Brainstorm Health: Amarin Fish Oil Surge, Most Powerful Women, Implanted Device for Paralysis

September 24, 2018, 8:30 PM UTC

Happy Monday, readers. This is Sy.

I’m traveling back to New York from our nation’s capital after an edifying time at the Biden Cancer Summit. I’ll have a lot more to say about that—as well as about my luncheon panel with Dr. Laura Esserman, Dr. Feng Zhang, and Bibhash Mukhopadhyay—in short time.

But I wanted to start off with one of the buzziest stories in biopharma this week. On Monday, shares of New Jersey-based drug maker Amarin shot up a stunning 300% on the strength of a cardiovascular outcomes clinical trial for its cholesterol drug Vascepa. The (apparently) groundbreaking substance at the heart of the treatment? Good, old-fashioned fish oil.

According to the company—and it’s worth noting that the full data set for the trial isn’t public yet—the Vascepa fish oil capsule reduced the risk of certain serious cardiovascular events (such as stroke and heart attack) for certain heart patients (those who had high levels of triglyceride fats in their blood and high cholesterol levels being held in check by statins) by 25% compared with placebo. That’s an eye-popping figure when it comes to the heart health space.

The results from the so-called REDUCE-IT trial are already turning heads in the cardiological community. There are plenty of treatments that have proven their ability to slash levels of “bad” cholesterol like LDL-C and other potentially harmful elements; what has sometimes been less clear is how such therapies translate into reducing actual cardiovascular catastrophes such as heart attack, stroke, and hospitalization due to CVD-related events. On first glance, Amarin’s prescription fish oil therapy appears to have impressed on this very front.

On another note: Please make sure to check out Fortune‘s extraordinary new Most Powerful Women list and all of its accompanying commentary. It’s a fascinating collection exploring even more fascinating women in business.

Read on for the day’s news.


An implanted device's promise in paralysis. Two patients have reportedly been able to recover their ability to walk after undergoing an experimental treatment that involves an implantable device that delivers electrical stimulation straight to the spinal cord. Researchers note that this kind of technology is still in the early stages and has a long way to go—but, given the devastation caused by serious spinal cord injuries, the pair of reports is notable. (The Verge)


Fears of a Brexit's medication fallout. The European Medicines Agency (EMA), roughly the EU's analogue to the American FDA, is raising red flags about the potential fallout from Brexit, including the possibility of disruption to the supply of more than three dozen medicines. Drug makers have begun hoarding supplies of prescription drugs in case Brexit goes ahead without adequate arrangements in place to prevent such disruption. (Reuters)


Stopping malaria's spread at its source. NPR reports that CRISPR gene editing is being deployed to try to stop the spread of one of the world's most pernicious infectious diseases, malaria. The technique reportedly uses modified mosquitoes to then wipe out the regular kind that may carry the disease, which kills more than 400,000 people every year. (NPR)


Inside Fortune's 2018 Most Powerful Women in Business Listby Kristen Bellstrom and Beth Kowitt

These 10 Powerful Women Leaders Are Ones to Watchby Fortune Editors

Commanders in Chief: The Women Building America's Military Machineby Jen Wieczner

New York's Big Cryptocurrency Mistakeby Jeff John Roberts

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