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STAT Plus: Pharmalittle: Need cheap insulin? Try Craigslist; Trump warned about monopolies on coronavirus treatments




Rise and shine, everyone, another busy day is on the way. We can tell because there are helicopters hovering overhead — a sure sign of frantic doings on a nearby highway — and the short person has quickly left to view a schoolhouse devoted to higher learning. As for us, we are engaging in the usual routine of brewing cups of stimulation in the Pharmalot cafeteria. Oh, before we forget, we have an “oops” moment to confess: Our headline yesterday should have noted price hikes for active ingredients in India, not China. And now, on with the show. Hope your day is smashing and, as always, do keep in touch.

Insulin is routinely being sold through the Craigslist online marketplace for a fraction of its list price, The Philadelphia Inquirer reports, citing a new study. The findings underscore how the high price of insulin is pushing some people to take risks to get the medication. Insulin must be stored at a specific temperature to maintain its effectiveness, and second-hand medications could be less effective. Buying insulin on Craigslist requires no prescription, adding to the danger. Using insulin improperly can lead to coma and even death.

Nearly four dozen lawmakers asked the White House to ensure any treatment for the fast-moving coronavirus that is developed with U.S. taxpayer funds is reasonably priced, STAT writes. They asked federal authorities not to issue an exclusive license to any drug maker that develops a coronavirus treatment over concerns that “providing monopoly rights could result in an expensive medicine that is inaccessible, wasting public resources and putting public health at risk in the U.S. and around the globe.”

The pharmaceutical industry is losing its mojo in Washington, The Wall Street Journal says. Drug makers no longer pack the lobbying punch as in the past, and one sign is something rare in the capital today — a dose of bipartisanship. Sen. Chuck Grassley (R.-Iowa) joined Sen. Ron Wyden (D.-Ore.) to write a bill last July to regulate prescription drug prices, an idea the industry has bottled up since the 1960s. Sen. John Cornyn (R.-Texas) with Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D.-Conn.) sponsored a bill in May to block drug companies from using patent laws to delay lower-priced drugs.

HIV patients in China risk running out of life-saving AIDS drugs because quarantines and lockdowns aimed at containing the coronavirus disease outbreak mean they cannot replenish vital medicine stocks, Reuters says. The United Nations AIDS agency surveyed more than 1,000 people with HIV in China and found that the outbreak of the coronavirus is having a “major impact” on their lives. The outbreak so far infected more than 74,000 people in China, and killed 2,004 of them. Outside China, five deaths and 827 cases have been reported so far.

Several prominent biotech and pharmaceutical executives are openly criticizing a huge price hike for a decades-old medicine and argue that the unexpectedly higher cost is due to the misuse of a federal law designed to encourage drug development for rare diseases, STAT reports. After winning orphan designation and a seven-year monopoly to sell its version of dehydrated alcohol, a decades-old medicine, for use with a specific heart procedure, a small company is charging nearly $10,000 for a pack of 10 vials, up from $1,300, but did not run clinical trials.

A young Canadian woman who was battling cystic fibrosis died after she was unable to receive a Vertex Pharmaceutical (VRTX) drug, CTV News reports. Called Trikafta, the $300,000 per year drug was approved for use in the U.S. last fall and can treat 90% of CF patients, but is not yet available in Canada. Vertex has not applied for approval for use in the country yet, and Health Canada is unable to compel the company to do so. Health Canada approved a request for special access, but Vertex recently rejected the request.

Maine lobsters have long delighted tourists as the state’s most beloved seafood. But one company thinks the crustaceans can save human lives by providing their blood for use in new drugs, the Associated Press tells us. The company working on the lobster blood project, Lobster Unlimited of Orono, is investigating whether lobster blood can be used as a potential weapon against viruses and cancer. Representatives with the company said results are promising — the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office issued them a patent last fall related to their work.

Wisconsin lawmakers unanimously passed a bill aiming to reduce prescription drug costs, WMTV tells us. The bill requires pharmacy benefit managers to register and be licensed by the state and lawmakers hope this bill will help hold them accountable. The bill would also remove a “gag clause” on pharmacists. Under that rule, pharmacists cannot tell patients that they can find a drug at a lower cost if they pay out of pocket instead of through insurance.

A federal appeals court ruled PharMerica must once again face claims it engaged in a scheme to defraud Medicaid by improperly enticing doctors to prescribe an antidepressant made by Merck’s (MRK) Organon unit, Bloomberg News writes. PharMerica argued that claims by whistleblower James Banigan triggered the False Claims Act’s public disclosure bar because they target the same fraudulent scheme revealed in a prior suit. But Banigan satisfies an exception because as a former Organon employee, he has direct knowledge of the alleged scheme.

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