Jami Rubin, At Goldman Sachs, Bumps Merck Equity Up Two Notches — To $73…

April 23, 2018 - Leave a Response

I still think Goldman (firm wide, given its vast debt underwriting desks) has some inherent conflicts here — but I do think the move (given the immuno-oncology outcomes data in Chicago last week) makes sense, as to Merck’s 12 to 24 month future per share NYSE values.

The link — and a bit:

. . . .Goldman Analyst Jami Rubin upgrades Merck (NYSE: MRK) from Neutral to Conviction Buy with a price target of $73.00 (from $63.00). . . .

Now you know — onward, on a stellar day. . . even as more senseless AR-15 automatic rifle mayhem afflicts Antioch, anew. When will it be enough, Mr. Trump? When? But I will resolve to remain focused on all the good that ordinary Americans are doing — in spite of 45’s dysfunction. . . .



Pfizer Spent $5.44 Million On Lobbyists, While Merck Spent $3.86 Million In Q1 2018…

April 22, 2018 - Leave a Response

On the heels of a STATnews report that the trade group PhRMA (detailing an all-time record high for a single quarter) spent over $10 million in Q1. . . I thought it was high time to compare such spending at Merck, Amgen and Pfizer (again). You’ll note that like last year at this time, Pfizer is more focused on financial engineering measures (changes in law), here — than basic drug discovery policy. That sets it apart from both Amgen and Merck.

As was true with the industry generally, lobby spending was way up, over prior periods, in early 2018 — at all three companies. Amgen came in at $4.46 million — but Pfizer was well beyond both of them, at over half what the whole trade group spent in Q1. For its part, here is a bit of what Pfizer lobbied about:

. . . .Drug Pricing, Biosimilars Reimbursement, Antibiotic Resistance/ Incentives, Drug Shortages, Reimbursement for products treating Sickle Cell Disease. . . .

Trans Pacific Partnership Negotiations, Miscellaneous Tariff Bill, Trans-Atlantic trade & Investment Partnership, Canada, IP/Trade Issues, South Africa IP Issues, China IP, Indonesia IP, Thailand IP, Korea Pricing Issues, United Nations Health Panel, G7/G20, APEC, OECD, Australia Market — Size Damages, WTO “Zero for Zero” Pharmaceutical Agreement, NAFTA. . . .

Medicare Part D, Coverage Gap, Biosimilar pass-through. . . .

Comprehensive Corporate Tax Reform. . . .

Now you know — I think it likely that there is some fear of a Trump administration move to directly regulate drug prices (a la Nixon’s wage/price freezes), driving this upsurge in spending. Indeed, on to the north woods, for a few hours’ drive, and a sweet Sunday brunch with my youngest.


[U] In The… “What are THOSE?!” Department: Marine Biology Mystery Edition

April 21, 2018 - One Response

From almost 2,800 feet under the Sea of Cortez, off the coast of Mexico. . . this is a lovely NOAA.gov mystery.

What is that? It is demon red — complete with “horns”. . . and it is likely folded up, to shield its eye from the blazingly bright undersea camera lights — the video is jaw slacking; do watch it:

“. . .The strange squid was captured on April 17 by the crew of NOAA ship Okeanos Explorer during a scientific voyage studying an ocean area never explored before. The mission has been conducting both scientific research and capturing images of deep-sea habitats in the western Gulf of Mexico that likely found nowhere else. . . .”

Yes I do love me some. . . life science. Onward, to a water workout now, myself. . . smile.

UPDATED Sunday @ 8 AM EDT, Courtesy Google: Earth Day 2018:


And No “Sanctuary” Surprise: Trump Lost — In Chicago’s Seventh Circuit This Week.

April 20, 2018 - Leave a Response

Just as we said he would, he lost — at trial. and now on appeal. Chucklehead.

I note the 7th Circuit’s opinion for the very severe language used — language unseen in several decades (since Nixon was in that office, at least). Three able federal appellate judges, both republicans and democrats, have penned a 47 page opinion that characterizes Mr. Trump’s administration as evincing “a disturbing disregard for the separation of powers. . .” Not a good look, here 45:

. . . .In considering on appeal the likelihood of success on the merits, it is necessary to focus narrowly on the dispositive question and to avoid the invitation of the parties to weigh in on broader policy considerations. For instance, the Attorney General repeatedly characterizes the issue as whether localities can be allowed to thwart federal law enforcement.

That is a red herring. First, nothing in this case involves any affirmative interference with federal law enforcement at all, nor is there any interference whatsoever with federal immigration authorities. The only conduct at issue here is the refusal of the local law enforcement to aid in civil immigration enforcement through informing the federal authorities when persons are in their custody and providing access to those persons at the local law enforcement facility. Some localities might choose to cooperate with federal immigration efforts, and others may see such cooperation as impeding the community relationships necessary to identify and solve crimes.

The choice as to how to devote law enforcement resources — including whether or not to use such resources to aid in federal immigration efforts—would traditionally be one left to state and local authorities. . . .

In fact, throughout the briefs in this case, the Attorney General is incredulous that localities receiving federal funds can complain about conditions attached to the distribution of those funds. But that repeated mantra evinces a disturbing disregard for the separation of powers. The power of the purse does not belong to the Executive Branch. It rests in the Legislative Branch. . . .

As the Supreme Court has repeatedly held, “’Congress. . . does not alter the fundamental details of a regulatory scheme in vague terms or ancillary provisions — it does not, one might say, hide elephants in mouseholes.’” Gonzales, 546 U.S. at 267, quoting Whitman v. American Trucking Assns., Inc., 531 U.S. 457, 468 (2001). . . .

Indeed. 45 is — as I said he would be, repeatedly — a loser, again. Sleep well, all you of good will, and good cheer. . . .


Thanks, Anon. — I Was Remiss, In Not Getting To This: Merck/NewLink Ebola Vaccine, Now With TWO Years’ Durability Data…

April 19, 2018 - Leave a Response

I admit that I’ve had quite a bit “in the real world” on my plate — of late. Even so, that is no excuse: I am decidedly tardy in mentioning Merck’s very nice first line lung cancer data, and in mentioning the below — also very good news.

Thanks go to the faithful Anon. commenter who reminded me of the Lancet release having cleared embargo. More broadly, it is very encouraging to know that the Merck vaccine is showing a durable sero-positivity, in the wild (so to speak).

Let us hope that we see similar data three and five years on, as well. In any event, here is FierceVaccines on it all — and a bit:

. . . .The new study, published in Lancet Infectious Diseases, shows antibodies persist for two years after a single shot of Merck’s rVSV-ZEBOV vaccine.

Researchers examined participants from a previous phase 1 study who returned for follow-up research. All 44 of those patients who had received a high dose of the vaccine remained seropositive at two years, and 33 of 37 who got a lower dose were still seropositive. . . .

Now you know. With my eldest in Paris and Provence for ten days, and launching a new travel magazine, I am sorely tempted (coldest April here, in over 130 years!) to hop a plane — and go missing for a few, as early next week. We shall see — as I could catch No. 2 in London, same trip, for Indian food!

Today is chilly, but quite clear, so I may just stay put. Dunno. . . . Onward, now to lunch — with Riot Blockchain swooning (again, the former BiOptix) — it’s good for my personal predictive portfolio, anew. . . . grin.


A Bit “Helter-Skelter”, At The Shop, Today — But Back To Comment On This — Later Tonight…

April 18, 2018 - Leave a Response

The able AUSAs in Manhattan have let the court and Mr. Cohen know that Messrs. Cohen and Trump should expect rolling production of the searched materials, later next week.

Here is the full two page PDF letter, and a bit — but I concur that no special master is warranted — nor should Trump be shown favoritism, especially if it slows the felony (and grand jury) criminal investigation — of his attorney.

. . . .[T]he Government expects to begin a rolling production by Friday, April 27, 2018, and to complete the production by on or about May 11, 2018, with the possible exception of the content of certain telephones. . . .

I am now. . . just. flat. out. of. time. Will be back late tonight, with analysis — and some grins, about Sean “Hide-A-Hoe” Hannity. Keep it spinning in good karma, as we watch carefully — to be sure the City of Memphis is not ultimately punished, financially, by the Tennessee legislature — for pulling down Klan-related Civil War statues, in that fine blues infused (like mine, here, up north!) city.

Similarly, we smiled overnight, upon seeing the statue of James Marion Sims stricken from Central Park, in Manhattan. And we are now full-circle. Onward.


Given Today’s Surreal Manhattan Courtroom Events, Before USDC Judge Kimba Wood — This 75 Year Anniversary Seems… Apt.

April 16, 2018 - Leave a Response

I will put together a quick graphic, but as the evening is slipping away — I’ll get this out without a graphic at first.

Michael Cohen’s (court-ordered) reveal of Sean Hannity as a “client” — followed within an hour by Mr. Hannity’s “I am no client” declaration — was entirely surreal. And it leaves me wondering whether, since Mr. Cohen is likely going to be charged with felonies anyway, if he’s decided to cook up a cover (about Hannity) — to hide his (purely speculative legal work) for. . . Donnie Jr., and what has now been coined as Mr. Cohen’s specialty in the practice of law. . . negotiating what we have heard called. . . “Hide-A-Ho” arrangements. Hilarious. And almost Twilight Zone episode worthy.

And so. . . in an ironic echo — 75 years ago this evening, at a Sandoz lab, the psycho-tropic LSD was first ingested, by Dr. Albert Hofmann:

. . . .In Basel, Switzerland, Albert Hofmann, a Swiss chemist working at the Sandoz pharmaceutical research laboratory, accidentally consumes LSD-25, a synthetic drug he had created in 1938 as part of his research into the medicinal value of lysergic acid compounds. . . .

After taking the drug, formally known as lysergic acid diethylamide, Dr. Hofmann was disturbed by unusual sensations and hallucinations. . . .

Indeed. And today was. . . one of those days. Now you know — sleep well — but don’t dream of electric. . . Hannities or Cohens. . . I couldn’t make this junk up, if I tried.


[U, X3] On A Quiet, Lightly-Snowy Saturday Morning: Trump’s Lawyers To File Papers By THIS Sunday Night — In Cohen Search Warrant Matter

April 14, 2018 - 3 Responses

And oh. Yeah. This: It turns out Cohen said that Sean Hannity is “mystery client no. 3” — which Hannity just promptly denied; saying he never retained Cohen — because Hannity never disclosed (to/on Fox) that he has the same lawyer as Trump — one who is now under criminal investigation, all as Mr. Hannity decried the whole matter as a witch hunt. . . . (Conflicted, much?!). . . This just entered. . . The Orwellian ZoneTM!

UPDATED @ 9 PM EDT On 04.15.2018 & 10 AM EDT 0n 04.16: The Cohen version is available now as well. Still no client list. Shocking. Not. And from last night:

Here is 45’s new lawyer letter (that’s an eight page PDF file). I am still reading the cases cited. . . but I am decidedly underwhelmed. I expect the able Judge Kimba Wood will be, as well. Now we wait for Cohen’s 10 AM filing, and his 2 PM EDT appearance tomorrow, as ordered — and Stormy Daniels will be in gallery, inside the courtroom in Manhattan. Could be a Stormy Monday, indeed. [End, updated portion.]

At the outset, I think dealing directly with Assad promptly — and forcefully — is the right answer. We and Britain and France need to be sure we don’t create a[nother] quagmire, in the Middle East — in the process. And in this regard, we need to tread lightly around the Russians in Syria, now long-present there. But what Assad did to his own people is. . . monstrous. I’ll remain hopeful that this will be one of only a few surgical strikes.

Next, I want to link to [former US Attorney] Patrick Fitzgerald’s full retort, on Scooter Libby’s abrupt pardon (elegant, and spare, in his take-down of 45’s clueless non-rationale for the same) — and Marcy Wheeler’s NYT editorial — on the preposterously obvious implications of it. Do read both, and do so — rather than fall for the nonsense 45 is peddling on Faux News.

Finally, then — 45 has moved (and has been allowed, by USDC Judge Kimba Wood, sitting in Manhattan) to intervene in the high-stakes fight over the propriety of the DoJ no-knock search warrants executed on Monday past — against Mr. Trump’s 20-plus year personal lawyer. [It turns out Michael Cohen, that lawyer, has been under (a largely separate FBI/DoJ) investigation — for a host of felonies for many months now. Classy company 45 keeps, no? If we were able to say nothing else, that speaks volumes. . . about 45.]

More to the point, though: Mr. Cohen (based just on what has been unsealed, thus far) is very likely headed to prison for a host of felonies. Chief among them (at least as to the chances of 45 continuing in office), and aside from “garden variety” frauds — is the documentary proof that Mr. Mueller has obtained, showing Mr. Cohen was in Prague in 2016. Which likely means Mr. Mueller can prove he was at least one of the bag-men, for the Russian drops, in the collusion/obstruction line of cases he will pursue.

Here is the order from last night, setting a due date, on Sunday night, for Trump’s intervention — in these sordid matters:

. . . .Minute Entry for proceedings held before Judge Kimba M. Wood:Show Cause Hearing as to In the Matter of Search Warrants Executed on April 9, 2018 held on April 13, 2018. Movant Michael D. Cohen not present but attorneys Todd Harrison, Michael Huttenlocher, and Joseph B. Evans present. AUSAs Thomas A. McKay, Rachel Maimin, and Nicholas Roos present. Counsel for Intervenor President Donald J. Trump, Joanna C. Hendon present. Counsel for intervenor President Donald J. Trump shall file a letter on or before Sunday, April 15, 2018 by 9:00 pm.Counsel for movant Michael D. Cohen shall file a letter substantiating factual claims in support of his position on unsealing by 10:00 am on Monday, April 16, 2018.

Today’s hearing on the movant’s motion for an order to show cause and a temporary restraining order shall be continued on Monday, April 16, 2018 in courtroom 21B at which Movant Michael D. Cohen is ordered to be present in person.

(Court Reporter Carol Ganley) Modified on 4/13/2018 (Mohan, Andrew). . . .

It seems the noose is getting. . . rather snug, around 45’s neck. His crooked lawyer will be his undoing — as now it is a race between Cohen and Manafort as to which first flips. But it is certain one or both of them. . . will.

These are dark and somber times, to be sure — in which it is still possible that the 242 uninterrupted years of this glowingly-American notion — of ordered liberty — under a careful constitutional framework — fails. But increasingly, it is looking to be inevitable — that Mr. Trump will leave office peaceably — well before the end of his term. So I will be smiling, on a chilly mountain bike ride, shortly. Onward.


Friday Trivia: Merck Vs. Merck Discovery Schedule Delayed By Yet Another Month…

April 13, 2018 - Leave a Response

Under the newly agreed proposal (not yet signed by the able judge), all discovery will be concluded by November 15, 2018 — instead of mid-October 2018. [Earlier backgrounder on the agreed delays, here.]

As I’ve repeatedly said, I suspect that there are on and off discussions of a global settlement, and master cross license of some sort, underway. And having a stretched discovery schedule is nice cover for that — while not letting go of the trial dates, should negotiations fail. Here’s a bit, and the full two page PDF letter — with a complete set of revised deadlines:

. . . .The parties submit this joint letter to request a one month extension of the current discovery schedule. The parties have been working diligently to narrow and resolve their discovery disputes and have made significant progress.

However, unresolved disputes remain and are the subject of ongoing meet-and-confer discussions. Postponing the current April 12 deadline for raising fact discovery disputes is likely to reduce the need for judicial resolution of those issues. The parties are also in the process of conducting depositions, but witness availability has pushed certain deposition dates into June. Extending the current discovery deadlines by a month should give the parties sufficient time to complete outstanding depositions. . . .

Now you know — onward, on a cooler but hopeful Friday, assuming that Bobby Three Sticks got some audio tapes from Mr. Cohen. If so, game. . . essentially over, for 45’s presidency, erh crime spree.


The Vaccine Wars: Glaxo’s Shingrix® Is Besting Merck’s Older Zostavax® In The US Market — On Efficacy, Primarily…

April 12, 2018 - One Response

Some pretty respectable sell-side analysts believed that the need for a second jab, in the case of GSK’s new shingles vaccine — called Shingrix® — would mitigate its advantage over Kenilworth’s Zostavax®. That however, has not turned out to be the case in the US sales data, thus far.

It seems the GSK rollout was exceeding well-stocked and staged, making it easy to both source the new vaccine stock, and secure reimbursement, at the pharmacies. So — as Fierce Pharma reported later yesterday, the lead now firmly belongs to GSK. Merck’s $600 million a year (in the past) from Zostavax is likely to whither to below $300 million this full year. And in an encouraging note for science — differential efficacy explains the story:

. . . .The GSK shot is believed to be more effective, though no head-to-head studies have pitted the two vaccines against each other. In phase 3, the two-dose Shingrix showed that it is 97.2% efficacious in those age 50 and older. The CDC says the one-dose Zostavax can reduce shingles risk by 51%.

If there’s one problem with those numbers, it’s dosing. Deutsche Bank analysts cautioned that Shingrix’s two-dose schedule might ultimately hamper sales.

Signs of Shingrix’s rise — and hence Zostavax’s fall — were already showing up late last year. For the fourth quarter, GSK reeled in about $30 million in Shingrix sales, while Merck’s Zostavax revenue dropped 45% to $121 million. . . .

Now you know. Onward — on a simply glorious spring morning, here. . . [But snow is expected (again!) by the weekend. . . Ah, Chicago. . . you fickle-fated friend — so I’ll embrace it and go north — to the Marquette territory. . . .]