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Pharma Grapevine: Puppetry, Pumping Iron and Patent Shoes

This article was originally published in Scrip

Executive Summary

An occasional column in which we report amusing trivialities, pharmalicious gossip, biotech bons mots and other interesting observations picked up on our rounds.

Reputation Alert: Transparency Rankings On Horizon

Big Pharma should probably brace itself for yet another assault on its public reputation. The clinical data transparency campaign AllTrials is preparing an audit of the top 50 big pharma companies and ranking them according to their clinical data transparency policies. The fact that some companies don’t even have a policy on data transparency in place is unlikely to help their ranking. AllTrials has scored firms according to its gold standard for registering trials and sharing results. The data have just been finalized and are being put together, Scrip has learnt. As the only big pharma company that has signed up to AllTrials campaign, GSK may avoid public censure this time, but others will no doubt come under pressure to follow its example.

A Can't-Win Situation For Pharma

Scrip recently attended the Interscience Conference of Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy (ICAAC) and International Congress of Chemotherapy and Infection (ICC) in San Diego, a joint conference co-hosted by the American Society for Microbiology and the International Society of Chemotherapy from Sept. 17 to 21, where we learned that sometimes big pharma just can't win.

Nicholas Kartsonis, Merck Research Laboratories section head for antibiotics and antibacterials, and associate vice president of clinical research in infectious diseases, touted Merck's deep portfolio in those areas, including bezlotoxumab for recurrentclostridium difficile infections, in an interview on Sept. 18 at the San Diego Convention Center.

Kartsonis noted that Merck's antibiotic portfolio may be deeper than its big pharma colleagues, but that's improving with investments by Roche, AstraZeneca and others.

Meanwhile, in an interview later that same morning, an executive from a pre-commercial antibiotic-focused biopharma firm lamented the lack of big pharma interest in the field.

Another biopharma executive feared that antibiotics acquired in recent big pharma acquisitions of specialty pharma companies would be de-prioritized in favor of legacy antibiotics or drugs in easier-to-sell, higher-grossing therapeutic categories.

If you're keeping track, it seems that pharma just took one step forward and two steps back.

Puppet Master

Mylan has taken center stage as it continues its pursuit and tender offer for generic drugmaker Perrigo, whose CEO Joe Papa has taken every opportunity to criticize Mylan's oft-brash management style.

Papa's comments have shone a spotlight on the dynamic between current Mylan CEO Heather Bresch and her predecessor, current Executive Chairman Robert Coury. Industry insiders and analysts have long thought of Bresch as a puppet having her strings pulled by Coury, who is still running the show.

It's hard to argue that Bresch is more than just a glorified figurehead when all of the public correspondence between Mylan and Perrigo has been exchanged between Papa and Coury – showing pharma is still very much an all boy's club.

Netting A Job

Cipla chair Dr Yusuf Hamied's love for sports is rather well-known. He is known to follow cricket and tennis, among other games, closely and is believed to rarely miss an opportunity to watch the Wimbledon Championships every year. At a recent interaction with Scrip, Hamied recalled how he used to play cricket for Cipla and how in the late fifties several members of the Indian cricket test team were on Cipla's rolls. In the late 50s and early 60s, if you wanted a job at Cipla, the interview usually took place at the cricket nets, he said!

Gandhi And Lithuania

The meeting with the Cipla patriarch was in fact steeped in history. He had many interesting tales to share around the World War, India's freedom movement and Indo-Lithuanian ties going back to the days of the friendship between Hermann Kallenbach, the Lithuanian born Jewish architect, and Mahatma Gandhi, in South Africa. Apparently the Lithuanian language has some similarity with India's Sanskrit as well. Indo-Lithuanian ties have now been further cemented with the unveiling of a monument dedicated to Kallenbach and Gandhi, on Oct. 2 (Gandhi's birth anniversary) in a Lithuanian village. The chairman of the Indian generic major – who was born to a Lithuanian mother in Vilnius – funded the monument and attended its unveiling.

Unusual Pastimes

We all know that a work-life balance is critical to good mental health, and we're always keen to hear how pharma and biotech executives unwind at the end of a busy week. We're used to executives telling us about their reading and jogging habits, so it was a refreshing change to hear that the CEO of recent IPO Cassiopea is a keen body builder. Can we swap our bingo wings for your triceps?

Style Guru

Never mind Elvis's blue suede shoes. We prefer the very shiny blue patent leather footwear sported by Karolinska Development's new CEO, Jim Van heusden.

Scrip apologizes for the poor quality of this image but it was obtained through secret " footage "

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