03 September 2022 |

Outside the Huddle 9/4/22

By workweek

1) Dropping the Ball

Insuretech company Oscar Health lost a contract with insurance company Health First after failing to implement their product +Oscar on time. The deal would have brought in $60 million in revenue this year. Oscar Health has been posting consistent losses recently, but revenue and membership growth have rapidly increased, and their outlook still seems quite strong.

2) A Wearable for Migraines

Theranica scored $45 million in Series C funding last week. Their product, Nerivio, is an armband that aims to tackle migraines with electrical pulsations. Migraines affect a significant portion of the population, yet standard treatments don’t work for everyone, so innovations like this can be a game changer. Check out my previous article on therapeutics for migraine.

3) Setting Expectations

Americans die younger than those in peer nations, no matter their state. The Commonwealth Fund breaks down the numbers, comparing the U.S. to other similar nations. For example, in 2019, the U.S. life expectancy was 78.8 years compared to 84 or higher in Japan, Spain and Switzerland. These numbers are quite disgraceful and an embarrassment for the U.S., given nearly 20% of the country’s GDP is spent on healthcare, significantly higher than any other country.

4) Sanofi wins FDA approval

Sanofi won FDA approval for a medication that treats a rare disease known as acid sphingomyelinase deficiency (ASMD), or Niemann-Pick disease, which affects 1 in 250,000 individuals. Sanofi bet big on this drug through its $20.1 billion acquisition of the developer Genzyme in 2011. Like most drugs for rare diseases, it won’t come cheap—the drug will cost around $643,000 per year.

5) Monkeypox Vaccine Concerns

A (not yet peer-reviewed) study released this week raises concern that the monkeypox vaccine (including Jynneos) resulted in lower antibody levels than those exposed to the actual virus or who were smallpox vaccinated in the past. As was emphasized during the Covid-19 vaccine conversation, immunity is related to many factors beyond the number of circulating antibodies, so the significance of these findings remains to be seen.

6) Novo Nordisk Bets Big on Sickle Cell

Drug maker Novo Nordisk will acquire Forma Therapeutics for $1.1 billion, giving them access to Forma’s late-stage experimental drug for sickle cell disease. The drug, Etavopivat, works by turning on an enzyme that allows red blood cells to carry more oxygen, consequently reducing sickle cell pain crisis episodes.

7) New Omicron Booster

The FDA approved Pfizer and Moderna’s bivalent omicron booster shot. The vaccine targets the dominant BA.5 omicron subvariant and the original Covid-19 strain, making it the first updated Covid-19 vaccine. I wrote about this new booster last week, where I discuss the vaccine’s efficacy, who the winners are and what we should expect next. You can read it here.

8) Telehealth Benefits Opioid Use Disorder Treatment

Telehealth reduced the risk of overdose and increased the use of medication-assisted treatment for patients with opioid use disorder during the pandemic. The study is yet another reason telehealth advocates are pushing CMS to extend telehealth flexibilities established during the pandemic.