Press review

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NHS strikes confidential ‘pay as you cure’ deal in hepatitis C

LONDON, Sep 15 (APM) - The National Health Service (NHS) has struck a 'pay as you cure' deal for an unnamed hepatitis C drug in an attempt to save money, the Daily Mail reported on Tuesday.
The paper said the deal was announced at the NHS Expo conference in Manchester by NHS chief executive Simon Stevens, who said cutting back was important for the NHS to reach its 'full potential' by making sure it can afford drugs for future generations.
The drug in the new deal is given to around 10,000 patients a year. Its manufacturer cannot be named due to commercial confidentiality, said the Daily Mail.
If the agreement is successful, a similar approach could be adopted for other costly treatments to reduce the NHS drug bill.

NHS defends plans to limit drug spend

The Sunday Telegraph said it has seen court papers that reveal the NHS in England has accused big pharma firms of making spurious legal arguments in an attempt to challenge plans to limit drug spending.
The High Court row is over powers introduced in April giving NHS England the right to ration expensive medicines, including if they are expected to cost more than 20 million pounds in any of their first three years of use.
The companies argue the changes will limit patients’ access to cutting-edge treatments, particularly for rare diseases.
NHS managers have attacked industry claims as “unarguable” and “makeweight”, according to the paper.

Digital future of the NHS

UK health secretary Jeremy Hunt’s plans for the digital future of the NHS were widely reported at the weekend and on Monday.
The Daily Mail said Hunt called the next 10 yeas the “decade of patient power”, with plans for patients to use a smartphone app to book a GP appointment, seek non-emergency healthcare advice from the NHS 111 service, access healthcare records and order repeat prescriptions.
Patients may also be able to enrol in the organ donation register, opt out of sharing their medical data and receive support for treating a long-term condition.

Opioid overdoses on rise in England

The number of patients admitted to hospital in England for overdosing on opioid painkillers has more than doubled in a decade, the Guardian reported on Wednesday.
The paper covered data from NHS Digital that shows an increase in people attending hospital with poisoning from prescription opioids such as codeine, morphine, oxycodone, fentanyl and tramadol rising from 4,891 in 2005-06 to 11,660 last year in England.

Irish lung disease patients to lose access to CSL drug

The Times on Saturday said that 21 patients in Ireland with severe lung disease have been told that they will lose access to a vital drug at the end of the month after health chiefs failed to strike a price agreement with the manufacturer.
The paper said that CSL Behring failed to reach a deal with the Health Service Executive (HSE) on Respreeza for use in slowing the progression of lung conditions caused by the genetic condition Alpha 1-antitrypsin deficiency (AATD).
The drug is estimated to cost about 85,000 euros a patient per year, said the paper.
CSL said: “We worked tirelessly to identify and agree on a solution that would work for both patients and for the HSE and give Respreeza the best chance of gaining reimbursement.”

Study claims cost of cancer drug development lower than thought

The Daily Mail on Tuesday covered a new study that claims it costs around $650 million to develop a drug to fight cancer, around a quarter of a figure from Tufts Center for the Study of Drug Development and cited by industry.
The researchers at Oregon Health and Science University and Memorial Sloan Kettering say the findings, published in JAMA Internal Medicine, suggest the industry's prices may be wildly extortionate.

Pharma payments to Australian doctors revealed

Pharmaceutical companies gave doctors, nurses and pharmacists in Australia almost $12 million in fees and expenses to attend conferences and give talks between November 2016 and April 2017, the Guardian reported on Monday.
The payments comprised more than $6.5 million for travel expenses and accommodation; more than $4.2 million in speaking and consultancy fees; and more than $700,000 to cover registration at medical conferences and events.

Shkreli sent to jail after Clinton hair post

Martin Shkreli, the brash pharma entrepreneur who is awaiting sentencing for fraud, was sent to jail after a judge ruled he presented a danger to the community because of threatening behaviour towards Hillary Clinton, the FT reported on Wednesday
Shkreli, convicted last month but free on a $5 million bail bond, had offered a $5,000 bounty in a Facebook post to anyone who could “grab a hair” from Clinton’s head during the former presidential candidate’s book tour. 
Judge Kiyo Matsumoto said “there has been a danger present through this post” and revoked his bail in court in Brooklyn, New York, after which Shkreli was led away in handcuffs. 
Prosecutors had argued that Shkreli’s threatening behaviour had forced the U.S. Secret Service to “expend significant additional resources to ensure” Clinton’s safety. 
The jailing of the 34-year-old is the latest twist in the bizarre tale of Shkreli, who became an international pariah in September 2015 for raising the price of an AIDS drug from $13.50 to $750 per pill and appearing to revel in the subsequent outcry. 

Teva names Lundbeck’s Schultz as CEO

Monday’s FT said Israel’s Teva has appointed Kare Schultz from Danish pharma company Lundbeck to be its new chief executive, ending a seven month search (APMHE 54631).
The paper then followed up with a story on Tuesday that included comments from Teva chairman Sol Barer, who said the new CEO should not avoid “tough decisions” such as domestic job cuts.
“He understands the economic sensitivities, the pride, that it’s a big home company — and there is great sensitivity there — but you have to do what you have to do,” said Sol Barer, Teva’s chairman.
“Avoiding tough decisions is always the wrong decision and that is part of being a professional CEO.”

Teva sells rights to birth-control device

Teva has agreed to sell the rights and business operations of its Paragard birth-control device to a unit of California-headquartered The Cooper Companies for $1.1 billion.
Paragard is a non-hormonal intrauterine device with revenues of approximately $168 million for the trailing 12-month period ending June 30, according to Teva.

AZN boosted by diabetes drug trial

AstraZeneca has revealed positive trial data for a drug that helps lower weight and insulin dosing for type 1 diabetes sufferers, the tough-to-treat lifelong blood sugar disorder, The Daily Telegraph reported on Thursday.
The company's Farxiga is already approved in the U.S. for use in type 2 diabetes sufferers and racked up $457 million of sales in the first half of the year, up 22% on the previous year, putting it on track for blockbuster earnings. It is not yet approved to treat the more severe type 1 condition.
The initial readout from AstraZeneca’s so-called Depict Phase III study found type 1 patients who took Farxiga alongside insulin were better able to control their blood sugar levels.
They also benefited from weight loss and fewer insulin doses, with glucose levels remaining at a healthy level for at least two hours longer on average between doses.

AbbVie shares down after patient deaths in trial

AbbVie’s shares were down on Monday after two patients died during a trial of investigational rheumatoid arthritis treatment upadacitinib, the FT reported.
The company said one patient had died from heart failure while the other cause of death was unknown. However, the company said the drug did bring about “low disease activity” in more than half of patients after 24 weeks (APMHE 54645).

UK biotech Angle signs blood test deal with Qiagen

UK biotech Angle has signed a deal with German genetics giant Qiagen to co-market blood tests to help determine cancer indications and any relevant genetic traits in prostate and breast cancer patients, Monday’s Daily Telegraph reported.
Angle hopes to develop blood tests that can catch the early signs of cancer in patients exhibiting limited or no symptoms.
“It’s a major step forward for us,” said Andrew Newland, chief executive at Angle. “We want to partner with as many large companies as we can.”

GSK’s Relvar helps control symptoms of asthma patients in real world setting

The Times on Tuesday covered positive results from GlaxoSmithKline’s ‘real world’ study of Relvar in asthma patients in Salford, UK.
The paper said that the drug, known as Breo in some regions, was better at controlling symptoms of asthma than the usual medicines taken by patients in the trial.
The study was designed to allow patients to go about their lives “with minimal intervention” rather than being monitored in a clinical, controlled setting, typically used when companies are seeking regulatory approval for new medicines.

ESMO developments

Monday’s FT featured a report covering several developments at the European Society of Medical Oncology meeting, Europe’s biggest gathering of cancer doctors.
Research picked up by the paper included AstraZeneca publishing results showing that two of its lung cancer drugs, the immunotherapy drug Imfinzi (durvalumab) and another medicine, Tagrisso (osimertinib), significantly extended the time patients could go without their illness progressing.
BMS showed that Opdivo (nivolumab) boosted recurrence-free survival in melanoma patients compared with its own drug Yervoy (ipilimumab), if given in an adjuvant setting.
Data from a trial of Incyte’s epacadostat and Merck & Co’s drug Keytruda (pembrolizumab) in people with advanced melanoma showed 56% of patients responded to treatment with this combination.

Moderna raises hope of experimental CVD drug

Moderna Therapeutics, the highest-valued biotech start-up, said one of its experimental drugs had shown early promise in human trials, as the company tries to prove its technology justifies its $5 billion valuation, the FT reported on Thursday.
Moderna has raised more than $1 billion from investors and large pharmaceutical groups such as Merck and AstraZeneca, with a pledge to disrupt drug development by turning the body into a mini drug factory that can generate its own medicines. 
The company’s approach involves inserting artificial versions of molecular couriers known as 'messenger RNA' or mRNA into the body, in the hope they will tackle illnesses by encouraging sick people to produce missing proteins that are causing disease. 
A Phase I trial of 44 patients, which was conducted by AstraZeneca, showed the drug was well tolerated by patients and that it could boost production of a protein known as VEGF, which instructs the body to produce more blood vessels, Moderna said. 
It is the first time that an mRNA drug has been trialled in humans. Moderna and AstraZeneca, its partner which owns the rights to the drug, believe the medicine could treat people with cardiovascular conditions.
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