Five things for pharma marketers to know: Wednesday, November 5

Republicans now control the Senate.
Republicans now control the Senate.

Republicans now control the House and Senate as of yesterday's elections, and The Hill has outlined what this could mean for healthcare. Among its projections: Republicans will try to overturn the medical device tax, which was expected to provide $30 billion in funding for healthcare reform over the next 10 years, a revisiting of the Independent Payment Advisory Board, aka IPAB, which has been criticized by lawmakers on both sides of the aisle, and a possible attempt to overturn the individual mandate that requires all Americans to have health insurance. Despite USA Today's expectation that President Obama's afternoon press conference will include similes for the word shellacking, The Washington Post says the election results really mean little more than “much of the same gridlock and grind.”

Sanofi's decision to oust CEO Chris Viebacher last week may disrupt MannKind's launch of its inhalable diabetes medication Afrezza. The Street's Adam Feuerstein reports that MannKind spent part of its Monday's earnings call dismissing concerns that the executive shuffle at partner Sanofi will have an impact, but notes that “not everyone shares MannKind's confidence.”  Sanofi plunked down $925 million for global marketing rights just three months ago, in a partnership that gave Sanofi a mealtime insulin solution to fill out its diabetes portfolio, but Feuerstein writes that Diabetic Investor's David Kiff doubts Sanofi is as committed to the agreement as MannKind asserted, writing that market watchers should note how Sanofi emphasized insulin pricing during its latest earnings call and that payers have forced the French drugmaker to lower the price of its high-profile diabetes medication Lantus. “Afrezza isn't cheap to make,” he writes, and cautions that the cost of the MannKind product could prompt a new CEO to “pull the rug from under this ill-advised partnership.” The drug has struggled to make it to market, and MannKind was still without a much-needed marketing partner four weeks after it cleared the FDA's approval process this summer.

AstraZeneca's cancer medication olaparib may be effective in prostate as well as ovarian cancer. Reuters reports that the drug, which the FDA declined to approve based on Phase II data but which the EU approved last month for ovarian cancer, produced what a researchers called “encouraging” early clinical trial results among prostate cancer patients. Focus on AstraZeneca's oncology prospects increased over the summer during its bid to stave off a Pfizer takeover.

Merrimack announced Wednesday that its investigational drug for pancreatic cancer, MM-141, has received orphan drug designation from FDA. The antibody is currently in Phase-1 trials, with Phase-II trials expected to begin in 2015.

US researchers are struggling to get samples of the Ebola virus. Reuters reports that 10 scientists from 8 major research institutions told the news service they have been trying to get virus samples for months. Reuters says regulatory caution and transport issues are among the reasons researchers have not been able to get virus samples which they need to develop diagnostics and track virus mutations. Hurdles also include shipping services that do not want to transport virus samples or blood samples from Ebola patients. The number of virus particles in a blood sample is significant. The New Yorker's “The Ebola Wars” piece says a droplet could contain a hundred million particles.


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