Trial data behind Alzheimer’s disease drug Simufilam questioned

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A New York Times report says the effectiveness of an Alzheimer’s drug from Cassava Sciences is being questioned by experts due to potential problems with some of its clinical trials. Axios and Stat report on cancer drug profit margins in hospitals. The risks of mixing viagra and nitrates, and more, are also in the news.

The New York Times: Scientists question evidence of experimental Alzheimer’s drug

A small biotech company that trumpeted an exciting new treatment for Alzheimer’s disease is now under fire for irregularities in its research results, after several studies linked to its work were retracted or questioned by scientific journals . Cassava Sciences, based in Austin, Texas, announced last summer that its drug, simufilam, improved cognition in Alzheimer’s patients in a small clinical trial, describing it as the first breakthrough of this type in the treatment of the disease. Cassava then launched a broader trial. (Mandavilli, 04/18)

And more on the cost of cancer drugs —

Axios: Massive increase in cancer drugs in hospitals

The prices that private insurers are willing to pay hospitals for cancer drugs are often at least double what the hospital paid to acquire the drugs, according to a new study published in JAMA Internal Medicine. The blame for high drug prices goes far beyond drug manufacturers and is ultimately borne by patients through higher premiums and out-of-pocket payments. Patients usually obtain their prescription drugs from pharmacies or directly from a hospital or doctor’s office. (Owens, 04/19)

Stat: Top cancer hospitals nationwide charge steep markups on drugs, study finds

According to a new study, the nation’s leading cancer hospitals charge commercial health insurers between double and seven times their costs for acquiring cancer drugs. Most major cancer institutions also keep their drug prices secret in direct violation of federal law, potentially exposing themselves to fines. The findings reinforce how cancer care, particularly drugs, generates significant revenue for hospitals, and how markups on drugs potentially put insured cancer patients in financially perilous situations. (Hermann, 04/18)

In other pharma and research news —

NBC News: Viagra and nitrates don’t mix, so how do some men still take both?

As any sports fan knows, thanks to the incessant drumbeat of Viagra and Cialis commercials while playing, mixing erectile dysfunction drugs with nitrates for chest pain can cause a dangerous drop in blood pressure. Most medical guidelines strongly warn men against taking both types of drugs. However, researchers in Denmark and the United States have recently found that a significant number of men nevertheless get overlapping prescriptions for both drug classes. But evidence suggests they don’t seem to suffer any negative health issues, such as heart attacks, as a result. (Ryan, 04/18)

Stat: PETA urges USDA to probe monkey expedition research facilities

A leading animal rights group has called on US authorities to investigate major medical research labs for allegedly breaking federal law after uncovering dozens of cases where nearly 2,000 monkeys were shipped between facilities with no veterinary inspections required. The People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals cited documents obtained from multiple state agencies that indicated no timely inspections took place before or after the monkeys were shipped across state lines. . These documents must be completed no later than 10 days before the delivery of the monkeys. Carriers may only accept monkeys for shipment if they are accompanied by a valid Veterinary Inspection Certificate. (Silverman, 4/18)

Bloomberg: US pandemic health tech boom losing momentum

The wild health technology funding boom that followed Covid-19 is starting to fade. The pandemic has triggered a record wave of investment in new healthcare ventures. Doctors were forced to figure out how to practice online almost overnight, and the devastation of Covid exposed the systemic failures of American healthcare. Entrepreneurs thinking about how to fix them have zoomed in on meetings with VCs looking for places to put their money in a Covid-ravaged economy. Big checks were issued, setting records for investment in digital health. In the United States, investors invested $29 billion in digital health last year, double the 2020 level and more than about $1 billion a decade earlier. (Tozzi, 04/18)

This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news outlets. Sign up for an email subscription.

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