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Brainstorm Health Daily: May 12, 2017

Happy Friday, readers! This is Sy.

It’s been a busy week for health care news between some high-profile setbacks for certain major cancer drug makers, high-profile victories for others, the confirmation of a new FDA chief, health care merger drama, and a slew of public health reports about the opioid epidemic, hepatitis C, and U.S. life expectancy.

One big headline item: the new CDC report finding that the opioid and heroin addiction crisis is fueling a massive surge in hepatitis C cases.

Read on for the day’s news, and enjoy your weekend.

Sy Mukherjee


Apple Watch may be eating into Fitbit sales. Fitness tracker firms like Fitbit and Xiaomi may be losing some sales to the Apple Watch, according to a new analysis by Canalys. The drop isn’t devastating, but it is significant: while fitness tracker sales slumped 7% in the first quarter of 2017 compared to the same timeframe one year ago, smartwatches boomed by 25%, the vast majority of which were Apple Watches. For its part, Fitbit is also planning its own smartwatch to try and take on Apple’s products. (Wareable)

How will Trump’s cybersecurity order affect health care? President Trump on Thursday signed a wide-ranging executive order on cybersecurity. And while it mostly centers on law enforcement and the national security apparatus, it could also affect the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS)—a department that has been roundly criticized for its cybersecurity vulnerabilities. Trump’s order could prove challenging for HHS: it requires agencies to submit risk management reports within 90 days and to hew to the National Institute of Standards and Technology’s framework on cybersecurity. (FierceHealthcare)


U.K. investor Neil Woodford announces “Glaxit” from GlaxoSmithKline. Neil Woodford, the major U.K. fund manager who has waged a multi-year effort to convince pharma giant GlaxoSmithKline to split up its business units, has had enough. Woodford is out with a blog post titled “GLAXIT” announcing that he’s abandoning his fund’s position in GSK. “I have long believed that value could be created for the company’s shareholders if it split itself into separate, more specialised business units. The sum of the parts is significantly greater than the whole,” he wrote, adding that “investing in Glaxo has been a frustrating experience.” Recently installed CEO Emma Walmsley has defended the company’s decision to remain unified, citing consistency that comes from the consumer health unit.

Another advance in lung cancer, this time from AstraZeneca. AstraZeneca shares soared a whopping 9% in early Friday trading as the company announced unexpectedly strong results from a late-stage trial of its immunotherapy drug Imfinzi in lung cancer patients. The early and promising results could actually give the firm an advantage over rivals like Roche and Merck, the latter of which scored an important FDA approval for its immunotherapy drug Keytruda in combination with chemotherapy for advanced lung cancer this week. “In theory, this could open a market opportunity of $1.75 billion to $3.5 billion (or more) for the drug, which is not included in our current forecasts,” said Deutsche Bank analysts in a research note. (Reuters)


Hepatitis C cases are rising sharply because of the opioid epidemic. The ongoing American opioid and heroin epidemic is fueling another scourge: hepatitis C infections, according to a new Centers for Disease Control (CDC) report. New hep C cases tripled between 2010 and 2015, with young people fueling the surge. The report authors point the finger directly at shared needle use between heroin users and identified which states—and policies—are keeping the infections in check. “State laws that increase access to syringe exchange programs and clean needles and syringes, and policies that facilitate access to HCV treatment through state Medicaid programs can reduce HCV transmission risk,” said the study authors. The states that are following those protocols? Massachusetts, New Mexico, and Washington state.


Judge Puts Another Nail in the $54 Billion Anthem-Cigna Merger’s Coffinby Sy Mukherjee

The $279 Kickstarter Blanket Had to Retract a Major Health Claimby Laura Entis

Spotify Expected to Go Public on NYSEby Reuters

Private Equity and Venture Capital Have a Money Problemby Erin Griffith

Produced by Sy Mukherjee

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