Weekly Roundup 9.18.15

For those of us hungry for it, we had our first taste of autumn. It has been lovely to sleep with windows open. Granted the long shadows appear earlier than they used to and the sun is setting from a new angle. The Farmer’s Markets are selling off the tomatoes and corn and the root vegetables are beginning to appear in greater number. Summer storms have stopped and the leaves will soon grow tired.

But we won’t. Here is a bit of what happened this week:

  • New FDA Commish On the Way? – To the surprise of no one, the White House announced a slew of new appointments this week and among them was the name of the newly proposed FDA Commissioner Dr. Rob Califf. Since March 2015, Dr. Califf has been the Deputy Commissioner for Medical Products and Tobacco at FDA and has came to the agency from the Duke University School of Medicine and the Duke University Medical Center. And he is a former advisory committee member, having served on the FDA Cardiovascular and Renal Drugs Advisory Committee from 1996 until 2000. He has many other accolades, achievements and qualifications for the job which you can read here. The appointment gets him part of the way there, the next hurdle will be confirmation by the Senate.
  • FDA Blocks Sale of New Ciggies - The agency announced this week that it had issued orders to block the further sale and distribution of four brands of cigarettes being marketed by R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company. According to the FDA release, the four products entered the market under a provisional period where the company had to submit an application outlining substantial equivalence of the product to an existing, valid “predicate” product. In examining the applications, the agency found differences existed between the products and their predicates that made them not substantially equivalent and therefore issued the orders.
  • Fast Trackers and Breakthroughs - Two notable fast track status updates, both on the same day. Mapp Biopharma announced that the company had received fast track status from FDA for ZMapp™, an investigational compound being researched in relation to treating Ebola. Also Can-Fite Biopharma announced fast track status had been granted to CF-102 being studied as second-line treatment of hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC). Both drugs had already received orphan designation. Additionally this week breakthrough therapy status was given to BMS’ Opdivo being considered for the potential indication of treating advanced or metastatic renal cell carcinoma (RCC). Need a brush up on the different status designations of Fast Track, Breakthrough, Priority Review and Accelerated Approval?  Then click here.
  • New Approval in Schizophrenia and Bipolar – Vraylar™ (cariprazine) capsules received FDA approval this week in the treatment of schizophrenia and bipolar disorder in adults, the agency announced. As with all other FDA-approved drugs to treat these conditions the label will carry a Boxed Warning. The company press release can be found here.

That’s it for me this week folks. Have a wonderful weekend.

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Then and Now – Shutdown Showdown

The last time we faced a government shut down, there were some advance communications on how various government agencies were going to be operating during the “event”. Last time, the executive brand had issued a memorandum on September 17, this time there seems to be less information about what may happen or what may not. Perhaps we are still too far out from the time or perhaps we are just getting used to it.
But in any case, it seemed like it might be a good idea to begin thinking about some of the things. What did FDA do last time?

Here are a few things to note:

  • Back in 2013 (and even in 2011), the answers ahead of time were not so black and white. There was a lot of gray area. Prepare for the same this time, even based on past experience.
  • FDA had to furlough thousands of employees and had a page set up to answer employee questions. Presumably that information will be similar for this time.
  • There was some thinking last time that while the government had indicated that only essential operations would continue during the shutdown, that some FDA activities funded by user fees might occur – such as advisory committees. It should be noted, however, that some advisory committees were postponed due to the shutdown. As of right now, there is only 1 Advisory Committee meeting and it is not scheduled until October 23 (last time there were nine meetings scheduled for October – leading one to wonder if schedulers are on to something).
  • A question raised last time was whether or not approvals and PDUFA dates would be affected - but there are press releases announcing approvals in the files that were released during that time and the media office was staffed by an individual and the agency did note that where carryover user fee funds were not available during the shutdown, that existing dates would be extended by the number of days of the shutdown.
  • Food and drug inspections might not carry forward during a shutdown.

Anyone interested on catching up on what the impact was of the last shutdown can find some reading here “Impacts and Costs of the October 2013 Government Shutdown”. Among the FDA related impacts were:

  • 500 delayed food and feed domestic inspections and 355 safety inspections under state contracts
  • delay in the approval of drugs and devices – noting in particular an inability of FDA to accept applications for approval
  • inability of FDA to answer consumer questions about regulated products

Hopefully the lack of advance word is indicative of a non-event.

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Weekly Roundup 9.11.15

Today we remember those lost, honor those living who were there to help and dedicate ourselves to a goal of peace.

Here is a bit of what happened this past week that I thought noteworthy:

  • NIH Announces Landmark Blood Pressure Study - A study that is sure to spark conversations and new scripts for blood pressure medication was released this week by NIH. The importance of the study – called SPRINT – lay in the fact that it would appear that more aggressive control over blood pressure levels might result in better outcomes for patients, particularly those over 50. Hypertension, a very common condition, is known to have several ill effects on the body. Looking at the systolic figure, when the SPRINT study was designed, the standard for control was 140 in healthy adults and 130 in those with kidney disease. The study suggests a target of 120 or less brings added health benefits.
  • FDA Advances Food Safety Measures – And speaking of landmark, FDA announced this week that it was taking “one of the most significant steps in decades” in food safety by finalizing the first two of seven major rules under the Food Safety Modernization Act. The effort is aimed at prevention and according to the agency will result in holding imported food to the same safety standards as food that is produced domestically and develops a nationally integrated food safety partnership between the federal government and states. The ultimate goal is to work to prevent outbreaks rather than be in a position of responding to an outbreak once it has occurred. The announcement states that the action will affect both human and animal food.
  • FDA to Look at Hormonal Contraception Drug Interactions - The agency announced the scheduling of a public meeting to be held November 9, 2015 at the FDA White Oak Campus site entitled “Drug Interactions with Hormonal Contraceptives: Public Health and Drug Development Implications”. FDA states that the goal of the meeting is to gain input on the public health concerns associated with the use of horomonal contraceptives and interacting drugs. People interested in attending the meeting in person or via Internet are directed by FDA to register by October 9. The docket for comments will be open until December 15.

That’s it for this week. Have a good weekend everyone.

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More on Twitter and Pharma

Before breaking for summer vacation, I had posted about the increase in Twitter followers among pharma companies this year over last and noted that the overall number of Twitter followers of pharma feeds had increase significantly. That was true despite the fact that we did not see a huge increase in the number of pharmas with Twitter feeds, meaning that the ranks of existing feeds grew considerably.

The numbers come from a database that contains all of the social media activity by pharma and device companies of which I and my colleagues have become aware over the years. We add to the database as we note new activity and each entry is classified by type and we track the number of followers, KLOUT scores, country of origin and frequency of updates.

Every year, we update the profiles with the specifics (no small task).  My first posting about Twitter solely focused on the overall numbers of followers for pharma as a sector. Today, we’ll look at that with a bit more detail.

  • The highest number of followers by a pharma has increased significantly – In the 2014 census which ended in the Fall of that year, the largest number of followers for any pharma Twitter feed went to @Pfizer which had 108,000 followers. In the most recent census @TeamNovoNordisk clocked in with 183,000.
  • KLOUT Score – As a demonstration that number of followers do not automatically mean the highest KLOUT score, in 2014, the highest KLOUT score that a company had was 83 (@AstraZeneca) but in the latest census, it had risen to a highly respectable 88 (@GSK).
  • Regularity of Postings – The number of companies that posted daily increased from 54 to 66, however the number of social media properties that were classified as inactive or dormant also increased from 83 to 121.
  • Country of Origin – Here there was little change – both years about 44 percent of the Twitter feeds were U.S. based – the rest came from outside the U.S.

The types of Twitter feeds varied a great deal. The fields tracked include corporate, career (recruitment), product specific, disease awareness, campaign and advocacy – with corporate being by far and wide the most common and product specific being among the least common.

In sum, the number of feeds has not increased dramatically, but it would seem that companies that are engaging are doing so more effectively, increasing not only the number of followers by quite a bit, but improving their KLOUT scores as well. In other words, among those pharma companies using Twitter, they are getting better at it. While on the other end of things, there is also an increase in abandoned properties (not a good idea) which suggests that the interest in pharma and Twitter has become more concentrated among a group of feeds rather than spread out.

Note:  After publication, an error was discovered and corrected. Originally @Pfizer_News was named as the feed with the most followers in the prior year, but it was actually @Pfizer. The text was corrected to reflect this.

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Weekly Roundup 9.4.15

I missed the Weekly Roundup last week while on vacay and took this week off from blogging because let’s face it, everyone is gone. We are at that special cusp when the calendar really does coincide with a noticeable change in the environment. September – just before the chill comes – the growing season is tired. You can see it in the leaves, brown and curling at the edges. They are anxious to turn colors and fall off. Everything has an overly dry look. The season is a bit tired. Soon the barbeque grill will be left in favor of the fireplace. Sweaters will come out. Linens will go away.

In spite of the fact that the nation is away, a few interesting things did happen these past few weeks and here they are.

  • Kardashian Reposts On Morning Sickness – Everyone is aware of the hoopla that resulted when a spokesperson for a morning sickness medication, Kim Kardashian, posted on Instagram commentary about the morning sickeness drug DICLEGIS which got FDA’s attention and response in the form of a warning letter due to the lack of risk information in the posting.  FDA provided a link to images of the original material here. This past week, there was a re-posting of the material, this time with risk information included.
  • Caffeine Warnings - FDA issued a round of Warning Letters dated August 27 to supplement manufacturers over the marketing of powdered caffeine products. The packaging of the product was such that consumers were many times instructed to measure out very small amounts of the powder (e.g., 1/14th of a teaspoon) which would require the use of equipment not often found in the possession of a typical consumer.  FDA points out that an entire teaspoon of the powdered product could have harmful effects as it would offer the equivalent of 28 cups of coffee.
  • E&C Letter to FDA on Blood Thinner Warfarin – Congress may be on recess, but a letter went out this week from the House Energy and Commerce Committee to Acting FDA Commissioner Dr. Stephen Ostroff following a report on adverse events often experienced in association with the use of the drug in nursing homes. Recognizing the fact that FDA did not have jurisdiction over nursing homes, the committee was nevertheless seeking to understand FDA’s awareness of the issue and whether or not any steps could be taken to mitigate the adverse events.

Enjoy the last “summer” weekend. We will be back next week and I will be providing some more updates on the database of pharma use of social media. Until then, take care.

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