Press review

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Roche's shares down slightly on the year in face of uncertain forecast

Country : Germany, U.S.

Keywords :
BERLIN, Nov 17 (APM) - Roche's share price had fallen by around 1.7% since the beginning of 2017 to 229 Swiss francs (210 euros) as of Wednesday, while the Swiss stock market rose by over 11% over the same period, said Handelsblatt on Thursday (p34).
However more than a dozen analysts believe the share price will increase, the paper said. According to Handelsblatt, this means courageous investors who believe in Roche's future growth have an opportunity to buy shares at a reasonable price.
The question is whether Roche can succeed in bridging the sales gap between its current growth drivers - cancer drugs Rituxan (rituximab), Herceptin (trastuzumab) and Avastin (bevacizumab), which will soon completely lose patent protection - and promising successors such as Perjeta (pertuzumab), Kadcyla (trastuzumab entamsine), Alecensa (alectinib) and Gazyvaro (obinutuzumab).
Two non-cancer drugs are also potentially promising, Ocrevus (ocrelizumab) in multiple sclerosis and emicizumab in haemophilia A.

New March deadline for Bayer-Monsanto deal

The new deadline for the European Commission (EC) to decide over Bayer’s planned takeover of U.S. seed company Monsanto is March 5, reports SZ on Friday (p20).
The announcement was made on the EC website at the beginning of November, said SZ. This is the second deadline extension for the acquisition and was necessitated by a request from the EC for additional documentation for its antitrust review (APMHE 54776).

Bayer partners on two oncology drugs

Bayer intends to expand its cancer drug business through a $1.5 billion partnership agreed with U.S. biopharma Loxo Oncology, reported Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (FAZ) on Wednesday (p20) (APMHE 55595).
Tropomyosin receptor kinase (TRK) inhibitors larotrectinib and LOXO-195 will be co-developed and jointly commercialised by the two companies. For Bayer, the transaction marks an important step in personalised medicine.

Surprise change at head of Bayer's consumer health division

The departure of Erica Mann from Bayer's consumer health division and the nomination of Nestlé's Heiko Schipper comes as a surprise, reported Handelsblatt (p23), FAZ (p25) and Sueddeutsche Zeitung (SZ) (p13) on Thursday (APMHE 55603).
Schipper is facing a great challenge, as Bayer's over-the-counter (OTC) business has been weakening for almost two years, particularly due to competition from e-commerce.
On the day of Bayer's announcement, Nestlé announced a restructuring of the infant nutrition division headed by Schippers, whose position will disappear, reported FAZ on Thursday (p24)

E-commerce pushes OTC prices down

Turnover of OTC drugs in drugstores has suffered from the "Amazon effect" - competition from e-commerce sites - in the U.S., reported Handelsblatt on Tuesday (p20).
Online platforms providing large-scale price comparisons are driving prices down. Smaller OTC companies have gained U.S. market share thanks to an expansion of e-commerce because they have smaller drugstore footprints, said Handelsblatt.
Bigger companies have started to react. Johnson & Johnson wants to invest massively in e-commerce and Bayer said it will hire experts from big e-commerce companies, Handelsblatt reported.

First digital drug approved by FDA

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration approval of Otsuka's Abilify MyCite (aripiprazole tablets with sensor), the first drug with a digital ingestion tracking system, raises a range of questions, reported FAZ on Wednesday (p20) (APMHE 55591).
For Otsuka, this is a way to boost sales of its schizophrenia drug Abilify, which have dropped significantly since it lost U.S. patent protection in 2015.
The tracking system is meant to increase therapy adherence, a key issue in schizophrenia. However, experts are concerned over personal data protection and potential negative reactions from patients for whom ingesting a tracking system may reinforce pre-existing symptoms of paranoia.

Debate on CAR-T cell therapy prices

Criticism has been levelled against U.S. prices for CAR-T cell therapies Novartis' Kymriah (tisagenlecleucel) and Kite/Gilead's Yescarta (axicabtagene ciloleucel) due to the partial public financing of their development, said FAZ on Wednesday (p33).
Much of the preparatory work for Kymriah was carried out by Carl June from the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, who was the first doctor to treat a child with the drug. "One cannot privatise the profit and let the public sector take the risks," health economist Micheal Schlander told FAZ.
However, outcomes-based pricing will reduce the total cost of treatment, he added. According to German regulatory body PEI, the first EU approval could be granted in 2018.

Cancer drugs more expensive

The pharmaceutical industry has increased cancer drug prices by 25% on average in the U.S. in recent years, according to a study from Israel's Rabin Medical Centre, Der Spiegel reported on Saturday (p69).
Over eight years, prices of 24 common cancer drugs in the U.S. increased on average by 18% to 25%, excluding inflation. The highest increase was 57%.
The changes in pricing did not appear to be affected by new supplemental FDA approvals, new off-label indications or new competition.

Allergan's Botox studied in depression in Germany

German psychiatrist Axel Wollmer from the Asklepios Klinik in Hamburg has led the world's first ever randomised study of Allergan's Botox (botulinum toxin) against depression in 30 patients, SZ reported on Saturday (p33).
Wollmer, who regularly treats depression with Botox at his clinic, said the study results show that after one treatment to frown lines on the face, 60% of patients experienced an improvement of symptoms comparable to antidepressants, lasting about six months, the paper reported.
In April, Allergan published mixed results from a Phase II study of Botox in depression (APMHE 52593), and it is planning a large Phase III study, the paper said. If Botox is effective against depression, this would open up a new market worth millions.

Safety of cytostatic preparations in question

The trial against a pharmacist from the Rhine city of Bottrop accused of diluting cancer drugs and defrauding insurance companies has called into question the safety of cytostatic drug preparations in Germany, reported Sueddeutsche Zeitung (SZ) on Saturday (p33).
The opening of the trial on Monday was also covered by Die Welt on Monday (p23) and FAZ on Tuesday (p9).
All drugs are subject to regulatory controls but cytostatic production is too seldom checked and therefore reform is urgently needed, SZ said. The fraud was discovered thanks to two employees of the pharmacy, not through controls by health authorities.
Pharmacy records for Bristol-Myers Squibb's Opdivo (nivolumab) provide a good example of the fraud, Die Welt said. Around 16 grams of the drug were ordered for almost 300,000 euros over several months but more than three times that quantity was billed later, it said.

Higher spending, lower results in Germany - OECD

According to a report from the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), Germany spends more on healthcare than almost any other industrialised country but Germans are still sicker and have lower life expectancy than elsewhere, Die Welt reported on Saturday (p14).
The latest OECD "Health at a Glance" study shows that 11.3% of Germany's economic output goes on hospitals, doctors' practices and pharmacies - only Switzerland and the U.S. spend more, it said.
According to the Federal Statistical Office, in-patient treatment costs rose by 4.3% in 2016 to about 87.8 billion euros - more than twice total 2016 GDP per capita, the paper said.
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