Category: Pharmaceuticals

Ivermectin, the “New Hydroxychloroquine”

Check this out. What you will see is a piece describing how a major piece of the “scientific data” offered to support the use of ivermectin, an anti-parasitic drug used in veterinary medicine, in the treatment of COVID-19 in humans is quite likely fraudulent. Not just inconclusive or errant. Purposefully fraudulent.

As the story points out, we have seen this movie before. As with ivermectin, claims of data supporting the efficacy of hydroxychloroquine were last year’s quick fix for the pandemic. So, what’s going on here? In brief, the psychology behind all of this seems to be that we need a treatment for COVID-19 now, this drug may be worth a try, so it’s not a bad thing to conjure up some bogus supporting “data” to convince people to use it.

Bottom Line. Yeah, BUT!!! During a pandemic of a “novel” virus, with real scientists running around like crazy trying to figure out how to prevent and treat, about the last thing the world needs is another distraction like this. 

Stop it!

Why Do “Ancient Drugs” Cost So Much?

Once again, our friend the “Country Doctor” poses an interesting question. Check this out. If the line of reasoning supporting high prices for drugs is the cost of their development, why the heck do drugs that have been around forever cost so much?  Insulin, albuterol inhalers, and epinephrine are offered as examples of such apparent malfeasance. BUT. Scroll down and check the response offered by one reader. Dr. JKH notes that “designer” delivery systems for old drugs are modern inventions that permit new patents and raise prices. Another explanation. The impact of “Big Government” and its policies.

Bottom Line. This is an interesting discussion when you dig into the details. BUT. Most people don’t dig this deeply, and “old drugs at new prices” is bad optics to the general public. AND. Likely no amount of rational argument can make this perceptive go away.

Did You Forget Something???

Check this out. What you will see is a “pull through” strategy being employed by Biogen to increase the sales of its Alzheimer’s drug, Aduhelm. Take an unvalidated quiz to see if your concerns about having Alzheimer’s are, well, valid. Whatever your score, the online quiz is programmed to tell you to speak with your physician about cognitive screening. OR. You can enter your zip code and be turfed to a specialist who can do fun things like a spinal tap to determine if you have a buildup of amyloid plaque. 

Bottom Line. Pull throughs like this are not new to the pharmaceutical industry. Raising physician consciousness of an underdiagnosed disease is probably a good thing in most cases. Ditto raising patient consciousness through DTC. BUT. How about here?

My two cents worth is that using an unvalidated quiz to get patients to believe that even the most casual forgetting is Alzheimer’s is iffy. Throw in the optics of trying to get new patients to take a drug that maybe works and maybe doesn’t, but in any event costs the health care system over $50,000 per year per patient, and Biogen has certainly given muck raking journalists something to feast on! 

Anyone Out There Not See This One Coming???

Check this out. What you will see are recent Harris Poll results indicating that the pharmaceutical industry’s image seems to have its “halo slipping.” More quantitatively, we see that positive ratings have slid from 62% positive several months ago to 56% now. And what might that mean? Maybe lots of things, or maybe nothing!

In the “nothing” category, it should be noted that while across the year we see a gradual trend downward, the majority rating is still one of positivity. The bottom is not falling out. 

Relatedly, the statisticians among our readers may interpret this as nothing more or less than a “regression toward the mean.” Translated, that means that the perception of pharmaceutical companies jumped up significantly, as we have previously discussed, when the rapid development of effective COVID-19 vaccines made us heroes.  Maybe the blush is just coming off that rose a little bit. 

On the other hand, pharmaceutical companies are once again being excoriated in the news. The introduction of an Alzheimer’s drug that may or may not work, and costs over $50,000 a year per patient, doesn’t help. And then the indications for using that drug getting “walked back” by the manufacturer makes matters worse.  AND. The fact that the FDA is now calling for an investigation of their own doctors involved in the approval process for this drug is likely to crank our rating down yet another few notches in the eyes of the public.

Bottom Line. We said several months ago that the pharmaceutical industry had an opportunity to build on the fleeting vaccine positivity and establish a pathway to a more permanent positive public image. 

Nonetheless, here we are!

COVID-19 Vaccine’s Financial Windfall

Check this out. What you will see is Moderna being catapulted from $60 Million in sales in 2019 to $571 Million in the fourth quarter of 2020. One could argue that this meteoric growth is a triple miracle. Miracle number one? Simple. A company that nobody ever heard of beats heavy hitters like Merck and J&J to the discovery and approval of a vaccine. Miracle number two? That Moderna could arrange to manufacture the number of doses they are turning out. And miracle number three? That they could set up a corporation that could strike international deals and do the other things that a company needs to do to profit from miracles #1 and #2.

Bottom Line. AND. We are all very thankful for Moderna’s three miracles! Especially those who had invested early in their stock!!!

Covid Vaccine Work Makes The Pharmaceutical Industry’s Public Image “Soar”

This will be a quickie, since I have commented on this before. This is just an update. But an important one. Check this out.

What you will see are the results of a Harris Poll, demonstrating that the reputational uptick that our Industry is enjoying based on our work on COVID vaccines and therapeutics continues to rise. “Soar” is actually the word used here to describe the phenomenon.

AND. The “pledge” that industry leaders took to reassure the public that their work would be dictated only by science, and not by politics, had a significant turbocharging effect on this phenomenon.  

Wow! While this is clearly a positive for our industry, it is a scary commentary on the American psyche. When was the last time industry leaders had to turn to the American public and say, in effect, “Trust us.  We won’t make products that are bad for your health, even if someone tells us to?”  

Bottom Line. Americans are clearly running low on trust right now. Remember when all this started, and we got guidance that said that your Amazon boxes can kill you if you don’t leave them outside in the sun for 24 hours? Or being told that we don’t need to wear masks? Whoops, only kidding. Or that it is essential to close bars and restaurants, only to see them reopen “unrestricted” in Florida, even as case numbers and deaths there continue to rise. 

Against this backdrop, are reassurances from pharmaceutical executives, which at first glance appear to be superfluous at best, actually an important balm for the comfort level of the average American.  

Apparently, and sadly, yes!!!

COVID-19 Vaccine Revenues and Profits

Check this out. What you will see are some early predictions in terms of how much revenue and profit flow will be generated by a COVID-19 vaccine. $20 Billion in revenue in 2021? $100 Million revenue overall? $40 Billion profit? How much will come from developed countries? How much from developing? Which companies will enjoy what share?

More generally, there are a couple of really fundamental questions to be answered here. First, what will the business model be? For example, how does a company go about setting its profit margin here? Too low and the company misses a major profit opportunity. Too high and the company looks like a greedy scalper.  

Second, what does the marketing effort look like? Here, I believe that there is a significant opportunity for all of the manufacturers in the game (estimated at 6) to join forces to sell the concept of vaccination to consumers. There will be a lot of concerns about vaccines developed at “warp speed” that will need to be overcome, and it would be good to have every company’s shoulder pressed against this wheel, especially if there are booster shots involved.  

And how about specific brand? Marketing giants like Johnson and Johnson will likely be pitted against newbies like Moderna. What do the different pitches sound like, and how does that all work out?

Oh! And how does the marketing of vaccines depend upon what treatments are also available?

Bottom Line. Hopefully we will get to watch all of this unfold sooner rather than later. It should be fascinating, and hopefully a great relief to the world at large!

Impacts of Trump’s Drug Manufacturing Order

Check this out. What will quickly hit you is how Trump’s simple order, i.e. to have the Federal Government start “buying American” when procuring “essential” medicines and medical supplies, can have some genuinely complicated ramifications.

Like. It is estimated that 90% of generic drugs used in the U.S. are manufactured or sourced in foreign countries, primarily China and India. Bringing all of this activity to the U.S. cannot occur at the snap of Trump’s fingers, a consideration that is especially important given that many of the products currently used to treat COVID-19 are manufactured abroad. Not a great time to cut this supply chain summarily.

And. There will likely be cost considerations. Trump’s order allows for the Government to pay up to 25% more for U.S. products. The implications of this for the average consumer are yet to be seen.

But. There will clearly be some benefits resulting from this transition. It is arguably scary to have the supply chain of our essential drugs dependent on countries such as China, that could cut us off in a snit.  

And. The FDA’s lack of ability to control quality as well “over there” as “over here” has led to some significant problems, including patient deaths.

Finally, drug manufacturing jobs returning to the U.S. should clearly be of benefit to our economy.  

Bottom Line. Whatever the complications or how many, be they good and/or bad, the order has been signed. Keep your eyes on this one!

Another Covid-19 Vaccine Deal Is Inked

Check this out. Heck, I could have chosen any one of a dozen stories like this to send you to. Lots of different companies signing lots of different COVID-19 vaccine deals with lots of different countries. 

Fascinating stuff. I get the need for speed. But I am nonetheless amazed that all of these deals are being signed in the absence of a single vaccine having been approved. In fact, on a bad day Tony Fauci says that he is not even sure that creating a vaccine here is even possible. And then there is the “Russian vaccine!!!”  

Bottom Line. It will be fascinating to see how all of this shakes out. And even more fascinating to see what percentage of people will be willing to take the vaccine that is being developed at “warp speed,” and how soon after its release.