TS Picks: September 8, 2015

Pharma edition

Sep 8, 2015
Jef Akst

FLICKR, E-MAGINE ART

Selections from The Scientist’s reading list:

  • Swapping out some of the hydrogen atoms in existing drugs with heavier deuterium molecules could lead to drugs that resist metabolic clearance, staying in the body for longer. This is the hope of several biotechs currently developing such “deuterated” pharmaceuticals, the first of which is currently under review by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), The Economist reported last week (September 3).

  • Last week (September 3), Novartis announced that it will soon market a biosimilar drug called Zarxio, comparable to Amgen’s Neupogen for neutropenia, or loss of white blood cells caused by cancer or a bone marrow transplant. The copycat drug will cost 15 percent less than Neupogen. “Zarxio’s launch will mark the first commercial offering of a biosimilar in the U.S.,” The Wall Street Journal reported. “[B]iosimilars will change the competitive landscape.”

  • Economist Andrew Lo of MIT and his student Vahid Montazerhodjat last month (August 19) published a working paper evaluating the FDA’s approach to drug approvals. Their analysis suggested that, for serious illnesses, the agency may be too risk-averse. “[D]o you really want to be as stringent in those cases where patients are going to die anyway?” Lo told The Washington Post. “You’d take a bigger chance of making a mistake.” (Hat tip: FiveThirtyEight)