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Healthcare top concern of US voters; fewer drug price hikes in early 2020


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Healthcare top concern of US voters; fewer drug price hikes in early 2020

Top news

* Healthcare remains a top concern for American voters ahead of the November U.S. elections, ranking above the economy, immigration, taxes, gun control and other issues, according to a new poll. The survey from the Bipartisan Policy Center and Morning Consult found that 56% of responders said healthcare would be the most important issue they consider when voting.

The survey showed that healthcare is likely to be "a defining issue" overall in the 2020 elections, though the results varied by political affiliation, Caroline Bye, managing director of Morning Consult, noted during a Jan. 8 forum in Washington hosted by the Bipartisan Policy Center.

* The pharmaceutical industry continued its tradition of annual price increases in January amid political pressure to regulate such practices, although experts and analysts said those increases are trending lower compared to prior years. Morgan Stanley Research analysts tracked 1,267 price increases Jan. 1, using a Medispan database — there were 1,422 increases on that day in 2019.

Washington University Associate Professor of Law Rachel Sachs said in an interview that the collective January increases protect the pharmaceutical industry from focused attention. Those with the most meaningful drug price increases on the first day of the year, according to Morgan Stanley, were Pfizer Inc., Boehringer Ingelheim GmbH, Gilead Sciences Inc., Bayer AG, Sanofi and GlaxoSmithKline PLC.

* The mysterious pneumonia illness in China may have been caused by a new virus that belongs to the same family of viruses as severe acute respiratory syndrome, or SARS, and Middle East respiratory syndrome, also known as MERS, Reuters reported, citing a statement from the World Health Organization.

A report from state-run Xinhua News Agency said preliminary laboratory results detected a new type of coronavirus that was behind the outbreak in China's Wuhan city — one that is different from known human coronavirus species.

* Paris-based Sanofi said its business net income for the fourth quarter of 2019 totaled €1.36 billion, or €1.10 per share. The French drugmaker also generated consolidated sales of €9 billion during the quarter.

* Bristol-Myers Squibb Co. and Sanofi filed a countersuit against Hawaii over an $8 billion case regarding the alleged misleading marketing of Plavix, the companies' drug used to prevent blood clots after a heart attack, Bloomberg News reported. In their lawsuit, the pharmaceutical companies claim that Hawaii's request of "unnecessary" warning labels is infringing on their right to freedom of speech.

Hawaii's case accused the drugmakers of failure to warn the public of Plavix's risks since some consumers, particularly those of Asian or Pacific-Island decent, do not properly metabolize the drug due to a genetic trait, exposing them to potential gastrointestinal bleeding.

* In the latest edition of S&P Global Market Intelligence's blog Of Mice Not Men: Scientists found that a combination of multiple antibodies improved tumor destruction in mice, researchers restored strength and function to cardiac muscles in fruit flies, and German scientists are identifying and counting regenerated neurons in zebrafish.

* The U.S. Supreme Court may decide to hear as soon as Jan. 10 an appeal by Quest Diagnostics Inc. unit Athena Diagnostics to review a ruling that said the company's patent for a test to detect an autoimmune disease was merely covered by law of nature — a decision that has stirred up confusion in the diagnostics field, Bloomberg News reported.

On the policy front

* Senate Finance Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, wants President Donald Trump to do more to urge Republicans to back a bipartisan bill aimed at lowering prescription medicine costs for Medicare beneficiaries. "The White House is fully behind our bill, but we need the president speaking up more," Grassley told reporters on Jan. 8 about the legislation, which was adopted by the committee in July 2019.

M&A and capital markets

* AbbVie Inc. will create a new business unit named Allergan Aesthetics following its $84.2 billion acquisition of Irish pharmaceutical giant Allergan PLC. Allergan Aesthetics, to be based in Irvine, Calif., will include aesthetic products such as Botox Cosmetic, dermal fillers collection Juvederm and body-contouring treatment Coolsculpting.

Drug and product pipeline

* Merck & Co. Inc. blockbuster drug Keytruda was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for treating high-risk, non-muscle invasive bladder cancer that has carcinoma in situ — a group of abnormal cells — and may or may not have papillary tumors. The new indication is for patients whose disease is unresponsive to the immunotherapy known as Bacillus Calmette-Guerin and are also ineligible for or decided not to undergo surgery to remove their bladder.

* The FDA approved Astellas Pharma Inc.'s Mycamine to treat children younger than 4 months of age with fungal infections including candidemia, acute disseminated candidiasis, candida peritonitis and abscesses without meningoencephalitis and/or ocular dissemination.

* Applied Therapeutics Inc. said a mid-stage study dubbed Action-Galactosemia showed that its investigational medicine AT-007 was better than placebo in treating galactosemia, a disorder characterized by the inability to break down the simple sugar known as galactose.

Operational activity

* Gilead Sciences Inc. agreed to acquire a license to access Xencor Inc.'s Xtend and Cytotoxic XmAb technologies for developing and commercializing its experimental HIV infection treatment GS-9722. Financial details of the deal were not disclosed.

* Mylan NV initiated a voluntary recall of three lots of its nizatidine capsules in the U.S. market after detecting traces of a potentially cancer-causing substance called N-Nitrosodimethylamine, or NDMA. Nizatidine is used to treat ulcers of the stomach and intestines.

* Private generic pharmaceutical company Appco Pharma LLC voluntarily recalled all lots of its ranitidine hydrochloride capsules in the U.S. market due to high levels of NDMA.

* Norway's Targovax ASA granted IOVaxis Therapeutics an exclusive option to develop and license TG01 and TG02 — investigational vaccines that target RAS mutations in cancer — in China, Hong Kong, Macau and Singapore.

* Immunic Inc. said its Immunic AG unit exercised an exclusive option to license IMU-856, a group of compounds, from Japan's Daiichi Sankyo Co. Ltd. Immunic intends to conduct early-stage studies of IMU-856 in the first half.

The day ahead

Early morning futures indicators pointed to a higher opening for the U.S. market.

In Asia, the Hang Seng increased by 1.68% to 28,561.00, while the Nikkei 225 was up 2.31% to 23,739.87.

In Europe, around midday, the FTSE 100 increased by 0.55% to 7,616.24, and the Euronext 100 increased by 0.49% to 1,161.09.

Click here to read about today's financial markets, setting out the factors driving stocks, bonds and currencies around the world ahead of the New York open.

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