Press review

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Former drugs' regulator employee denounces Servier's 'smoke screens'

PARIS, 17 Jan (APM) - The former vice-president of the marketing authorisation commission at France's drugs' regulator Jean-Francois Bergmann denounced Servier's ''smoke screen'' tactics when testifying at the Mediator (benfluorex) trial, L'Humanite reported on Tuesday (p.15).
Bergmann said that the pharma used to ''drown'' the authorities with numerous irrelevant studies without addressing the primary indication of one of its products - whose efficacy was in doubt.
He noted that out of the 21 products Servier had on the market 30 years ago, six have been withdrawn, five delisted and four placed on the black list of independent French prescribing review Prescrire.
However, Bergmann also said that the regulator did not prioritise reviewing drugs such as Mediator which had been approved before 1980 - citing a lack of time.

JP Morgan conference shows challenges for prospering pharma industry

The JP Morgan conference taking place in San Francisco this week has shown that the pharma industry is prospering with sales of $1200 billion last year, but still faces challenges, reported Les Echos (p. 24).
The economic daily highlighted five main trends the industry will see in 2020: the rise of innovation, drug prices, data use, China and the attraction of ''deals''.
The rise of innovation means the profitability of R&D investments is at its lowest as the cost of developing a drug has doubled in 10 years, according to accountancy firm Deloitte.
As a result, companies are preferring to concentrate on a small number of drugs and are favouring deals with biotechs and research institutes.
Drug price issues are also heaping pressure on the pharma industry with the pharmas accused in the U.S. for rocketing prices - especially for insulin - and complaining themselves in France about price cuts enacted by healthcare systems.
Pharma companies are seeing both the rise of China and data use as full of potential as the possibilities of both open up - with health authorities in China becoming more liberal and data looking for play a crucial role in R&D programmes and diagnosing diseases.
However, China has its own challenges - with pricing pressure and the threat of local competitors.
Finally, after 10 ''transformative'' mergers and acquisitions in 2019, the mergers and acquisitions sector looks to remain active in 2020 despite uncertainties over the U.S. elections. U.S. pharma Lilly has already announced a $1.1 billion dermatology acquisition, the paper noted.

MSD doubles its potential market in France

Merck Sharp & Dohme has doubled its potential market in France as its star product Keytruda (pembrolizumab) can now be used in four new indications, reported Les Echos on Wednesday (p.20).
The indications are: lung cancer, bladder cancer, melanoma and Hodgkin's lymphoma. (APMHE 65862)
The economic daily noted that the approval of these indications comes with a price cut - a 21-day treatment with Keytruda will now cost €5,185 instead of €6,000.
However, it does not seem as though this will greatly impact Keytruda's bottom line as sales are expected to have surpassed €10 billion in 2019 and are expected to exceed €22 billion in 2020.
MSD has had further success with Keytruda with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approving it for another type of bladder cancer - worth an extra $250 million in sales - in December and Keytruda finally surpassing Roche's Tecentriq (atezolizumab) in triple negative breast cancer.

EU approves AbbVie acquisition of Allergan

The European Union has approved AbbVie's acquisition of Allergan - the manufacturer of Botox, reported Les Echos in a brief on Monday (p.23).
However, the €63 billion acquisition is subject to certain conditions. AbbVie will sell off brazikumab - currently in development at Allergan - which is intended to treat intestinal inflammatory diseases.
The paper added that it is not yet known who will acquire it.

France sets up monitoring scheme for patients on tramadol

France's drugs' regulator ANSM has set up a scheme whereas of 15 April patients on painkiller tramadol will have to see their doctor every three months to get their prescription renewed, reported Le Parisien on Thursday (p.12).
The doctor will then re-evaluate the patient to decide whether the patient's drug prescription should be renewed. The aim is to stop patients becoming addicted to this painkiller used when paracetamol and anti-inflammatories no longer work.
Natalie Richard from ANSM said that increasing numbers of patients are becoming addicted, with 37 out of 84 painkiller deaths in 2016 linked to tramadol overdose.
Nicolas Authier, head of the French observatory for pain medication, noted that although tramadol is very effective, it is also the opioid with the highest number of adverse events.
Le Monde (p.14), Libération (p.19) and L'Humanité (p.12) all report on the subject on Friday.

Servier offers employees attractive retirement benefits

Servier is aiming to increase employee loyalty by offering attractive retirement benefits, L'Opinion reports on Friday (p.8).
Servier has always offered attractive retirement benefits, the paper noted, starting back in 1962 when after an employee had worked nine years with the company, the latter increased how much it paid into the employee's retirement pot.
As a result, Servier employees left with very good pensions, which in some cases equalled - or even very occasionally surpassed - their salaries.
This scheme has changed over the years but Servier still maintains an attractive pension scheme to keep employees loyal. However, as Vincent Lamarche - head of personnel administration at Servier - noted, young job seekers today are more attracted by career prospects, attractive pay and a stimulating work environment rather than an attractive retirement package.
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