreli and the rest of the pharmaceutical industry are, indeed, a study in contrasts, the differences may be lost on the American public.


Like it or not, this is a problem for every drug maker. And there’s a simple reason... [Do I have to tell you what it is?]

Pharma Guy's insight:

I pointed this out in a recent Pharma Marketing News article: "How to Be Less Like Martin Shkreli": http://bit.ly/pmn150102p Also, see these scoops related to Shkreli: http://bit.ly/Shkreliscoops  

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Martin Shkreli is Every #Pharma CEO's Wet Dream!

Martin Shkreli is Every #Pharma CEO's Wet Dream! | Pharmaguy's Insights Into Drug Industry News | Scoop.it

One of the strangest things about the anti-Shkreli argument is that it asks us to be shocked that a medical executive is motivated by profit. And one of the strangest things about Shkreli himself is that he doesn’t seem to be motivated by profit—at least, not entirely. Last fall, Derek Lowe, a chemist and blogger affiliated with Sciencecriticized Shkreli’s plan to raise prices as a “terrible idea,” not least because such an ostentatious plan posed “a serious risk of bringing the entire pricing structure of the industry under much heavier scrutiny and regulation.” He called on the pharmaceutical industry to denounce Shkreli as a means of protecting its own business model; from an economic point of view, Shkreli’s strategy seemed self-defeating. At least one person close to Shkreli seems to have agreed. One of the most revealing documents uncovered by the committee showed an unnamed executive imploring him not to raise the price of Daraprim again, saying that the risk of another media firestorm outweighed the benefit. “Investors just don’t like this stuff,” the e-mail said. Shkreli’s response was coolly noncommittal: “We can wait a few months for sure.”

A truly greedy executive would keep a much lower profile than Shkreli: there would be no headline-grabbing exponential price hikes, just boring but reliable ticks upward; no interviews, no tweeting, and absolutely no hip-hop feuds. A truly greedy executive would stay more or less anonymous. (How many other pharmaceutical C.E.O.s can you name?) But Shkreli seems intent on proving a point about money and medicine, and you don’t have to agree with his assessment in order to appreciate the service he has done us all. By showing what is legal, he has helped us to think about what we might want to change, and what we might need to learn to live with.

Most of our Presidential candidates claim to disdain Washington politicians, but, on Thursday, Shkreli put that disdain into practice—and helped illustrate, to anyone paying attention, why it is so richly deserved. He is candid even when candor doesn’t pay. (Can there be any doubt that Hillary Clinton, after her own recent appearance before Gowdy and some of his colleagues, would have loved to send a tweet like Shkreli’s?) Last fall, Trump said that Shkreli “looks like a spoiled brat”; in fact, he is the son of a doorman, born to parents who emigrated from Albania. Look at him now! True, he has those indictments to worry about. But he is also a self-made celebrity, thanks to a business plan that makes it harder for us to ignore the incoherence and inefficiency of our medical industry. He rolls his eyes at members of Congress, he carries on thoughtful conversations with random Internet commenters, and, unlike most of our public figures, he may never learn the arts of pandering and groveling. He is the American Dream, a rude reminder of the spirit that makes this country great, or at any rate exceptional.
Pharma Guy's insight:

What pharma CEO would not love to roll their eyes and smirk at lawmakers/regulators to their faces?

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“1bn Here We Come!” A Common Goal for Pharma CEOs

“1bn Here We Come!” A Common Goal for Pharma CEOs | Pharmaguy's Insights Into Drug Industry News | Scoop.it

"$1bn here we come."


That was the triumphant message sent by then-Turing Pharmaceuticals CEO Martin Shkreli, the infamous "Pharma Bro" who jacked up the price of a life-saving drug by 5,000 percent last year, when it became clear his firm could acquire the rights to the medicine. The email went to Turing's presumably pleased board of directors last May.


To anyone who's followed this story since The New York Times shined a spotlight on Turing and intensified the national debate about prescription drug pricing last fall, the Shkreli email and other documents made public by the Democrats on the House Government Reform and Oversight Committee Tuesday do little more than confirm the basic facts. Turing raised the price of Daraprim, which treats a deadly parasitic infection called toxoplasmosis that afflicts HIV/AIDS patients, because it could. The company reaped a windfall, followed by a massive backlash that forced out Shkreli without providing any relief to patients.


But this kind of drug pricing strategy isn't limited to one rogue executive or company. Though rarely quite so blatant, it's woven throughout the pharmaceutical industry.

Pharma Guy's insight:

The quote comes from an email Shkreli sent to the Chairman of the Board of Directors on May 27, 2015, in response to news that Turing had made significant progress towards acquiring Daraprim. I can image many other pharma CEOs expressing the same sentiment after launch of any new potential "blockbuster" drug. After all, "blockbuster" means sales over $1bn per year in pharma jargon.

 

Related story: #Pharma CEOs Fill in the Drug Pricing Debate "Gaps"; http://sco.lt/7fqvGT

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Raising Drug Prices is Sure Path to #Pharma Revenue Growth: The Shkreli Test

Raising Drug Prices is Sure Path to #Pharma Revenue Growth: The Shkreli Test | Pharmaguy's Insights Into Drug Industry News | Scoop.it

We have a new measure for claims about drug prices: the Shkreli test. How would any justification for raising the cost of a drug sound coming out of Martin Shkreli’s mouth rather than smoothly parsed in legally vetted sound bites? Some price hikes, like those for innovative drugs, clearly pass. But many others don’t.


It’s amazingly easy to raise the price of a drug in the U.S. without seeing volume decline, so long as you make sure that patients can afford the out-of-pocket cost. The insurance companies foot the bill.


The current system is almost guaranteed to cause price increases, because it completely lacks the transparency good markets need. Drug companies are forced to focus on expensive drugs for smaller patient populations, because for many common diseases–diabetes, heart disease, depression–there are now highly effective and incredibly cheap generic medications available (80% of drugs dispensed in the U.S. are generic).

Pharma Guy's insight:

Leslie Galloway, VP at the European Confederation of Pharmaceutical Entrepreneurs (EUCOPE) and chair of the European Medicines Group (EMIG), said: "The issue for pricing is that the issues are manifold and different for different companies and, by the time we're explained the issues properly, everyone is asleep."


“Companies should be allowed to choose their own list price and stakeholders should stop trying to get to the bottom of how they choose their prices. In some cases, there is the need to fund an expensive medicine for small populations whilst in other cases, it may be a case of ‘what the market will bear’ with all the shades of grey in between. The focus should be on the value the medicine delivers - both clinically and organizationally - and what the stakeholders are willing/able to pay."

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"Flip" the Shkreli Narrative Says New Bayer US Leader Dable

"Flip" the Shkreli Narrative Says New Bayer US Leader Dable | Pharmaguy's Insights Into Drug Industry News | Scoop.it

“The guy who shall remain nameless does not recognize the added value of research and innovation, and is not representative of Big Pharma as a whole,” said Habib Dable, Bayer’s new president of U.S. pharmaceuticals, over breakfast recently.


Almost everyone can agree that pharma deserves to make money from meaningful innovation. Exactly how much is what is currently up for debate. Gilead Sciences of Foster City, for example, charges $1,000 per pill for a drug that can cure hepatitis C, a price that has drawn outrage from lawmakers and consumers.


Drug executives like Dable of Bayer often say that the industry needs to do a better job explaining the economics to the broader public. In other words, now that Shkreli has everyone’s attention, it’s time for drug companies to tell a new story.


But it's not enough to just tell a "different story." See my insight below.


Also, does Dable have the 5 or 6 essential traits of a great pharma leader? http://sco.lt/74JTJR I note that he, like Ian Read, CEO of Pfizer, is not a "natural-born" U.S. citizen, not that that's a bad thing, except if your company moves to Ireland to avoid U.S. taxes!

Pharma Guy's insight:

My #1 2016 New Year's Resolution for pharma: "Put more real-world distance between you and the likes of Martin Shkreli" (http://bit.ly/2016PGresol). Let's move on. It's time for the pharma industry to get its 15 minutes of fame by doing something substantial to distance itself from the likes of Shrkreli. It's not enough to endlessly tout "added value of research and innovation" as a defense. Actions are needed such as ending exploiting loopholes in the orphan drug act. Read, for example, "Otsuka [a PhRMA member company] to FDA: No Thanks... Orphan Status for Abilify is More Profitable. Generics Can Pound Sand!"; http://sco.lt/5n2l6n 

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NYT Editors: Shkreli No Different Than Other Pharma Leaders

NYT Editors: Shkreli No Different Than Other Pharma Leaders | Pharmaguy's Insights Into Drug Industry News | Scoop.it

There is ample evidence that drug prices have been pushed to astronomical heights for no reason other than the desire of drug makers to maximize profits. Prices in many cases far exceed what’s needed to cover the costs of research and clinical trials, and some companies have found ways to rake in profits even without shouldering the cost of drug development.

The two worst offenders are bottom feeders that simply buy companies they believe have underpriced their drugs and then quickly raise prices to astronomical levels.

In August, Turing Pharmaceuticals acquired the American marketing rights to a 62-year-old drug to treat a devastating parasitic infection and raised the cost of one pill to $750 from $13.50. That brought the cost of a course of treatment for some patients to hundreds of thousands of dollars. (Turing’s founder, Martin Shkreli, was indicted on Thursday on charges of securities fraud involving a hedge fund and another biotechnology firm he started.)

Valeant Pharmaceuticals greatly increased the prices of several drugs it acquired, including two used by hospitals to treat heart conditions. It also protected its high-priced dermatology drugs by urging doctors to send prescriptions to a mail-order pharmacy that would make sure no cheaper alternative was substituted.

The Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, a trade group, described Turing and Valeant as essentially investment vehicles “masquerading as pharmaceutical companies.”

Yet even some mainstream companies have set high prices that seem hard to justify. Eli Lilly said its new lung cancer drug, Portrazza, would cost about $11,430 a month in the United States, six times the $1,870 price that leading oncologists said in a recent journal article would be a fair reflection of the benefit the drug offers compared with older therapies.

Similarly, Pfizer set the list price for Ibrance, a drug to treat a form of advanced breast cancer, at $9,850 a month, a price that remains high even after the 20 percent discount demanded by insurers. The price was not based on manufacturing costs or research costs, according to an analysis by The Wall Street Journal. Rather, Pfizer set the price as high as it could without causing doctors and insurers to favor an alternative drug.

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Allergan CEO Saunders Says Martin Shkreli is a "Mentor"

Allergan CEO Saunders Says Martin Shkreli is a "Mentor" | Pharmaguy's Insights Into Drug Industry News | Scoop.it

Sarah Hassan was new to the hedge fund world in 2010 when a longtime friend of her father suggested she meet a “rising star” in the industry: Martin Shkreli.

The friend, Brent Saunders, the chief executive of pharmaceutical giant Allergan, said he had had “some phenomenal returns” by investing in one of Shkreli’s funds, Hassan told a federal jury in Brooklyn this week. “Mr. Saunders had suggested we meet up because I was trying to learn about the hedge fund world. He thought Martin could be mentor,” she said.

Hassan eventually met Shkreli for lunch at a Manhattan restaurant, during which he recommended some books to read and gave general advice about wading into hedge fund investing. Hassan would go on to invest $300,000 in one of Shkreli’s hedge funds, MSMB Capital.

So marked the start of business relationship that produced a handsome windfall but would eventually lead to Hassan testifying this week against Shkreli as he stands trial for defrauding investors and committing securities fraud. Hassan’s dealings with the Wall Street bad boy offered a window into the workings of the lucrative hedge fund world, and illustrated the tension at the heart of the prosecution’s case: the victims ultimately made money.

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PhRMA Should Have Listened to THIS "Guy in a Hoodie"

PhRMA Should Have Listened to THIS "Guy in a Hoodie" | Pharmaguy's Insights Into Drug Industry News | Scoop.it

Back in December 2015, I suggested that the pharmaceutical industry put some distance between it a "Pharma Bro" Martin Shkreli. I said (here):

 

"Frankly, I'm getting tired of it all. Shkreli had his 15 minutes of fame. Let's move on. It's time for the pharma industry to get its 15 minutes of fame by doing something substantial to distance itself from the likes of Shrkreli."

 

But, I added a caveat:

 

"The mainstream drug industry cannot distance itself from 'wolves' like Shkreli merely through better corporate communications."

 

Unfortunately, the drug industry (aka The Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America aka PhRMA) did not listen to me and unleashed a TV ad that "cast Shkreli as a scoundrel in a hoodie who does not represent an industry of angels wearing white lab coats" (read "PhRMA Pissed That They Get No Respect, Lashes Out at Martin Shkreli, Gets Less Respect in Return!").

 

Yep, they should have listened to this guy in a hoodie - I just received my Brooklyn Tech hoodie in the mail. I'm proud to wear it too! I put the dark glasses on just to mess with you.

 

Any way, read on to learn more about what I recommended and view PhRMA's unfortunate TV ad that aside from casting some guy in a hoodie as a scoundrel also paints a dark image of medical researchers (keep an eye out for the dark image of a scientist peering through a microscope).

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"Pharma Bro" Martin Shkreli Says Trump Will "Make Pharma Great Again"

"Pharma Bro" Martin Shkreli Says Trump Will "Make Pharma Great Again" | Pharmaguy's Insights Into Drug Industry News | Scoop.it

Martin Shkreli, better known throughout the world as “Pharma Bro,” is betting on Donald Trump to bring pharmaceutical jobs back to the U.S.

 

“Donald Trump is a dream for business people like me,” Shkreli said during an exclusive interview with FOX Business Network’s Maria Bartiromo. “I think Trump’s going to make pharma great again.”

 

The former Turing Pharmaceuticals CEO, who first made headlines for sharply increasing the price of a widely-used HIV/AIDS drug, said Trump’s proposed policies will make the industry more competitive.

 

“Almost all pharma manufacturing right now is done in India and China and the quality of manufacturing pharmaceuticals has declined dramatically,” he said. “Bringing those jobs and manufacturing to the U.S. – I think that can only help us.”

 

He added, “I think Trump’s going to make it easier to be a drug company in America.”

 

When asked whether he would be willing to talk to Trump about pharmaceutical policy, Shkreli said he is more than eager to do so.

 

“Sure, the same way he ran on a platform that he’s the best to close loopholes and to close exploitations because he’s the one who took advantage of them,” Shkreli said.

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PhRMA Accepts Price Gouging #Pharma Companies Into Its Tent - Who'd a Thought It?

PhRMA Accepts Price Gouging #Pharma Companies Into Its Tent - Who'd a Thought It? | Pharmaguy's Insights Into Drug Industry News | Scoop.it

At every turn, the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America [PhRMA] has worked hard to convince lawmakers and the public that its members are not the equivalent of “hedge funds” that exist to set sky-high prices while failing to sufficiently invest in developing new medicines.

 

But earlier this month, the trade group made a curious move.

 

Among five companies that were just added to its roster, two of them — Jazz Pharmaceuticals and Horizon Pharmaceuticals — have also relied on excessive pricing to fuel their growth, while investing much less than other drug makers in research and development.

 

This is “intriguing given their pricing strategies and (the) PhRMA effort to distinguish its membership from sharp pricers,” Sanford Bernstein analyst Ronny Gal wrote to investors last week.

 

Intriguing is one way to describe it. Hypocritical might be another.

 

Consider Horizon.

 

In late 2013, the company bought the Vimovo pain reliever from AstraZeneca and, in January 2014, on the first day it could sell the pill, Horizon raised the list price for 60 tablets to $959, a 597 percent increase from $127, according to Truven Health Analytics. This is the same tactic for which Valeant and Turing were criticized. And Horizon has since boosted the price six more times; it’s now at $2,250.

 

There’s more. Gal also pointed out that Vimovo is actually a combination of two older medicines. So while the company sells the drug at expensive brand-name prices, patients could actually purchase the generic components separately at a more modest cost. The drug is Horizon’s second-biggest seller, by the way, and contributed 22 percent of overall sales last year.

Pharma Guy's insight:

Martin Shkreli may be the poster boy for sky-high drug prices, but price hikes are pervasive, and the entire pharmaceutical industry shares the blame. So this is not news to me.

 

Read “File This Under ‘I Told You So’: #Pharma More like Shkreli Than It Likes to Admit”; http://sco.lt/5yXsfJ 

 

Also read “NYT Editors: Shkreli No Different Than Other Pharma Leaders”; http://sco.lt/99SFft

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Congress Nixed Tobacco TV Ads - Will it Do Same for TV #Pharma Drug Ads?

Congress Nixed Tobacco TV Ads - Will it Do Same for TV #Pharma Drug Ads? | Pharmaguy's Insights Into Drug Industry News | Scoop.it

When ex-Turing Pharmaceuticals CEO Martin Shkreli smirked his way through congressional testimony in February, refusing to answer questions about how his former company increased prices for Daraprim, a drug used to treat cancer and AIDS, by 5,000 percent, it (understandably) stoked Washington's and the general public's ire against the pharmaceutical industry. That same month, Congress introduced legislation to ban direct-to-consumer (DTC) drug ads.

 

Not helping matters is this pugnacious election season that's drawn stark contrasts to the broader issue of healthcare. In other words, the pharmaceutical industry finds itself in deep damage control mode. Pharma's fight with Washington isn't new, but according to industry experts, the industry's efforts to restore its reputation have so far been lacking, and the battles with D.C. won't end in the near term.

 

"The tobacco industry and the oil industry are probably the only two industries who have worse reputations than the pharmaceutical industry," says John Mack, publisher and editor of Pharma Marketing News. "There's no advertising on TV for the tobacco industry anymore, so I could see why there are calls to ban TV advertising for prescription drugs."

 

In November 2015, the AMA [called] for a ban on DTC drug advertising altogether, saying that it inflates demands for new and more expensive drugs that may not be appropriate for patients' conditions, and blaming escalating drug prices squarely on marketing and advertising costs (http://sco.lt/5VDlDd).


Congress followed suit in February, when Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D.-Conn.) introduced a bill calling for a three-year moratorium on advertising newly approved prescription drugs directly to consumers. Back in September, presidential candidate Hillary Clinton unveiled a plan to regulate prescription drug prices that included eliminating tax breaks for consumer advertising—a proposal that the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA) said "would turn back the clock on medical innovation."
 

Following this year's Super Bowl, which carried a spot for irritable bowel syndrome drug Xifaxan (featuring an animated pink intestine), the FDA took aim at drug ads with animated characters, announcing it would conduct a study to determine whether such figures impact consumers' perceptions or reduce their comprehension of a drug's benefits or risks (http://sco.lt/6fMX0z). Pharma industry experts called foul. "Marketers should be able to consider whether something is the most effective communications method. I'd hate to see aesthetic choices hampered by legislation," says Bob Brown, account services director at healthcare marketing agency Bryant Brown Healthcare.


As with every other marketer, pharma brands are zeroing in on social media and digital efforts, which are more targeted and cost-effective—and could actually give pharma companies a leg up if a DTC ban ever happened, Mack says. "There are a lot of experts and consultants in the pharmaceutical industry who think that money spent on DTC advertising is wasted," he says.


But not everyone believes the industry has succeeded in defending the right to market directly to consumers. Rich Levy, CEO of healthcare agency Myelin Communications, says that while efforts by Pfizer and PhRMA are a step in the right direction, the pharma industry still has a lot of work to do in restoring its reputation. "The industry has done a horrible job of highlighting the benefits of pharmaceutical products, or explaining why pharmaceutical products cost what they do, so they've allowed themselves to get painted as big bad guys. The average patient is going into the pharmacy and seeing that their co-pays are going up—and they're mad. They think it's the big bad drug companies' fault. [Pharma firms] have never done a good job of saying, 'Taking that pill for your high blood pressure is protecting you from life-threatening complications.' ... It doesn't help when a guy like Shkreli buys up the product and raises it by 5,000 percent overnight," he says.

 

Pharma Guy's insight:

I am honored to be quoted in this article. What I propose is a partial voluntary ban as an experiment. Most of the criticism of DTC advertising is focused on TV ads, which may not be as effective as the drug industry claims. I suggest that the industry adopt guidelines that eliminate TV broadcast DTC advertising of brand name drugs (new or old), but allow print and Internet-based DTC advertising. Disease awareness TV ads, which generally are not a target of DTC critics in Congress and elsewhere, can continue. Drug companies could pocket the money saved or spend it on more effective print and Web promotions or on additional disease awareness TV ads. And it may help with the industry's reputation problem.

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Shkreli Surrogates Protest High HIV Drug Prices in London

Shkreli Surrogates Protest High HIV Drug Prices in London | Pharmaguy's Insights Into Drug Industry News | Scoop.it

HIV campaigners gathered outside a UN meeting in London Thursday, dressed up as notorious pharma bro Martin Shkreli, the Internet villain who hiked the price of a vital AIDS drug.

The group targeted the UN High Level Panel for Access To Medicines, meeting in the capital for three days from Wednesday until Friday and working on a report on the development and production of health technologies.

They were joined by more activists in lab coats representing the pharmaceutical industry.

 

The group called for "an end to the shocking cost of vital drugs by fixing the system that allows for it," according to a statement sent to Mashable, and argued that Shkreli is merely the product of a system that facilitates his actions.

“Martin Shkreli has become a supervillain that everybody loves to hate - but he’s a product of a broken system,” says Tabitha Ha, coordinator of Youth Stop AIDS.

“Millions of people all over the world don’t have access to the life-saving medicines they urgently need. This is because the system for developing new medicines is driven by profit rather than the health needs of the people.”

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#Pharma Nerds Cost Medicare More Than Do Pharma Bros

#Pharma Nerds Cost Medicare More Than Do Pharma Bros | Pharmaguy's Insights Into Drug Industry News | Scoop.it

There are many important differences between the “Pharma Nerds” developing innovative life-saving drugs – including Gilead Sciences’ Sovaldi – and the “Pharma Bros” exploiting loopholes to profit from generics like Daraprim.


Daraprim should be inexpensive.  It’s an old drug, without any significant manufacturing challenges.


But it’s expensive by design.


Contrast this with other high priced branded drugs.  Arguably, the biggest backlash went against Gilead Sciences’ Sovaldi and Harvoni, essentially cures for hepatitis C (HCV). The two drugs list price is $84,000 and $94,500 respectively for 12-weeks of therapy – over $1,000 a pill. To date, only a fraction (about 2%) of U.S. HCV patients have been treated.



Pharma Guy's insight:

Drugs developed by the "nerds" cost Medicare the most money. Daraprim is not even on the list.

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The Real Lesson of the Shkreli Circus - Lack of Drug Pricing Transparency

The Real Lesson of the Shkreli Circus - Lack of Drug Pricing Transparency | Pharmaguy's Insights Into Drug Industry News | Scoop.it

For veteran Martin Shkreli-watchers, the fact that this week's congressional hearing on drug pricing only featured a few short minutes of the former Turing Pharmaceutical CEO's presence didn't make it any less of a gift. There was fifth-pleading, smirking, a case of mistaken SUV identity"unfortunate" tweeting and, inevitably, a livestream


But beyond the theatrics, the hearing highlighted what an opaque and broken mess drug pricing is in the United States. No one, not even the government, really knows what companies charge for drugs across a fragmented market. That creates dark corners where Shrkeli thrived, where Valeant Pharmaceuticals (whose CEO Howard Schiller was also grilled on Thursday) devised its now publicly disavowed price-hike-focused business model, and where many others have massively boosted prices more quietly.


It will take more transparency, not outrage, to fix that. However, Congress seemed more interested in a bit of righteous on-camera yelling -- and revealing some remarkable ignorance about the health care system -- than in root causes. 


Reliably, when asked about prices, pharma executives note that list prices don't reflect reality. It's the oldest of news for anyone who follows the industry, but apparently novel to Congress.


The lack of transparency in the market all but guarantees the sorts of abuses that necessitated the hearing in the first place. The fact that real prices are so opaque makes it difficult to measure cost in the system and to assess value. It lets drugmakers charge wildly varying prices as they negotiate with disparate groups that have imperfect information. It's hard for anybody to negotiate price effectively when they start with a fake number. It helps companies raise prices on old drugs, and gives everyone a ready-made excuse for six-figure prices

Pharma Guy's insight:

Also read: "House Committee Focuses on Drug Cost Transparency"; http://sco.lt/6Om1RZ 

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#Pharma Execs Who Did Speak, Gave "Fuzzy" Responses to Congress on Drug Pricing

#Pharma Execs Who Did Speak, Gave "Fuzzy" Responses to Congress on Drug Pricing | Pharmaguy's Insights Into Drug Industry News | Scoop.it

Executives from Valeant and Turing had a hard time explaining to members of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee their rationales for exorbitant price hikes of older drugs in recent months. Their fuzzy explanations of pricing practices, moreover, cast a shadow over the broader pharmaceutical industry.


The central attraction was Turing former CEO Martin Shkreli, who appeared before the Committee as commanded, but smirked through repeated denials to answer questions. Unless you use your current fame to influence drug price reductions, advised Rep. Elijah Cummings of Maryland, ranking Democrat on the panel, “you can go down in history as the poster boy for greedy drug company executives.” Shkreli was dismissed early from the hearing, with a squad of lawyers in tow, tweeting about the “imbeciles” on the panel.  


Turing “chief commercial officer” Nancy Retzlaff killed off any credibility by claiming that she didn’t know how much stock Shkreli now had in Turing. Equally unpersuasive was her claim that the firm was reinvesting 60% of its profits in R&D.


Committee members offered a range of strategies for preventing and addressing extreme price hikes in prescription drugs, besides faster FDA approvals. A “poison pill” policy would allow suspension of product exclusivity on products that experience Turing-like price hikes, proposed Rep. Steven Lynch (D-Mass.), Turing and other bad actors, he said, thus are responsible for causing Congress to impose heavy regulations on good pharmaceutical companies, which could “choke off” good drugs coming through the pipeline.


Others urged greater transparency in pharma pricing on websites, and how much companies actually spend on research. And there was mention of FDA authorizing use of compounded drugs to create more competition, as done in some cases of severe drug shortages, and support for speedy development and market approval of biosimilars.

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Congress or Jail? If You Were Martin Shkreli - God Forbid! - What Would You do?

Congress or Jail? If You Were Martin Shkreli - God Forbid! - What Would You do? | Pharmaguy's Insights Into Drug Industry News | Scoop.it
Martin Shkreli received a subpoena to testify before Congress next week. But going to D.C. would violate his bail.
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Martin Shkreli Speaks Out: Don't Call Me "Pharma Bro!" Man!

Martin Shkreli Speaks Out: Don't Call Me "Pharma Bro!" Man! | Pharmaguy's Insights Into Drug Industry News | Scoop.it

Martin Shkreli, the controversial former pharmaceutical executive, has sat down with Fox5 for his first major interview since being arrested on fraud charges in December.


"I'm not a 'pharma bro', right? This is a name that go started when there was a picture I took that was meant to be ironic of me in these sunglasses and listening to a rap song," Shkreli says. "I'm never like that."

Pharma Guy's insight:

OK, but "Pharma Bro" will probably be Shkreli's lasting contribution to the drug industry lexicon.

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Of Rotten Apples (e.g., Pfizer & Turing) and Rotten Systems (U.S. Drug Prices)

Of Rotten Apples (e.g., Pfizer & Turing) and Rotten Systems (U.S. Drug Prices) | Pharmaguy's Insights Into Drug Industry News | Scoop.it

It's easy to go after bad executives like Martin Shkreli, but much harder to go after bad corporate systems.


The hypocrisy is stunning.


Martin Shkreli, the former hedge-fund manager turned pharmaceutical CEO who was arrested last week, has been described as a sociopath and worse. In reality, he's a brasher and larger version of what others in finance and in corporate suites do all the time.


Federal prosecutors are charging him with conning wealthy investors...Perhaps prosecutors went after Mr. Shkreli because they couldn't nail him for his escapades as a pharmaceutical executive, which were completely legal -- although vile.


Mr. Shkreli took over a company with the rights to a 62-year-old drug used to treat toxoplasmosis, a devastating parasitic infection that can cause brain damage in babies and people with AIDS. He then promptly raised its price from $13.50 to $750 a pill.


When the media and politicians went after him, Mr. Shkreli was defiant, saying "our shareholders expect us to make as much as money as possible." He said he wished he had raised the price even higher.


That was too much even for the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, Big Pharma's trade group, which complained indignantly that Mr. Shkreli's company was just an investment vehicle "masquerading" as a pharmaceutical company.


Maybe Big Pharma doesn't want to admit that most pharmaceutical companies have become investment vehicles. If they didn't deliver for their investors, they'd be taken over by "activist" investors and private-equity partners who would.


While other pharmaceutical companies don't dramatically raise their drug prices in one fell swoop, as did Mr. Shkreli, they would if they thought it would lead to fat profits. Many have been increasing their prices more than 10 percent a year -- still far faster than inflation -- on drugs used on common diseases such as cancer, high cholesterol and diabetes.


Pfizer's new [drug] to treat advanced breast cancer costs $9,850 a month. According to an analysis by the Wall Street Journal, that price isn't based on manufacturing or research costs. Instead, Pfizer set the price as high as possible without pushing doctors and insurers toward alternative drugs.

Pharma Guy's insight:

We are seeing more editorials like this one. Also read this NYT Times editorial: "Are All Pharma CEOs Martin Shkrelis?"; http://bit.ly/pharmabros Also read: "Patients Fear Spike in Price of Old Drugs"; http://nyti.ms/1U4rJtu 

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