Dispensed: Pharma's plan to go beyond drugs, erectile dysfunction medications for young men, and what privacy you have when you take a genetics test
The healthcare team is waiting in eager anticipation to see what drama unfolds next week at the Congressional hearing between drugmakers and lawmakers about drug prices.But in the meantime, it's been fascinating to follow along with what the Food and Drug Administration's been saying about all those "young blood" companies Erin Brodwin's been keeping close tabs on. Turns out, getting an infusion of blood for the sake of anti-aging properties without evidence can be a risky idea. Go figure.
Also unfolding this week: CVS Health reported earnings, and it was interesting to see that even amid the plans to build a healthcare company of the future, the hear-and-now looks a lot more rocky. CVS did not meet Wall Street's expectations as far as earnings projections for 2019, citing less branded drug price inflation and issues facing its long-term-care pharmacy business Omnicare.
To me, it signaled that picking up Aetna is a strategy to mitigate these headwinds. But getting to that point could lead to a bumpy few years that aren't the immediate success Wall Street might have been looking for.
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Coming out of JPMorgan this year, I was struck by how many times pharmaceutical companies were talking to me about their strategies beyond pills. Novartis, Sanofi, etc. are starting to look at how to integrate technology, whether that be sensors, apps, or a device as a way to push the envelop on what chemistry or biology can do to make us healthier.
Here's a look into why companies are prepping for a future that looks a lot more digital.
Pharma giants like Novartis and Sanofi are betting that the future of healthcare looks more like an app or sensor than a prescription
- Drugmakers that got their start making pills and injections worth billions are turning their attention to digital therapeutics, enabled by new technology.
- Their thinking is that pharmaceuticals can only take us so far, and it's up to drugmakers and potentially technology companies to come together and figure out how to push that envelope.
- For instance, Japanese pharma company Otsuka got approval for a version of an antipsychotic drug embedded with a sensor that can tell doctors if you've taken it. Novartis is working to see how apps could be used to treat conditions like multiple sclerosis alongside medication.
- A lot remains to be seen, including how these combination approaches will get paid for.
By the end, I had learned a lot more about what we can expect out of the health venture (I like to refer to it as JPHathazon) in 2019 as well as why incumbent healthcare companies see JPHathazon as such a big competitive threat.
- A lawsuit is giving us the first hints of how Amazon, Berkshire Hathaway, and JPMorgan are planning to upend the US healthcare system
- Here's why the biggest healthcare company in the US is wary of Amazon, Berkshire Hathaway, and JPMorgan's plans to disrupt healthcare
One you might've missed over the weekend: Erin took a closer look at the privacy around consumer genetics tests like 23andMe and the issues that can arise when you're working with information that's inherently unique to you. My favorite quote from the piece: "You can cancel your credit card. You can't change your DNA."
After you spit into a tube for a DNA test like 23andMe, experts say you shouldn't assume your data will stay private forever
- It may be getting easier to link your private and anonymized DNA data to your identity.
- That means the genetic data you share with a testing company - which may include sensitive health information like your risk of cancer - could one day be matched with your name by an unintended party.
- While some at-home DNA tests like 23andMe have privacy protocols to protect against this, they're not a guarantee, experts say. Other companies have fewer safeguards.
- One key issue is the ability for users to upload their private DNA data to publicly-accessible genetic databases like the one used in the Golden State Killer case.'
Following up on her reporting on the prescribing practices of men's health startup Hims, Emma Court took a closer look at what happens when direct-to-consumer healthcare companies online prescribe medication to men experiencing erectile dysfunction. The condition can be a warning sign of more serious conditions, particularly in younger men.
Hot startups like Hims and Roman are marketing Viagra to young men online, but their approach raises 2 big questions
- New telemedicine companies like Hims and Roman have sprung up, offering online prescriptions for Viagra and other erectile dysfunction medications.
- That erectile dysfunction can be a sign of other, more worrying health problems, particularly in younger men, is well-established among physicians.
- One doctor worries about losing the "window of opportunity" to tackle health problems like heart conditions if men are getting care online rather than in a doctor's office.
- Roman's CEO, a Hims medical consultant and others say that online medical platforms can play an important role in getting men help.
We'll be all over next Tuesday's hearing so stay tuned. In the meantime, thoughts? Tips? Restaurant recommendations for Saturday night down by Michigan Ave. in Chicago (in town for a quick weekend trip)? Find me at firstname.lastname@example.org or the whole team at email@example.com.