Tobacco joins forces with Pharma. – The healthcare blog

BY MIKE MAGEE

Connecticut Attorney General William Tong took the spotlight this week, representing 33 states and Puerto Rico by announcing that the original vape, Juul, had agreed to pay $438.5 million in fines to settle lawsuits against to manage the company.

Juul essentially acknowledged that the company’s marketers had targeted young college students, used social media to attract underage teens, and gave them free samples. With 45% of the company’s Twitter followers between the ages of 13 and 17, and an age verification method that authorities label as “porous,” they were happy to get the country’s attorneys general out of their hair.

Over the past four years, Juul has lost over 95% of its value. When Altria bought a 35% stake in the company in December 2018, they paid $12.8 billion. That translates to just $450 million today. What were they thinking? Back then, Juul fought to keep their “flavor pads” — with mango and crème brûlée being a teen favorite.

But the FDA took a hard line and tried to shut them down completely, attacking vaporized natural and synthetic nicotine. Lobbyists from Altria and Juul argued that they had helped 2 million Americans quit traditional cigarettes. That was enough to get “temporary reprieve” and send the FDA back to the drawing board for “additional review.”

Besides, local and state campaigns to curb teen vaping seem to have had an effect. E-cigarette use in a March 2022 study found that 8% or about 2 million teens had used an e-cigarette in the past 30 days. As for traditional smokers, 31 million are still addicted to cigarettes and 16 million currently have a smoking-related chronic disease.

In the meantime, tobacco giant Philip Morris International took a different tactic. Last week, they inked the purchase of Danish oral drug supply company Fermin Pharma for $813 million. They then “doubled up” this week, announcing their intention to buy “inhalation specialist” Vectura for $1.2 billion.

What are they up to? Their official site says this is all part of their ‘Beyond Nicotine’ strategy and they will now pursue ‘respiratory drug delivery’ and ‘self-care wellness’. How much is that worth in future earnings. The company expects to generate $1 billion in net income from these ventures by 2025. This is partly because Vectura has significant expertise with 13 inhalable products already on the market and $245 million in 2020 sales.

The abbreviated market message reads:

“Philip Morris International (PMI) is leading a transformation in the tobacco industry to create a smoke-free future and ultimately replace cigarettes with smoke-free products for the benefit of adults who would otherwise continue to smoke, society, the company, its shareholders and its other stakeholders.”

And PMI says the future is bright:The market for inhalation therapies is large and growing rapidly, with significant potential for expansion into new areas of application. PMI has the dedication to science and the financial resources to Vectura . to reinforces skilled team to execute an ambitious long-term vision. Together, PMI and Vectura can lead this global category and deliver benefits to patients, consumers, public health and society at large.”

What could go wrong with that?

Mike Magee MD is a medical historian and author of “CODE BLUE: Inside the Medical Industrial Complex (Grove/2020).

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