In this MM+M Fast Break, Jack O’Brien talks with Brian Quigley, CEO of Qnovia, about the implications of the Biden administration’s delay on menthol cigarette ban, why the White House made the decision and what comes next for the pharmaceutical sector.

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[00:00] Hi there. This is Jack O’Brien with an MM+M Fast Break. [00:08] I am pleased to be joined today by Brian Quigley the CEO of Qnovia. Brian how you doing. [00:14] I’m great how you doing Jack [00:15] I’m doing awesome like I said offline you were when I saw the news come down about the vitamin strengthens. [00:26] A month or two ago when it was still what are they going to do is the ban actually going to go into effect or they got punt on it? [00:32] That’s exactly was happening now. Can you kind of give us from your perspective what the announcement was from the white house and what that means on a practical basis? [00:39] Yeah sure, so you know I’m not a DC Insider but the announcement really was that the administration is going to delay. It’s effort to implement the mental band. [00:50] So, I think a lot of the headlines, are you know saying hey they’re giving up. [00:54] And I think the reality is is. [00:57] You know this may be a function of timing. [01:00] And and the the public response was really around. [01:04] All the overwhelming feedback because it is really a complicated issue. [01:08] Given mental cigarettes or predominantly used by african-american smokers and it is a health equity issue. [01:14] Um you know on both sides of the discussion. [01:17] That’s really where the arguments had been really pointed so [01:20] really what it is is a delay and and from from my perspective. [01:25] I think again the solution here is because obviously anything that we can do to end the death of disease caused by combustible cigarettes is good for public health. [01:33] And obviously a mental band would advance that but you know one of the things that could deal with the argument. [01:39] Is if there were more effective ways to help? [01:42] mental smokers and all smokers quit effectively [01:45] Then a band would not have some of the potential repercussions that the industry and others are pointing to and I want to get into that because obviously that’s where you and your organization come in but from your perspective. [01:56] With this being delayed is this something that we probably won’t see revisit until after the election whether we see buying re-elected or trump elected in November is it something that it’s like okay. There’s something we probably revisit in 25. There’s not going to be a lot of other action on that front. [02:10] You know it’s a great question and you know I can’t predict with the crystal ball. You know how how the political. [02:17] environment will impact how this issue continues, but I think it’s [02:22] it’s well known over over time that. [02:24] You know changes and power and the White House definitely affect issues especially around things like. [02:30] You know tobacco control. [02:31] And I think the Republican in the White House definitely I think would change the tenner. [02:38] so [02:39] I think probably one of the distinctions here is. [02:43] given [02:44] industry would put up a really big fight on this is I think it’s a function of as this something that. [02:50] an incumbent democratic incumbent wants to take on [02:54] and Fight this fight right now. [02:56] Vs. Let’s get into office and then let’s let’s bring it back. [03:00] And I’m curious from your perspective too what you would say to maybe some people that were disappointed by the news because obviously there were a lot of people that said good. I’m glad that this has been delayed or at least we’re going to have more conversation around it, but there are a lot of people too. They’re saying. [03:11] We have to do more in terms of being able to address. [03:14] You know the the health equity side of things but we also have to be able to reduce the amount of combustible cigarettes out there. What do you say to people that are like? [03:21] This is not what I want to see the Biden administration do. [03:25] You know I see the frustration really. [03:28] Because there’s no doubt about it. You know I think. [03:31] The the current data is probably around 7 out of 10 mental smokers are African American right and and cigarettes. [03:38] You know are the most deadly consumer product available. [03:42] You know in the world today. [03:44] and [03:46] the argument that gets put forward is if you take away mental cigarettes, what will happen to those? [03:53] to those consumers [03:54] well, they buy you know products on the black market will. [03:59] What other types of issues with that lead to you in terms of law enforcement and you know I think there was a famous case in New York City a horrible situation. [04:08] Where in African American gentlemen was was buying? [04:13] I think you know cigarettes that were being you know pushed into the state at a lower price and they weren’t paying the state exercise taxes. [04:20] that [04:21] individual deed in an altercation with the police. I think it’s situations like that that people point to a little bit what’s going to happen. [04:28] You know to this smokers of these products of all the sudden their band. [04:31] But I think the thing that we also. [04:33] Forget is well. [04:35] People will die by using these products and I think to the to the folks who are saying well. This is a real letdown the real question is. [04:43] What are we going to do? [04:45] to help smokers in this case mental smoker’s [04:48] Who are predominantly african-american? [04:51] be more successful quitting [04:52] and and that’s not just you know. [04:57] You know making you know other reduced products available to them but. [05:01] The overwhelming majority of smokers want to quit and I think the shortcoming here. [05:05] from the administration is if you’re going to [05:09] pursue a mental band you need to Double Down [05:13] in driving innovation on new medicines and treatment and tools for those smokers, so they can quit that’s how we achieve the public health goal and actually I think that. [05:22] You know that’s what isn’t happening and that’s what needs to happen to create the framework where. [05:29] A mental band can happen and we don’t have to worry about unattended consequences because the truth is. [05:34] The majority of smokers do want to stop smoking all together and don’t want to be addicted anymore. [05:40] And so where is that bring you and your organization bell so your competitors in the space? [05:45] into this sort of conversation because it’s obviously saying okay, we’re going to try and get rid of this one side of the equation whether it’s [05:50] you know this year next year in the years to come but then obviously you’re saying we have to have other products there. [05:55] To meet those needs where does qnb account come into this? Yeah, I mean we’re where we play is you know on the medicinal side. I mean as I’ve mentioned in the past and briefly today. [06:05] The reduced risk products that are regulated by senator tobacco products are available. [06:11] For smokers to use nicotine containing consumer products that are less harmful than a cigarette those are an important part of the equation. [06:18] But the equally part important part of the equation that gets left behind. [06:22] is [06:23] the development and the need for new medicines and treatments, so you know we’re developing a [06:28] product and advancing through Cedar which is the drug [06:31] side of FDA [06:34] And inhaled prescription smoking cessation therapy. [06:37] Which ultimately with approval would be a new tool that would really help? [06:42] Smokers who want to quit or successfully be more effective because today. [06:46] The number one way people try to quit remains cold turkey. [06:50] which is [06:51] Absolutely mind-boggling and the fact is the medicines that are available. [06:55] To help smokeless quit are now 20 to 30 plus years old. [06:59] so, I think we can do more from a [07:02] medicinal perspective to improve the standard of care [07:05] while still bringing forward safe and effective medicines can help smokers quit [07:10] are you optimistic? That’s something that we could see start to proliferate and say the next few years. I mean obviously it’s also kind of balanced to whether or not we’re going to see these. [07:17] Cigarettes come off the market, what is your sense in terms of maybe near term progress on this front? [07:21] Well, I mean. [07:23] The near term progress we can hope for is that more companies like you know via our focused on doing the hard scientific work. [07:30] to prove [07:31] to the center for drug evaluation and research at FDA [07:35] that these new pharmacotherapies are safe and effective. I think we believe they are. [07:40] You know I think the challenges. [07:42] You know FDA takes a very conservative view. [07:45] of nicotine replacement therapies that’s what our product is where your [07:50] using nicotine as a drug and and and prescribed in a step down. [07:56] Therapy to help people alleviate their cravings and openly wean themselves off of nicotine. So they’re very conservative. I think I think the best we can hope for the near term is there’s [08:05] more innovation from industry, which today there is not a lot of [08:09] and the second thing we could look for is. [08:11] you know signs from FDA and HHS [08:15] that they are going to [08:18] provide you know clear incentive to industry to innovate in the space. I mean interestingly. [08:24] commissioner Caleb [08:25] of FDA in a white house event for the Cancer moonshot initiative [08:31] last summer [08:32] he openly said that there’s not enough innovation going on in the development of new therapies for smokers who want to quit. [08:39] And and that needs to change and I think FDA needs to play role in that. [08:43] It’ll be certainly interesting to see how everything evolves from here Brian I appreciate you hopping on me being able to have this conversation. Is there anything else that are listeners should keep in mind as they start to see things play out like you said it could be something that we don’t see until after the election in November but maybe just something to keep in mind. [08:58] As they see all these conversations play out in the public square. [09:02] Well, you know I think that on the issue of you know. [09:06] Ending the death and disease caused by combustible products. [09:09] A delay does not mean. I think a lack of Focus it sure it it feels like we’re moving the goal post and kicking the can down the road. [09:18] But the fact is with almost 500,000 people in this country dying every year from combustible cigarettes more needs to be done. [09:26] Very true words they’re Brian thank you again for being on the show we really appreciate it. [09:30] Thanks Jack