BeiGene’s chief medical officer for hematology, Dr. Mehrdad Mobasher, tells Jack O’Brien about BTK inhibitor Brukinsa’s latest lymphoma approval from the FDA and offers messaging advice to medical marketers. 

Oprah’s primetime special on GLP-1 drugs tops our Trends segment, along with Olivia Rodrigo’s birth control giveaway and NewYork Presbyterian’s sweet blood donation promo. 

Music by Sixième Son

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Note: The MM+M Podcast uses speech-recognition software to generate transcripts, which may contain errors. Please use the transcript as a tool but check the corresponding audio before quoting the podcast.

Hey, it’s Marc

It’s been a good month for oncology drugmaker BeiGene.

The company, known in the blood cancer space, wants to expand into solid tumors.

And it’s making progress on both fronts, having won two FDA approvals in as many weeks.

Just last Wednesday the agency approved its injectable drug Tevimbra to treat a type of advanced esophageal cancer in patients who have previously received chemo.

And earlier in the month, BeiGene’s oral drug Brukinsa – which has been on the market since 2019 – won its 5th approval for a blood cancer, in this case for treating adult patients with relapsed or refractory follicular lymphoma, in combination with an older Genentech drug, after two or more lines of systemic therapy.

Follicular lymphoma is the second most common type of B-cell lymphoma.

Among Brukinsa’s other approvals are several other types of leukemia and lymphoma. Targeting the B-cell pathway with BTK drugs has transformed these into diseases where many patients are no longer dying from their malignancy. 

However, tolerability issues often result in patients stopping therapy with a competitor, AbbVie and J&J’s Imbruvica. BeiGene’s Brukinsa appears to have fewer adverse events, and analysts see the drug as a multi-blockbuster.

This week on the show, our colleague Jack O’Brien catches up BeiGene’s chief medical officer for hematology Dr. Mehrdad Mobasher to discuss what Brukinsa’s most recent lymphoma approval, which came under the FDA’s accelerated pathway, means for the company, and his messaging advice for medical marketers.

Lecia’s taking a well-deserved week off so the Capitol Hill report is on hiatus. 

Jack, what’s trending in healthcare – I heard that a certain, high-profile former talk show host returned to the format this week, yes?

This week, we’re talking about Oprah’s primetime special on GLP-1 drugs, Olivia Rodrigo providing free emergency birth control pills at her Missouri concert and NewYork Presbyterian’s sweet blood donation promotion.

And this is the part of the broadcast when we welcome Jack O’Brien to tell us what’s trending on healthcare social media.

Hey Marc,

we kind of teased earlier Oprah had her primetime special on GLP-1 drugs and instead of doing the kind of classic rundown that we usually do and then open up. I kind of want to make it a little more free flowing because it literally just came out last night.

In this on Tuesday afternoon, and there’s been a lot of reaction discussion. Obviously Oprah highlighted in the special that she has been the subject of talk about weight both gain and loss for the better part 30 years and actually at the earlier part of the special she talks about all of these things that she did on her own end going on a liquid diet pulling out the wagon of fat and then immediately gaining some of that weight back on being the subject of late night talk show jokes and even some really rude commentary that you saw there was one TV Guide that she had pulled out where I think they called her lumpy dumpy and frumpy there was something like that and so if there’s ever a celebrity that has had

Their own personal experience in terms of dealing with weight loss. It’s Oprah and to see her talking about glp-1 drugs in a much more comprehensive way. I know a couple weeks. So we talked about the CNBC documentary which was a lot more I would say surface level. This was getting into people have been on glp-1 drugs and both good and bad side effects, whether it should be allowed for children talking with representatives from both Eli Lilly and Nova nordis talking to the CEO of Weight Watchers, which Oprah was a board member for up until February when she left obviously that was a point of contention there and there was reporting last week that Weight Watchers CEO had sent out an internal memo basically saying to full-time employees were good, even though the stock price has fallen since Oprah left the board. It’s been a lot going on. So Mark I want to bring you in here and we can kind of a little discussion about it because it’s it’s one of those things where it’s like, yeah, this is obviously taking on a whole different level of popularity. But when you have Oprah who is probably the most famous talk show host alive takes on a

It sort of priority

absolutely and she was funny. She was joking with Kimmel, you know about, you know, leaving Weight Watchers and you know, he was saying but they were sad to see you go, you know, did they cry and they you know, the stock price went down about 25 percent so it wasn’t wasn’t pretty but yeah, so as you point out this this was a different very different documentary than the CNBC one. We talked about a couple of weeks ago this one and not just because it was on a different network on ABC. I wasn’t able to view the show but with the title like Shane blame and the weight loss Revolution, we know this would this was gonna be a bad stigma, you know about not blaming yourself and how do we move forward with this new understanding of in many cases including Oprah’s the genetic underpinnings behind obesity, you know, it’s been years since the AMA declared that obesity is a disease and glp ones have been around for a couple of decades and Oprah lamented that she just found out about this only recently. You know, she told

Entertainment Tonight when she was interviewed about this upcoming special they’ve had these medications for the past 20 years. I didn’t know that you know, and you know, in fact we did have Victoza for diabetes, you know, 10 years ago and then subsequently at saxenda, which was the same main ingredient but just approved for weight loss. Now, we have those epic for diabetes and would go be for obesity kind of a similar, you know Duo there.

So Opera is asking I think a good question. Why didn’t more people know about medical treatment for obesity even Weight Watchers as you pointed out only recently started administering medications as part of its regimen if I can just stop in there

to Mark just because you bring up a couple interesting points and it was one question. She actually asked directly to seem astani the CEO of Weight Watchers. It’s like, okay. So now you’re in the you’re in the glp-1 game and she had even said that the mission of Weight Watchers has changed from being so primarily focused on weight loss to community and support which obviously has to come in we talk about the stigma and the the self-blame even if people externally aren’t blaming you there are still people and there was even a representative from Nova. Who is there saying like I know all this science, I know how these drugs work and still there’s part of me thinking it’s my lack of willpower. It’s that I’m not good enough and this is this is some sort of like character flaw and she asked her directly. She’s like, so what is Weight Watchers going forward if glp one drugs are here and available. It’s it’s a really interesting kind of existential crisis that I don’t think a lot of

Really, you know come across that often their lives, especially when it’s been 60 years of Weight Watchers being the dominant player in the space and all the sudden in the past two years with the ascendance of these drugs, which as you said have been around for a couple decades it slipped everything on its head.

Yeah, it does put you know Weight Watchers in an awkward spot and you know, I think as others have said there has a company they do have a right to reinvent themselves. And I think that’s kind of what we’re seeing now as as these much more efficacious, you know weight loss medicines have come out and they’ve you know changed their approach they are in the midst of this reinvention. And so we’re seeing that play out and in real time and that’s kind of one of the I think reasons why

You know people like Oprah are saying why didn’t we hear about this until now it’s because you know part of the answer was that the drugs that were approved in the past didn’t weren’t as efficacious, you know, as this most recent, you know way of drugs with those epic and gero and zepbound and and wagovi, they had middling efficacy and there was lack of insurance coverage and again that mindset that it’s that’s the patient’s fall, you know, just push yourself away from the table exercise more that was the prevailing mindset but at the medical establishment too, I think hey may have prevented an approach that emphasizes relief of suffering for these patients. I heard Dr. Lee Kaplan Who’s chief of obesity medicine at Dartmouth speak at the pre-gallian conference last year and he said that institutional policies used to require clinicians to secure patient consent before prescribing meds awfully before obesity or even discuss it with a patient and that’s made Physicians defensive about treating OB

He called it quote unquote. The only disease you’re allowed to talk about at a cocktail party, but not in the office.

So Oprah being the mega influencer that she is is using her tremendous platform to not assign blame, but to explore how people armed with this knowledge can move forward in a healthy way. She says medications just one tool in her armamentarium for keeping her weight off. She’s said she takes a very balanced approach. I think she said she runs on the on the beach, you know, it’s nice to live in LA. I’m sure hiking watching what she eats and given that she just turned 70 January 29th, and she looks the way she does. I believe her, you know, there’s no ozepic, you know face going on here. You know, she really looks like she’s taking a very balanced approach and I also think there’s a message here for medical marketers in terms of you know, if doctors are stigmatized too. There must be a lot of work to do to change physician beliefs in this area

and that’s an interesting point you bring up because they explore it towards the end where they talk about the issues related to access and the fact that okay. So even if you are, you know, clinically obese and you are able to access this drug if you don’t have the right insurance

A jury your payer doesn’t cover it. Then you’re looking at extraordinary out-of-pocket costs which goes back to a larger issue of pricing in America, but it’s also one of those things that if you have people they’re making these decisions at insurance companies or pay your organizations that don’t have that same mindset that this is a disease and she compares to that one point to alcoholism how we used to think years ago was just put down the bottle. It’s the same way put down your food and step away from this and you’ll be fine. If you have those prevailing mindsets at these organizations that’s gonna limit access to drugs that are able to help people and they talk about it walk a mile in my shoes. Like there are all these Downstream effects of having extra weight and being obese whether it’s cardiovascular whether it’s on your joints, whether it’s mental health all that sort of stuff that people are not gonna have access to so I implore everybody in our audience if you haven’t already watched it you should absolutely do it. I think there’s a little bit for everybody there. There’s the conversation they talk with the family that was featured in the cut and an article back at the end of the last

Are about one of the first teenagers that’s on glp-1 drugs. There’s an angle there for parents too where it’s like you might be judging me as saying like, oh, how could you ever put your kid on a weight loss drug, but that child was 300 pounds at age 11 and was already pre-diabetic had gone through gastric bypass surgery that wasn’t living up to the expectations that that her medical team was looking for. She goes on I forget the one what it was it was Victoza. She goes on Victoza and she’s been able to maintain her weight. She’s not able because these glp-1 drugs are not indicated for that group of children Beyond those but she’s using something that is adjacent to it at least getting the results. There’s angles for people that are on the drugs. They’re people that have gone on and off the drugs from the medical marketing side from the Pharma side. There’s something for everybody there. So I would really implore our audience if you haven’t watched it. You should absolutely check it out. I don’t think it’s the last that we’re certainly gonna be talking about this. I think if anything this is just Oprah kind of putting that first Salvo out there in terms of

she’s gonna be an active participant in this and again, what a value it is because she has been such a Cornerstone of the weight loss debate in this country for years and we are now seeing that pivot in a completely different direction and she’s going to be part of that.

Yeah, well well said I think it sounds like a terrific special and you know, she brought together an amazing array of guests and you know just on one one final point if I may, you know, in terms of the coverage, you know, we just saw what Govi secure approval for cardio. It’s cardiovascular benefits and then all of a sudden people are like, oh well now it’s gonna be approved by Medicare, you know, so that settles that whole debate, you know, we were so funny how things happen in this industry like, you know, you know why I hadn’t people heard of you know, once for weight loss even though they’ve been around for 20 years. Why was everybody wondering when weight loss drugs are gonna be covered by Medicare? Oh wasn’t this Purdue for date on the calendar that they were gonna FDA was gonna prove it for cardiovascular benefits and all of a sudden. It’s like, oh it’s gonna be approved by Medicare. So anyway, we’re gonna continue the conversation in a couple of weeks at mmm transform on our keynote address is Gonna Be by a trio of Executives from Novo and everybody should you know, try to come to that it’s gonna be really interesting they can have a full

Or you know talking about how the approval of these drugs has not only changed them as a company, you know in terms of how to impact on the corporate culture, but we’re going to have the two marketers from the hcp and the patient side who launched will Govi and talking about you know, how that you know played out and some of the challenges they faced in that and that launch which is a very interesting one. So I think for this audience can be really interesting opportunity to continue the conversation and when is that Mark that’s coming up Wednesday April 3rd.

And you can read all about that on our website: Mmmtransform.com.

Pop star Olivia Rodrigo provided free emergency birth control pills at her recent concert in St. Louis after Missouri narrowed reproductive rights. 

As part of her Guts World Tour, Rodrigo invited the Missouri Abortion Fund to distribute free emergency contraceptives, condoms and information about abortion to fans.

This is not unfamiliar ground for Rodrigo, who signed on with 160 other entertainers to support Planned Parenthood’s ‘Bans Off Our Bodies’ campaign in May 2022. 

The campaign took out a full-page ad in The New York Times in response to a leaked draft opinion of Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization. One month later, the Supreme Court case overturned Roe v. Wade and rescinded the constitutional right to an abortion in America.

Rodrigo’s distribution of contraceptives at her tour stop came right before Vice President Kamala Harris visited a Planned Parenthood clinic in Minnesota, marking the first time a U.S. vice president or president has been to a clinic that provides abortion.

Yeah, it’s interesting, you know, seeing how you know these, you know pop stars celebrities are pushing back against as you said, you know threats to their reproductive freedoms since the US Supreme Court’s Dobbs decision last year, which of course eliminated Federal abortion protections. You know, we’ve seen you know, emergency contraceptives been being, you know handed out before and I think the it comes down to you know, as we reported, you know, we ran a piece from kff, you know, although emergency contraceptives are illegal in every state some policy makers worry that in states that ban or severely restrict abortion access to emergency contraceptives and other types of birth control May a road because of people failing to distinguish between drugs that prevent pregnancy and medications use for abortions and the requests for these kinds of things have gone up exponentially since doves and people are rightly worried about the

Fronts to their Reproductive Rights. So and then Harris is unprecedented, you know visit to a Planned Parenthood clinic in Minnesota, obviously, you know can file that under that same theme. So it’s it’s become a much more, you know, obviously common talking point on the political front of late and you know as well as in popular culture.

NewYork-Presbyterian collaborated with James Beard Award-winning pastry chef Dominique Ansel to create 3 Lives Bar, a chocolate bar designed to raise awareness of the positive impact of blood donations, noting that one can save up to three lives.

The collaboration also encourages people to donate blood at the New York Blood Center.

From March 23 through March 29, select New York Blood Center locations will have the 3 Lives Bar available for donors, as well as on select days at select mobile unit locations throughout the five boroughs.

“With the 3 Lives Bar, I wanted to create a way to say thank you to New York – our home and community – for coming together to give back in a way that will save lives and encourage others to consider donating,” Ansel said in a statement.

I can say that this is something that mixes two of my passions which is chocolate bars and blood donation specifically with the New York blood center. It’s where I go and donate here on our lovely island of Manhattan and I thought it was just a nice little way to kind of top off here. It’s it’s one of those things where you see a healthcare brand doing something that actually has a tangible impact both in terms of getting more people donate blood, but you also get a candy bar which who doesn’t love

candy bars. It’s a win-win.

Yeah, you know I was kind of reading some of the statistics on the New York Presby site, you know only three percent of the eligible US population actually donates blood and annually, so it’s a minuscule number of people and because blood obviously has a has a limited shelf life these organizations need to you know, maintain a supply you know, and sounds like an interesting collaboration here with a celebrity chef and just chocolate have heart benefits. I’m not sure I’ve always been told the dark chocolate has some health

benefits to it. And that’s the way I justify it to myself when I’m when I’m up late at night just shoveling it into my mouth. So no I encourage anybody. It’s same thing with the Oprah document. I think you can make a double feature out of it. You can watch the Oprah documentary or the prime time special and you can go donate a blood in New York blood center. It’s always in love Supply. I’m on their text list I get phone calls and text all the time about need to go back especially if you’re like me and you have O positive blood or oh negative always in

And fits you just kind of woke up God we have both have O positive that’s not common. So we have we have similar like with all the time in a similar heart issues. We have the same blood type Irish last names to make an appointment. Yeah go with you get some chocolate. Yeah. We’ll bring Mark

you guys blood type is much more in demand than mine. I know I’m not O positive, but

they still want you all the same mark.

Great. Well, and anybody who says, you know milk chocolate. It’s the real chocolate. I disagree exactly what to be said for a dark chocolate.

Especially it has any you know, cardio-protective benefits. We’ll take it.

Definitely.

All right. Well, thanks for those three. Excellent items Jack very intriguing. I thought provoking indeed.

Thanks for joining us on this week’s episode of the MM+M Podcast. Be sure to listen to next week’s episode for the return of Lecia’s health policy update, and we’ll be joined by allergist Dr. Tania Elliott, who will tell us about her decision to become a full-time digital health influencer.