The Alliance

The Weekly Dose | 05.08.20

May 8, 2020 10:50 am

A new report by Arnold-funded Institute for Clinical and Economic Review (ICER) spurred speculation that the development of remdesivir for COVID-19 patients could “reignite” Washington’s drug-pricing debate. Perhaps, but here is an important fact to remember: as Vein Therapy News reports, “Gilead is donating remdesivir to the U.S. government for allocation, and it’s pledged to continue giving doses away until its current supply chain is exhausted.”


Arnold-funded groups like Patients for Affordable Drugs (P4AD) and ICER will continue to try to argue drug companies are trying to profit from this pandemic. We tackle that argument in a blog post below, but Gilead’s actions provide additional evidence that P4AD’s arguments are nothing more than false rhetoric meant to scare Americans—and lawmakers—into taking actions that actually would harm the supply of new and innovative drugs available in the United States.


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Patrick O’Connor – Executive Director

Rosemarie Calabro Tully – Communications Director




- We strongly agree with this editorial from a @NationalCenter Senior Fellow in the Akron @beaconjournal: The Trump administration must not abandon an @HHSGov rule that would pass on $1,000 in yearly savings to seniors with #diabetes. Click here to RT.   


- Our favorite quote of the week, in @WSJ: “The U.S. is the world's predominant source of pharmaceutical #innovation, including new cancer drugs, next-generation biopharmaceuticals and tests that determine which patients will benefit from those drugs.” Click here to RT.


- Excellent news coming from Dr. Fauci and @GileadSciences: at least 50% of #coronavirus patients treated with a 5-day dosage of #remdesivir improved – we applaud the amazing work by Gilead. Click here to RT.




Check out and share on Twitter our latest blog posts:


- Myth-Busting Patients For Affordable Drugs. Patients for Affordable Drugs (P4AD) is at it again. In a recent post, the John and Laura Arnold-funded organization attacked companies that are working to develop vaccines and treatments for COVID-19. The P4AD post was filled with falsehoods, and we tackle three of them in a new post of our own. Click here to read the full blog post. Share on Twitter here.


- Biotech Employees Working To Battle COVID-19. The U.S. biopharmaceutical industry employed more than 811,000 individuals in 2017 and supported another 3.2 million U.S. jobs through its varied supply base and from the economic impact stemming from industry and worker spending. We look at how these men and women impact our economy, and are working to meet the challenge of COVID-19. Click here to read the full blog post.


- The Worth Of A Thing Is What It Will Bring. There’s an English proverb that reminds us, “The worth of a thing is what it will bring.” For patients with debilitating or life-threatening diseases, it’s hard to put a “worth” on breakthrough medicines that “bring” them better health. Value assessments are often insufficient. Click here to read the full blog post. Share on Twitter here.




- Could “Old Drugs” Provide New Treatments For COVID-19? Perhaps, says The New York Times’ Carl Zimmer. As he explains: “In the early 1950s, psychiatrists began treating schizophrenia with a new drug called chlorpromazine. Seven decades later, the drug is still used as an anti-psychotic. But now scientists have discovered that the drug, also known as Thorazine, can do something entirely different. It can stop the new coronavirus that causes COVID-19 from invading cells.” According to Zimmer, “Driven by the pandemic’s spread, research teams have been screening thousands of drugs to see if they have this unexpected potential to fight the coronavirus.”


- What Remdesivir Tells Us About The Difficult Path To Drug Discovery. In The Wall Street Journal, John Cogan and George Schultz, senior fellows at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution, explain: “Drug development is fundamentally a process of discovery. … Remdesivir is a case in point. Gilead’s scientists determined more than a decade ago that the drug would be an effective antiviral and tested its effects on various viruses. Research on remdesivir as a treatment for childhood respiratory diseases began in 2010. Though the drug ultimately failed in that purpose, Gilead continued to research its potential. Several years later the company discovered that the drug might work against Ebola. But after several remarkable individual success stories, the drug again failed to live up to its promise. … Despite this setback, Gilead continued its research. … When the novel coronavirus was identified a few months ago, Gilead immediately began working with the FDA, along with other health agencies in the U.S. and worldwide, to expedite human trials of remdesivir. Meanwhile, the FDA approved compassionate-use access to the drug for more than 2,000 gravely ill patients.” Cogan and Schultz warn that if price controls had been in effect over the last decade, “remdesivir likely would not be available today” because Gilead would not have had enough the resources to keep the research and development process going.


- Pediatric Critical Care Physician: Price Controls Would Have Stifled COVID-19 Innovation. In The Columbus Dispatch, Dr. Nicole M. Johnson argues there is a better way to manage patient costs than drug price controls (which, if they had been in effect, would slow the hunt for a COVID-19 cure). She suggests, “[P]olicymakers can reduce drug costs without threatening treatments and vaccines by reforming the drug supply chain, where hundreds of billions of dollars of ‘rebates’ change hands and drive up the list prices of medications. According to SSR Health, a drug pricing research organization, these rebates account for all the drug price increases of recent years.”


- And What Is The Latest On COVID-19 Innovation? According to Reuters, Pfizer and BioNTech have begun delivering doses of their experimental COVID-19 vaccines for initial human testing in the United States. PhRMA, meanwhile, examines why strong intellectual property protections are necessary to find a treatment and vaccine for COVID-19.


- Biotech Startups Struggling Amid Global Pandemic. A good reminder that most drug companies wait a long time to earn any profits. According to STAT News, “The Covid-19 pandemic is taking a harsh toll on small biotech companies, many of which have only enough cash for the next year of operations and expect they will have to reduce the amount of money sought in new financing rounds or delay such efforts altogether, a new survey finds.”


- New Hope For Patients With Hard-To-Treat Type Of Lung Cancer. Reuters reports that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved Novartis’ Tabrecta to treat patients with a MET exon14 skipping-mutated non-small cell lung cancer that has spread to other parts of the body. Tabrecta “is the first approved treatment to specifically target METex14 mutated metastatic non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC), a type of lung cancer with a particularly poor prognosis.”


- Existing Drugs, New Uses? Reuters reports the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved AstraZeneca’s diabetes drug Farxiga as a treatment for heart failure. Reuters also notes, “The approval comes just weeks after AstraZeneca said it was testing Farxiga as a potential treatment for COVID-19 patients with existing heart and kidney problems.”


- Hope For Patients With Anemia? STAT News reports that Akebia Therapeutics has said “its experimental anemia pill achieved the primary efficacy and heart-safety goals in two pivotal Phase 3 clinical trials involving patients with chronic kidney disease requiring dialysis. The oral medicine, called vadadustat, represents a new, more convenient and potentially safer way to treat anemia — a common condition for patients with chronic kidney disease.”




The Wall Street Journal editorial board recently wrote:


“America’s political class, from Bernie Sanders on the left to President Trump, like to denounce drug companies as profiteers and propose price controls. But the U.S. drug patent and market pricing system is proving in the coronavirus pandemic that it is an invaluable national resource—from the rapid tests developed by Abbott Labs to Gilead’s potential treatment, and perhaps eventually a vaccine. Thank heavens the politicians haven’t succeeded, at least not yet, in stifling the innovation that may save millions of lives.”