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Pharma giants face off at 2019 ASCO meeting; child enrollment in Medicaid drops

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Pharma giants face off at 2019 ASCO meeting; child enrollment in Medicaid drops

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Merck & Co. presents more clinical trial data on blockbuster immunotherapy drug Keytruda at the 2019 Annual Meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology.

Source: Merck & Co. Inc.

Merck & Co. Inc.'s Keytruda and Bristol-Myers Squibb Co.'s Opdivo are locked in a five-year battle for dominance of the cancer market.

At the 2019 Annual Meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology that ran from May 31 to June 4, the two pharma giants presented the latest research from their ongoing efforts to discover what their respective drugs can do in the cancer sector.

Both drugs have racked up U.S. Food and Drug Administration nods since their original approvals in 2014. Keytruda holds the lead with approval in the U.S. for 19 separate indications — including expanded and combination treatments — while Opdivo has 15.

Keytruda's drastic lead has come about only recently: Since August 2018, Keytruda has picked up seven new uses in cancer, while Opdivo has been stagnant on the regulatory front.

Both immuno-oncology drugs work by triggering the immune system to attack cancer cells by inhibiting the PD-1 arm of healthy cells, which in turn prevents the corresponding PD-L1 arm of cancer cells from latching to the healthy cells. They are called immune checkpoint inhibitors.

Lung cancer has been a mainstay for both treatments, with Keytruda holding the edge, but at ASCO, a wide array of clinical trial results were highlighted. Our reporter previews the stakes for both pharma giants.

Story: Merck and Bristol-Myers face off at ASCO meeting

Chart of the week

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Must read

Child enrollment in Medicaid programs sees largest drop since 2000, study finds

Child enrollment in Medicaid programs dropped by 828,129 in 2018, the highest year-over-year decline in enrollment since at least 2000, according to a new study from Georgetown University's Center for Children and Families.

Technology disruption in healthcare to put more power in consumer's hands

Deloitte Life Sciences and Healthcare Strategy Principal Neal Batra discussed disruptions to the pharmaceutical business model and the democratization of healthcare through technology and data.

Physician burnout costing US economy $4.6B annually, study finds

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In Of Mice Not Men this week, we explore a possible link between
scratching the skin and food allergies, and other preclinical
medical studies on Down syndrome and depression.
Source: File photo

Of Mice not Men: An itchy chain reaction; Down syndrome genes; ketamine and depression

Researchers have discovered a possible link between scratching the skin and food allergies, scientists believe targeting a gene could usher in a new Down syndrome treatment, and ketamine could keep depression symptoms from coming back.

Novartis' gene therapy for rare infant disease to compete with Biogen's Spinraza

Another win for gene therapy with the approval of Novartis AG's spinal muscular atrophy treatment Zolgensma will likely pose a threat to the disease's only other approved treatment, Biogen Inc.'s Spinraza, but carries a hefty price tag.

In other news

Health Canada bans certain Allergan breast implants due to cancer risk

Canada's public health regulator has banned Allergan PLC's Biocell breast implants after a safety review found an increased risk of cancer in patients who have the implants.

Pfizer's Lyrica fails to reduce seizure frequency in late-stage study

Pfizer Inc. said its drug Lyrica failed to reduce the frequency of seizures in certain epilepsy patients during a late-stage study.

WeDoctor plans pre-IPO placement, estimates entity value at $10B

Tencent Holdings Ltd.-backed We Doctor Holdings Ltd. will arrange a pre-IPO placement for the entire unit before the end of this year, co-founder Zhang Xiaochun told S&P Global Market Intelligence.

BioMarin's gene therapy for hemophilia reduced bleeding by 96% over 3 years

BioMarin Pharmaceutical Inc. provided three-year data on the performance of its gene therapy treatment for severe hemophilia A, which demonstrated a 96% reduction in bleeding over the time period and continued to improve factor VIII levels in patients.

Mallinckrodt to spin off specialty generics unit, rename specialty brands group

Mallinckrodt PLC is spinning off its specialty generics and active pharmaceutical ingredients business to its shareholders.

Essential Healthcare is a weekly collection of critical developments across the pharmaceutical, biotechnology, healthcare provider, healthcare technology and medical equipment industries that draws on exclusive analysis and value-added content from the Healthcare News team at S&P Global Market Intelligence. Subscribe now to get Essential Healthcare delivered to your inbox every week.