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5 Things From the 36th Annual JP Morgan Healthcare Conference

Kelly Davio
This week, the investors and analysts turned their attention to presentations by business leaders at the 36th Annual JP Morgan Healthcare Conference, held in San Francisco, California. Executives from the pharmaceutical and healthcare worlds showcased their products, pipelines, and visions for the future.
This week, the investors and analysts turned their attention to presentations by business leaders at the 36th Annual J.P. Morgan Healthcare Conference, held in San Francisco, California. Executives from the pharmaceutical and healthcare worlds showcased their products, pipelines, and visions for the future.

1. More biosimilars are on the horizon

Drug developer Amgen, which has already secured FDA approvals for its biosimilars of blockbuster drugs Humira and Avastin, reported that it is in phase 3 development of biosimilars for Remicade and Rituxan. Amgen is also undertaking phase 1 development of a biosimilar of Soliris, a biologic that can come with a price tag as high as $500,000 per patient per year.

Rajiv Malik, president of Mylan, hinted that his company’s biosimilar of the neutropenia drug Neulasta could be approved by the FDA as early as the middle of 2018, while Coherus’ CEO, Dennis Lanfear, said that Coherus’ version of Neulasta could be approved by the third quarter of the year.  

2. The wave of oncoming biosimilars can help make room for high-cost therapies

Tim Wentworth, president and CEO of Express Scripts, predicted during his company’s presentation that a shift toward biosimilars will be just as important as the move toward generics in the 2000s. Because of their lower costs, biosimilars can produce savings that payers can apply to more expensive therapies, including Sparks Therapeutics’ Luxturna, an $850,000 gene therapy that treats a rare condition that can cause blindness.

“The Sparks product has 2200 patients—we have to figure out how to pay for it,” Wentworth said. “Biosimilars have the key to unlocking that.”

3. Treatments for inflammatory diseases are evolving

Even as drug developers and payers look for cheaper alternatives to brand-name biologics like Humira, the treatment of inflammatory diseases appears to be shifting away from such older biologics and toward therapies with new methods of action. Drug maker AbbVie expects that its orally administered Janus kinase (JAK) inhibitor drug upadacitinib could launched in 6 inflammatory indications by 2022, beginning with an indication in rheumatoid arthritis in 2019. Similarly, AbbVie’s risankizumab, which targets inleukin-23, is expected to launch in 4 indications by 2023, beginning with an indication in psoriatic arthritis in 2019. Pfizer reports that 2 of its JAK inhibitors—1 intended to treat atopic dermatitis and the other to treat alopecia and vitiligo—could be approved by 2020.

4. New treatments for diabetes are also in the pipeline

Olivier Brandicourt, CEO of Sanofi, highlighted his company’s work on sotagliflozin for the treatment of type 1 and type 2 diabetes. The company sees sotagliflozin as highly promising based on positive data showing weight reduction, improved time in range in type 1 diabetes, strong glycated hemoglobin reduction, and reduction in the number postprandial glucose excursions, with no increase in hypoglycemia.

5. The private sector has a key role to play in healthcare research

Bill Gates, co-founder of Microsoft and co-chair and trustee of The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, said during his keynote speech on the conference’s opening day that the private sector has the skills and knowledge to turn big ideas into viable products. “And, frankly, the private sector has much to gain from pursuing breakthroughs in global health,” Gates said, highlighting the fact that growing populations in Asia and Africa will become “…by far, the largest patient pools in the world” in the years ahead.

 
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