If last week was shutdown slump, this week is trending more towards “dumpster fire.” Those aren’t our words - they’re actually the ones used by Jon Kessler, CEO of HealthEquity to describe the regulatory and political environment.

Are you, like Mr. Kessler, already in need of a vacation from 2019? We’ve got some ideas. We’ve also got a roundup of this week’s news, the latest in pricing soundbites, and a mini-investigation into healthcare funding for 2019.


7 Monday

 In true 2019 Tidying Up fashion, MasterCard announced a new wordless logo, for a modern look to attract younger consumers. Other brands targeting younger audiences? Tiffany’s, who just announced a new program that gives more transparency about the origin of their diamonds. Because (ethical) diamonds are a (millennial) girl’s best friend.

8 Tuesday

 Scott Gottlieb proved once again that he can’t be stopped – even by a government shutdown and bad wifi. He managed to call in to his scheduled keynote speech at JPM and unveil plans for a new Office of Drug Evaluation Science. The 51-person office will leverage new science and improve the review process for new medicines.

9 Wednesday

 STAT West looked at Big Tech’s JPM absence, asking “How long it will be until we see these companies’ CEOs presenting to investors on the JPM main stage — slotted alongside the likes of Pfizer and Gilead and Novartis?” Maybe a little while still…considering Jeff Bezos was a no-show to Jamie Dimon’s JPM dinner. According to the Wall Street Journal they are best of frenemies. TFTI* guys! 

10 Thursday

 Beto O’Rouke gave the American Dental Association some free PR. The former Democratic Senate candidate and rumored 2020 hopeful captured a visit to the dentist via Instagram video, including an interview with his dental hygienist. Yes, really, this is a thing. #healthygums2020

11 Friday

 Friday marked the first missed paycheck for many of the furloughed federal workers. But they are just one group on a growing list of those affected by the shutdown, which also includes: SNAP recipients, Native Americans, companies looking to IPO and women protected by the Violence Against Women Act. **Practicing deep breathing techniques.**  


 Pulse on Pricing

What's that sound? Oh, just CEOs at JPM, putting their latest mark on the pricing debate. In case you weren’t there, here’s what you missed:

  • “Too many patients were prescribed this therapy, but were struggling to pay for it at the pharmacy counter." Amgen CEO Bob Bradway to CNBC's Jim Cramer, about the decision to cut the price of Repatha by 60%. Reminder: Regeneron cut the price for their PCSK9 Praluent last year, citing ICER’s review of the category.
  • “We only get paid if we do what we said we’d do.” Bluebird CEO Nick Leschly in an interview with the Wall Street Journal about their installment-based pricing plan for gene-replacement therapy LentiGlobin.
  • “This is a first step. We think it’s the right first step.” Lilly CEO Dave Ricks in a Bloomberg interview about the launch of their new site on drug pricing: https://go.syneoshealth.com/e/63102/2019-01-12/4gy69s/636836447?h=LeNgtFDugfK6uPooqHwfWUhcltFBYk-cTl8-PF-uzkcblank


 Follow the Funding

Deep Throat once said “follow the money.” Ok, so he wasn’t really talking about healthcare investing…but the logic still stands. So we did a deep dive looking into where early funding is going in the healthcare sector, and what that tells us about the future of the industry. Here’s what we found.

Pass the CBD?

Show me the money! CBD-related companies – including those for health and wellness - raised $13.8 billion in 2018 (4x 2017 funding rates).

The medical market is responsible for most of the CBD market growth in 2018 – with companies looking at CBD oils to treat everything from depression to sleep disorders to acne. 2018 saw increased deal size in CBD – meaning the average deal in CBD was considerably larger than the year before. This was partially due to the entrance of big alcohol and tobacco companies taking a stake in the market. Also a catalyst: state-based legislative changes in the U.S. and Canada legalizing marijuana. What’s next: Growing public pressure and support for legalization in the U.S. at the state and federal level.

Some disruptors: 

  • Aurora Cannibis, a medical CBD company with products for sale at a government-run cannabis store in Canada.
  • Green Roads, a startup specializing in pain creams, daily oil doses and even CBD for pets.
  • HelloMD, a digital healthcare platform for medical CBD doctor-patient consultations.

'Cause yes, it's ladies night health

Show me the money! The femtech market – made up of companies looking to address issues in women’s health - is projected to be worth $50 billion by 2025.

The aptly named femtech market has emerged from a confluence of factors:

  • Women’s health conditions are often overlooked, misdiagnosed or diagnosed late, or untreated.
  • Women are overwhelmingly more active when it comes to seeking health information and making healthcare decisions - 90% of women are the primary healthcare decision makers for their family.
  • Early last year, news hit that female-founded startups were getting 2.2% of the VC funding market. 

It’s basically math. Women need better care + women care a lot about health + women investors + entrepreneurs are hungrier than ever for funding = femtech.

What’s next: Increased pressure on traditional pharma companies to invest in women’s health.

Some disruptors:

  • Eve, an at-home testing kit for HPV and other STIs.
  • Nurx, birth control prescription delivery (even for those without insurance).
  • Ava, an ovulation monitoring bracelet.

Let's get digital, digital!

Show me the money! $8.1 billion was invested in digital health companies in 2018.

There’s no denying that Big Tech has set their sights on the healthcare industry as their next target. In fact, Tim Cook basically said as much in a CNBC interview this week. With the Consumer Electronics Show and JPM happening in the same week, both Big Tech and small startups are looking to disrupt the market. What’s next: A complicated conversation about approving, commercializing and reimbursing app-based therapies. For more thoughts on that, drop Meg a note Forward This.

Some disruptors: 

  • Memory Recaller, Samsung’s software to help Alzheimer’s patients recover lost memories.
  • Sonde Health, an AI voice technology to screen for depression, respiratory and CV conditions.
  • A number of new apps that teach kids how to brush their teeth.blank


Syneos Spotlight

On Monday, SCOTUS heard oral arguments in the Merck v. Albrecht product liability lawsuit, an important milestone for failure-to-warn cases. A ruling isn’t expected until the spring, but there are already key learnings for drug and device manufacturers with large patient populations. Have questions about the lawsuit and its implications? Don’t hesitate to reach out to RRM Legal Comms Strategist, Amanda Eiber, who has been following the case closely. Forward This


 Who wrote this? The managing editors of TWTW are Dana Davis, who has been listening to Greta Van Fleet on repeat all week, and Randi Kahn, who is wishing for snow this weekend.

Syneos Health Communications' Reputation & Risk Management Practice is a team of healthcare communications consultants, policy-shapers and crisis response specialists. We provide unique solutions to the evolving communications challenges in today’s healthcare industry, using evidence-based approaches to help our clients successfully navigate the most sensitive of situations.    

 Got thoughts? Contact Dana Forward This Send to Linkedin
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 Feeling nostalgic? We get it. Check out old TWTW issues here.

*TFTI = Thanks For the Invite

Image credits: Credit Card by Hrag Chanchanian from the Noun Project, Tooth by Ryan Farishian from the Noun Project, Bank check by Robiul Alam from the Noun Project, Spotlight by Olyn LeRoy from the Noun Project

About the Author:

Dana Davis is a strategist in the Reputation & Risk Management Practice, where she helps biopharma clients communicate the value they bring to their stakeholders. Her expertise lies in issues of corporate activism; advising companies that must respond to activist tactics from patients, employees, or investors, as well as companies looking to take a proactive stance on social issues.

Syneos Health Communications' Reputation & Risk Management Practice is a team of healthcare communications consultants, policy-shapers and crisis response specialists. We provide unique solutions to the evolving communications challenges in today’s healthcare industry, using evidence-based approaches to help our clients successfully navigate the most sensitive of situations.