WeightWatchers acquires company that can prescribe weight loss drugs

Acquisition of telemedicine company Sequence marks WeightWatchers’ entry into the Ozempic market, The Wall Street Journal notes. Separately, the Food and Drug Administration plans to investigate whether the most commonly used OTC decongestant, phenylephrine, is actually effective.

The Wall Street Journal: WeightWatchers enters Ozempic market with telemedicine deal

WW International Inc., known as WeightWatchers, is buying digital health company Sequence, marking the diet company’s entry into the hot market for diabetes and obesity drugs, including Ozempic and Wegovy. Sequence is a subscription service that offers telemedicine visits to physicians who can prescribe the medication. WeightWatchers, which has long promised to help customers lose weight through diet tracking and lifestyle changes, is transitioning to offering customers a medical approach to weight loss as well. (Petersen, 3/6)

In the FDA News —

CBS News: FDA panel to reevaluate the most common over-the-counter decongestant, phenylephrine, which has been criticized for being useless

The Food and Drug Administration plans to ask a panel of its outside advisers to re-evaluate whether the most common over-the-counter decongestant ingredient, phenylephrine, is effective. There was a renewed petition to take it off the shelves because studies showed it was no more effective than a placebo in pills and syrups. (tin, 3/6)

Stats: FDA Chief Questions and Answers: Anti-Obesity Drugs, Approvals, Threats

FDA Commissioner Robert Califf said Monday he was “disturbed” that Novo Nordisk, which makes an anti-obesity drug, funded the development of courses for medical schools. But he also said he sees it as an example of a pharmaceutical company filling the void left by healthcare systems that fail to teach doctors and trainees how to use new drugs. (Joseph, 3/7)

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The Boston Globe: Full approval and Medicare coverage of a new Alzheimer’s drug could come in July

A closely watched therapy for Alzheimer’s disease could become more accessible this summer. Cambridge-based Biogen and Japan-based Eisai announced Sunday night that federal agencies would make a decision by July 6 on whether to grant full approval for their drug, a ruling on which all-important Medicare coverage depends . (cross, 3/6)

For other pharmaceutical and biotechnological developments —

Reuters: South Carolina talc supplier hit with $29 million verdict

A South Carolina jury has ordered former talc supplier Whittaker, Clark & ​​Daniels to pay $29.14 million to a woman who said she developed mesothelioma from exposure to asbestos-contaminated talc in cosmetic products. The Columbia jury also found Friday that talc maker IMI Fabi was not responsible for plaintiff Sarah Plant’s illness and exonerated him, according to Jessica Dean, an attorney for the plaintiff. (Pierson, 3/6)

Reuters: Altria to revive vaping push with $2.8bn NJOY bid after Juul fiasco

Altria Group Inc. said Monday it would buy startup NJOY Holdings Inc for about $2.75 billion in cash, in a new bet by the Marlboro maker in the vape market after gaining ground through its investment in Juul had lost billions. … Altria is betting that NJOY will prove to be an easier route to enter the market since six of the company’s products have received full approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. (Sophia, 3/6)

The Boston Globe: Foundation charges cancer patients $83,000 for unproven therapy

It has been more than 11 years since Julia Young was diagnosed with advanced ovarian cancer and two years since it spread to her lymphatic system. By her own admission, she has already beaten the odds of how long most women survive the deadly disease. When doctors told her last year that the cancer was growing despite two surgeries, radiation therapy and a fifth chemotherapy treatment, the retired business meeting presenter decided to do something unorthodox: spend $83,000 out of pocket on an unproven experimental cancer vaccine. (Saltzmann, 3/6)

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Modern Healthcare: The NIH’s All Of Us research program database aims to improve care

as dr Jeffrey Whittle graduated from medical school in 1984, colleagues told him he would soon be using patients’ genetic information to manage their care. By examining a patient’s genome, or entire DNA set, in conjunction with other factors such as lifestyle or environment, clinicians could determine which drug would be best for treating cholesterol, diabetes or high blood pressure. (Berry Man, 3/6)

Stats: In the backyard of Theranos, a scientist makes another attempt at blood tests

Stepping out of the quiet Stanford Medicine building, where geneticist and prominent big data expert Mike Snyder spent years poring over tiny blood samples, all you can see is the outline of 1701 Page Mill Road, one of Theranos’ original offices. (Ravindranath, 3/7)

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