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Over 30 million in the US face healthcare and insurance uncertainty caused by COVID-19

The COVID-19 pandemic has exposed weaknesses around the US healthcare system and resulted in a large amount of uncertainty around the healthcare and health insurance costs for the pandemic, says GlobalData, a leading data and analytics company.

As the US does not provide universal healthcare to its citizens, and with more than 30,000,000 citizens who have recently become unemployed, many have lost their employer-provided healthcare and are facing tough economic decisions about covering their healthcare costs out-of-pocket. Additionally, health insurers are facing uncertainty about the costs of the pandemic and the rates they will need to charge.

Johanna Swanson, Product Manager at GlobalData, comments: “In the US, most citizens receive health insurance through their employer, but the high levels of unemployment have resulted in significant numbers of people losing their coverage. Those unemployed can continue to receive health insurance by using coverage from the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA) or applying for Medicaid, but COBRA coverage can be costly as employers are often paying an average of nearly 82% of the cost of their employees’ health insurance.”

The US Government is considering helping employers cover the cost of COBRA, so future rounds of financial support measures could include this assistance. Also, states that did not expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act may reconsider due to COVID-19 in order to receive more funding for their unemployed population.

Swanson adds: “Healthcare providers and insurers face uncertainty around the costs and rates that will be caused by the pandemic. It remains unclear what the true cost of the pandemic will be for the health insurance industry. It is expected to reach billions of dollars, but estimates vary widely.

“Health insurers need to submit 2021 rates for approval in June 2020. These rates must be based on expected future costs, which has proven challenging due to the current level of uncertainty. Many insurers have indicated that they will not increase rates for 2021, but it remains to be seen how they will mitigate the high costs of COVID-19. Additionally, healthcare companies may be facing uncertainty about the rules and regulations on obtaining federal pandemic relief funds. This leaves a large amount of uncertainty around the costs for the COVID-19 pandemic.”

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Generic remdesivir may put pricing pressure on Indian pharma companies, says GlobalData

Following the news that the Indian state of Maharashtra is planning to procure Gilead Sciences’ antiviral drug remdesivir from Bangladesh-based pharmaceutical giant Eskayef Pharmaceuticals;

Anupama Mishra, Pharma Analyst at GlobalData, a leading data and analytics company, offers her view:

“Maharashtra is the worst affected state of the COVID-19 outbreak in India. The state has reported 97,648 confirmed cases and 3,590 deaths as of 12June 2020, the highest in the country. On 6June 2020, the state announced its decision to import 10,000 doses of remdesivir from Dhaka headquartered Eskayef Pharmaceuticals for INR12,000 (US$160) per vial. This decision has been met with dissonance by the Indian pharmaceutical sector. As a result, the decision has been put on hold as the state officials plan to wait for the Drugs Controller General of India (DCGI) approval for remdesivir by Indian or Foreign pharmaceutical companies.

“According to GlobalData’s COVID-19 dashboard, as of 12 Jun 2020, India has 297,535 confirmed cases and the dashboard forecasts 1,009,861 confirmed cases in India in a low transmission risk scenario 22 June 2020.

“Currently, four Indian companies – Cipla, Hetero, Mylan, and Jubilant Life Sciences -have signed licensing agreements with Gilead for remdesivir and awaiting marketing authorization from DCGI. Furthermore, India-based BDR pharmaceuticals has submitted its application to DCGI for approval to sell and manufacture generic remdesivir in India.

“Notably, remdesivir has been approved for emergency usage in COVID-19 treatment in India, the US, and Japan. Since remdesivir is the only approved drug for COVID-19 treatment, Indian companies are vying to become the first-to-market remdesivir in the country. Gilead owns the patent rights for remdesivir globally and already received approval for remdesivir in India.

“However, Bangladesh-based pharmaceutical firms have taken advantage of the least developed country (LDC) status granted by the United Nations to manufacture the generic version of Gilead’s patented drug remdesivir. Generic remdesivir is available for COVID-19 treatment in Bangladesh.

“Reportedly, the Central Drugs Standard Control Organization (CDSCO) has not received an application from any Bangladeshi companies for a remdesivir import license. Hence, there is a probability that Indian pharma companies can get DCGI approval before Bangladesh-based companies whenever they decide to file for remdesivir import license. However, this episode has indeed spurred remdesivir cost-related debate in India. The cost of generic remdesivir is expected to be far less than the patented product. Though Indian pharma companies have free rights to price remdesivir according to their agreement with Gilead India, they will face stiff competition in the future from generic imports.

“With limited therapeutic options for COVID-19 management, the Indian government and private sector will have to collaborate on the pricing of remdesivir. In the wake of rising COVID-19 cases, India should focus on increasing the accessibility of the drug by making it more affordable for patients. Hence, Indian pharmaceutical companies will have to price remdesivir cautiously to ward off generic competition in the near future.” 

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MDHSS extends support to help energy customers keep electricity services connection amid COVID-19, says GlobalData

In a bid to provide some relief to the financially crunched state residents amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) is making energy bill payments directly to the utility accounts of consumers. This will not only help the energy consumers financially but also allow them to keep services, which otherwise would get disconnected by the end of June 2020, says GlobalData, a leading data and analytics company.

The primary goal of the direct payment pilot is to ease access to energy assistance statewide through State Emergency Relief (SER).

Utilities, such as Consumers Energy, DTE, and SEMCO had previously allowed moratoriums on payments against supply in response to the pandemic and its impact on utility customers. The moratorium is scheduled to end on 12 June 2020.

In addition, the utility providers have in turn agreed to waive off 25%, or a total of approximately US$2.3m of the outstanding bill for households receiving the direct payment. This is likely to allow MDHHS’ COVID-19-related Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) to assist more families.

Somik Das, Senior Power Analyst at GlobalData, comments: “Utilities across the globe are undergoing severe financial stress as they are supplying electricity to customers even in case of non-payments. The assistance from MDHSS would ease the worries for the three electricity utilities in the state of Michigan. The funding is likely to help households with their energy bills as Michigan begins to recover and reopen safely.”

This direct payment pilot program builds on the work MDHHS has already done to streamline its primary program, the SER, for energy assistance to eligible families across the state. In the wake of the COVID-19, MDHHS made certain policy changes to SER, where they increased the maximum amount, that families can receive in energy assistance.

Das concludes: “Additionally, it removed interview requirements for availing assistance, simplifying and raising asset limits, eliminating one-time limits on aid, and eliminating co-payment requirements. All these assistance from MDHHS is likely to allow faster processing of emergency requests and make access to benefits easier to Michigan’s households.”

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UK online grocery market to gain an extra £1.9bn in 2020 due to impact of COVID-19

The UK online food & grocery retail market is now forecast to grow 25.5% in 2020, as major supermarkets such as Tesco, Sainsbury’s and Waitrose expand fulfilment capacity to meet the raised demand from housebound consumers, says GlobalData, a leading data and analytics company.

Following the latest publication of GlobalData UK retail market forecasts, Thomas Brereton, Retail Analyst at GlobalData, offers his view:

“Since the surge in demand in mid-March – with 19.0% of the population spending more on online groceries than usual* – the UK’s largest supermarkets have quickly escalated capacity to fulfil unprecedented online demand, with Sainsbury’s increasing slots by 50% and Tesco reaching the milestone of a million deliveries in a week.”

“As a result, the online grocery market is now forecast to grow 25.5% in 2020 – significantly ahead of the 8.5% previously anticipated. On top of the initial increase in volume demand (c.30% in April), a continued reluctance to venture to stores for the rest of the year will bolster online market growth over a longer period than instore.”

*Data taken from GlobalData’s survey of 2,000 nationally representative UK respondents conducted in early April 2020.

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Airlines likely to be smaller post-COVID

Following recent announcements made by several airlines, speculation has grown that some of the world’s largest airlines will shrink:

Nick Wyatt, Head of R&A and Travel & Tourism at GlobalData, a leading data and analytics company, offers his view on the situation:

“Announcements made over the last week or so point in one direction: airlines will become smaller – at least in the short-to-mid-term.

“Some high-profile names have come to the conclusion that a leaner, more agile business is what is needed to help them navigate the turbulence expected over the next 2-3 years.

“COVID-19 has hit the airline industry harder than almost any other and this has caused an unprecedented number of issues for carriers. All major airlines are analyzing their operations in a bid to survive as they burn through cash at an alarming rate.

“This will mean that they assess route viability thoroughly and make decisions based upon the findings of such analysis. This could lead to issues with connectivity, but as the UK showed in the case in Flybe, there are limits to the value that governments place on this.

“In Q1 results announcements, Delta CEO Ed Bastian and American Airlines CEO Doug Parker both warned that their respective airlines may well be smaller in the future and in a letter to staff, British Airways appeared to cast doubt over whether it will ever resume operations at Gatwick. It is unlikely that these will be the last such announcements.”

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High-dose chloroquine should not be used further for COVID-19 patients due to the QTc prolongation, says GlobalData

Recent results have shown that high-dose chloroquine has potential safety concerns resulting in QTc prolongation, a heart rhythm disorder that serves as a surrogate indicator for increased risk of drug-associated torsades de pointes (TdP). GlobalData believes that the preliminary data from this Phase II study indicates that high-dose chloroquine should not be used further for COVID-19 patients due to the QTc prolongation, as this can cause sudden death due to erratic heartbeats.

Arafa Salam, PhD, Infectious Diseases Analyst at GlobalData, comments: “Initial results from China indicated the drug offered shorter recovery times for fever and cough, and that the drug helped treat pneumonia. However, a high-dose arm from a recent Phase II study in Brazil for high-dose chloroquine disphosphate for COVID-19 patients was halted due to safety concerns over QTc prolongation and a trend towards lethality compared to the lower dosage. This study suggests that high-dose chloroquine does not meet the safety standards for treating COVID-19.”

Although the enrollment for the high-dose chloroquine arm was halted due to the observed effects, the results for the low-dose arm have not yet been published. As such, it may be found to be safe and efficacious. However, more patients need to be enrolled in this arm for it to show significance.

Salam concludes: “If the low dose is found to be efficacious, it would be a breakthrough for COVID-19 treatment. As the drug has been widely used already, GlobalData expects that it would be cheaper compared to a brand new therapy for coronavirus. This could potentially have significant economic benefits, as COVID-19 is a global pandemic and not all regions can afford premium-priced agents.”

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Q1 oil industry results reaffirm industry instability

Following the release of Q1 results from several oil and gas companies;

Ella Benson Easton, Thematic Analyst at GlobalData, a leading data and analytics company, offers her view:

“This year has seen extraordinary volatility in the oil and gas industry. The decline in the cost of renewable energies, an oil price war and COVID-19 have all contributed to the industry’s precarity. Q1 results have reflected the difficult situation, for example BP’s net profit dropped 67%, ConocoPhillips reported a Q1 loss of $1.7bn, and Royal Dutch Shell reduced dividends by 65% – the first cut for the company since since World War II. Sinopec recorded a $2.71bn loss despite fuel sales rebounding.

“These numbers confirm the strain the oil and gas industry is under. The real difficulty for the industry is gaining a degree of stability, particularly given the uncertainty around the full impact of the pandemic on things such as customer behaviour and investment priorities.

“Some oil companies have touted more sustainable investments and principles in recent years. Both Shell and BP aim to reach net-zero carbon emissions by 2050. The recently exposed instability in the oil industry makes a speedy transition to sustainable energy a necessity.

“Sustainability will remain a key theme for enterprises across industry sectors well beyond COVID-19. GlobalData’s sustainability framework shows the areas in which companies need to focus their investment to put themselves in a position to succeed. Increased investment in renewable energies and modern technologies is now vital as oil companies insulate themselves against further price shocks. Oil companies that diversify their investments and invest in the sustainability theme will be better placed to survive the long-term effects of the current crisis.”

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Gilead’s remdesivir use for COVID-19 could spill over beyond ideal patient groups, possibly straining supply, says GlobalData

With the EMA announcing today that it will start a rolling review of Gilead
Sciences’ remdesivir for COVID-19 and wide expectations that
US Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) will be locked in, reporting from Reynald
Castañeda, Pharma Writer for the Investigative News team at GlobalData, a
leading data and analytics company, notes that broad use
beyond remdesivir’s ideal patients is plausible but could strain supply.

Castañeda notes: “Use in patients
on invasive ventilation, or even those with milder symptoms but at risk of
progressing, could negatively impact the supply and demand equilibrium for the

Excitement for
remdesivir was at its fever pitch on 29th April when data of varying detail
from three different trials were released. The Phase III trial, sponsored by
the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) – considered
to be critical for FDA support – reported preliminary positive results. Gilead
also announced data from its Phase III trial, while the Lancet published data
from the China-based Phase III trial. Today, the EMA announced it would start a
rolling review based on NIAID’s results.

Castañeda comments: “All three
studies recruited severe patients but with varying definitions, and the NIAID
is yet to reveal granular patient profile information from its study. While
data so far suggests remdesivir is ideal to use soon after hospitalisations and
prior to invasive ventilation, utility is likely to be broader.

Castañeda adds: “Interviewed physicians noted
that the balancing act between the drug’s risk-benefit
and its supply is critical. Some added Gilead’s data showing remdesivir’s
five-day dosing being comparable to the ten-day schedule could open up use
outside of the hospital for the shorter course, while the longer course may be
for more severe patients detected to have higher viral load.”

Gilead has stated, as of
late March, it has increased its supply to more than 30,000 patient courses,
assuming a ten-day course. It aims for 140,000 treatment courses by end of May
and one million by December.

Castañeda reports: “While physicians agree there is an ideal therapeutic window,
they noted there is risk of patients being hospitalised too late, which would
diminish remdesivir’s efficacy potential. Nonetheless, remdesivir’s potential
for EUA is supported by available data so far, but some noted that the NIAID
data only supports symptom relief for the intravenous therapy, with mortality
data less convincing. Yet, they noted, the eight-point primary endpoint ordinal
scale of time to recovery does have the advantage of offering quicker
results—critical in a pandemic—and captures nuances on how patients progress
through the disease.”

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Over 1,000 deals announced globally during week ended April 26, showing 12.6% increase, says GlobalData

A total of 1,004 deals were announced globally during the week ended April, 26, 2020, which is an increase of 12.6% over 892 deals announced during the previous week, according to GlobalData’s deals database. However, deal volume remained below the Q1 2020 and March 2020 weekly average levels.

Aurojyoti Bose, Lead Analyst at GlobalData, comments: “Though global deal activity remained inconsistent due to volatile market conditions since the COVID-19 outbreak, the increase in deals announced during the week may be a sign of revival and it will be interesting to see if this volume growth continues during the coming weeks.”

Deal activity increased in most of the key markets during the week ended April, 26, 2020 compared to the previous week. While the US witnessed an increase in deal volume by 7.9%, China, Japan, South Korea and Australia witnessed deal volume increasing by 2.7%, 9.4%, 65.8% and 62.1%, respectively.

Sectors such as healthcare (including pharmaceuticals and medical equipment), retail and travel & tourism also witnessed an improvement in deal activity during the week ended April, 26, 2020 compared to the previous week.

While mergers and acquisition (M&A) deals volume increased by 25.7% during the week ended April, 26, 2020 compared to the previous week, the number of partnerships and debt offerings deals increased by 76.6% and 35.7%, respectively. However, the number of private equity, venture financing, licensing agreement and equity offerings deals declined by 8.5%, 2.5%, 25.0% and 1.6%, respectively.

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AstraZeneca gains approval for Koselugo in rare neurological disorder after 17 years of development

Following the news that AstraZeneca’s Koselugo (selumetinib) has been approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for the treatment of a rare neurological disorder;

Philippa Salter, Neurology & Ophthalmology Analyst at GlobalData, a leading data and analytics company, offers her view:

“Previous treatments for neurofibromatosis type 1 (NF1) in pediatric patients, who have symptomatic, inoperable plexiform neurofibromas, has been for managing symptoms only. As such, Koselugo has provided a major breakthrough in treatment for NF1 patients as it has demonstrated that it can shrink tumors and increase the quality of life for children with this disease. By 2026, GlobalData forecasts total annual revenue of $206m for Koselugo.

“Selumetinib was originally developed by Array BioPharma, and back in 2003 it announced a licensing and collaboration agreement to develop selumetinib with AstraZeneca. Since 2003, AstraZeneca has looked to develop selumetinib in several oncology indications, however, it has seen a string of clinical trial failures. A total 17 years later, the acquisition of selumetinib is finally paying out for AstraZeneca, which is now jointly developing selumetinib with Merck & Co, with the approval of Keselugo for its first indication.

“AstraZeneca will be looking for a fast rollout for Koselugo, which could be challenging given the current situation with COVID-19. However, as a rare disorder that had no treatment options, there are specific advocacy groups for NF1 that AstraZeneca can target. It is likely that patient awareness of the availability of this new drug will be high, which should help with the launch of Koselugo.”

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