Hello and happy Friday, readers! This is Sy.
Shares of biotech Incyte tumbled following a clinical trial setback for one of the company’s marquee experimental cancer drugs. Incyte stock dropped nearly 20% in Friday trading, wiping billions off of the firm’s market value. But the disappointing results rippled across a significant segment of the cancer drug development industry, including pharmaceutical giants Merck and Bristol-Myers Squibb (BMS).
Incyte’s experimental treatment, epacadostat, was being tested in combination with Keytruda—Merck’s flagship, multi-billion dollar cancer immunotherapy. The former drug is a so-called “IDO1” treatment; the latter is a “PD-1” checkpoint inhibitor. The hope, particularly in the case of these two drugs, was that a two-pronged combo approach would help cancer patients live longer.
But the late-stage clinical trial results for melanoma patients reported Friday put a big dent in those plans. It also raised questions for other biopharma companies pursuing similar cancer drug combinations (and there’s a fair number of them around). Merck stock fell 1.9% in Friday afternoon trading, for instance, while Bristol-Myers (which has a significant competitor to Keytruda called Opdivo) sank more than 3%; the much smaller biotech NewLink Genetics dropped more than 45%.
The disappointing results were fairly unexpected—highlighting the deep uncertainty that surrounds drug development, even for treatments that show early promise.
Read on for the day’s news, and have a great weekend!
Facebook steps back from its medical data initiative. CNBC’s Chrissy Farr reports that Facebook was in the planning phases of a medical data research project—an initiative that has been put on hold altogether following the outcry over Facebook users’ personal data and Cambridge Analytica. The company had reportedly asked multiple major hospitals to share anonymized medical information (such as prescriptions and types of illness) for the project. (CNBC)
The out-of-pocket cost for a milestone cancer drug? $80,000. Medicare has made a decision about reimbursements for Gilead/Kite Pharma’s Yescarta and Novartis’ Kymriah—two pioneering cancer treatments that re-engineer patients’ own immune cells to target cancer. Both of these treatments were priced at upwards of $400,000 before discounts and rebates; so how much will they actually cost patients? Well, a lot. “As of April 1, CMS said it would pay $395,380 to health providers who use Yescarta, with a list price of $373,000, on an outpatient basis. The minimum patient co-payment for Yescarta is $79,076. For Kymriah, with a list price of $475,000, the Medicare payment rate is $500,839, and the co-payment is $100,168.” (Reuters)
THE BIG PICTURE
Ohio moves to waive Obamacare’s individual mandate. The Affordable Care Act’s requirement to carry health insurance (or pay a tax penalty) has already been repealed, under the major tax reform legislation passed by Congress at the end of last year. But that repeal doesn’t actually take effect until next year. And at least one state doesn’t want to wait that long—Ohio has filed for a waiver that will formally nix the individual mandate requirement in the state. (Modern Healthcare)
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|Produced by Sy Mukherjee|