Press review


Vertex looking to make Orkambi available on NHS in England

LONDON, Jan 15 (APM) - Vertex Pharmaceuticals is looking to strike a deal to make Orkambi (ivacaftor+lumacaftor) available to people as young as six with cystic fibrosis in England, the Sunday Times reported.
The drug was turned down for use in adults by NICE in 2016, with the agency saying it was not cost-effective at 104,000 pounds per patient per year. However, it has recently been approved for young children, with Vertex pledging to go to the NHS with proposals to make it affordable for these patients.
Plans to go the NHS with a deal follow an agreement in Ireland that means all patients aged six and above in the country will have immediate access to Orkambi.
The Department of Health and Social Care said: “We welcome the ongoing dialogue between Vertex and NHS England to agree a deal that would make Orkambi available to NHS patients.”

Boris Johnson calls for more NHS funding

UK Foreign Secretary and chief Brexiteer Boris Johnson has warned prime minister Theresa May that the government must pay 100 million pounds a week extra to the NHS or face losing the next election.
The news was picked up on Wednesday in both The Daily Telegraph and the Daily Mail.
Johnson believes that the Government must adopt the flagship Vote Leave pledge from the Brexit campaign and spend 5.2 billion pounds a year that would have been paid into Brussels on the health service instead, The Telegraph wrote.

Irish families to sue Sanofi over birth defects linked to epilepsy drug

Irish families affected by Sanofi’s epilepsy drug Epilim (sodium valproate), which has been linked to birth defects, are set to take legal action against the manufacturer and the Health Service Executive (HSE), The Times said on Monday.
Documents released to The Times by the Health Products Regulatory Authority (HPRA) showed that at least 40 women reported serious side-effects when they took the drug while pregnant. Two of the cases included “spontaneous abortion”, both of which happened before the HSE decided that Epilim should include a warning notice.
The health service added a warning label to Epilim, a trade name for sodium valproate, in 2014. It said that it could seriously harm an unborn child and told women not to take it “unless nothing else works”.
Tuesday's edition of the paper said Ireland's health minister Simon Harris is due to meet families affected by birth defects.

FDA approves AZN’s Lynparza for breast cancer

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved AstraZeneca’s Lynparza (olaparib) for certain women with breast cancer, the Daily Mail reported at the weekend (APMHE 56414).
The paper led with the angle that the drug is approved to treat patients with BRCA gene mutations, the same mutations that led the actor Angelina Jolie to have a double mastectomy.
The report says that BRCA gene mutations are particularly susceptible to cancer, drastically increasing the risk a woman will develop breast tumours from 12% to 90%.

Roche warns of profit pressures

Roche’s chief executive is warning of profit pressures because more drugs are set to lose patent protection. (APMHE 56439)
In an interview with the Financial Times published on Monday, Severin Schwan said the Swiss pharma is facing increasing biosimilar competition.
Copies of its breast cancer drug Herceptin (trastuzumab) and its blood cancer drug MabThera (rituximab) were approved last year, and oncology drug Avastin (bevacizumab) is facing similar biosimilar competition, the FT noted, though it still has patent protection in the U.S. until 2020.

Big pharma struggling in Alzheimer’s

The FT on Tuesday featured on article on big pharma’s struggle to develop new treatments for Alzheimer’s disease.
The paper said it has been 15 years since a new drug for the condition had been launched, despite the sector ploughing billions of dollars into research.
The sustainably of that commitment is being called into question, said the FT, noting that Pfizer announced last week that it is pulling out of neuroscience research.
The paper interviewed John LaMattina, a former head of R&D at Pfizer, who said that other companies will also pull out.

GE mulling business breakup, healthcare business in crosshairs

General Electric (GE) is looking at a further break-up, the FT quoted its chief executive as saying on Tuesday, extending its retreat from the conglomerate model it championed in the Jack Welch era.
John Flannery, who took over at GE last August, told analysts on a call that the company was examining options for its power equipment, aviation and healthcare divisions that “could result in many, many different permutations, including separately traded assets really in any one of our units”, the FT said.

Celgene in talks to buy Juno

Celgene is in talks to buy CAR-T and immunotherapy developer Juno Therapeutics, the FT said on Wednesday, noting this would make Celgene the latest player to enter the CAR-T space.
It would be Celgene's second big deal of 2018 after it announced the acquisition worth a potential $6.5 billion of Impact Biomedicines earlier this month (APMHE 56321).
It is not clear how much Celgene would pay for Juno, which had a market capitalisation of $5.2 billion when markets closed on Tuesday, the paper said. Shares in the group jumped 42.9% in after-hours trading when news of the talks was first reported by the Wall Street Journal.

Focus on humans instead of animals in early research - report

The FT on Thursday covered a report that says UK biotech companies should put human data at the centre of drug discovery, rather than relying on animal experiments.
The report from the BioIndustry Association (BIA) and the Medicines Discovery Catapult says that animal models of disease are “poor approximations of humans”.
The State of the Discovery Nation report says that “humanising” the early stages of research would lead to fewer failures and an increase in productivity.

Blood test could detect eight common cancers

A new blood test that has the potential to detect eight common types of cancer before they spread is being widely reported on Friday.
The Guardian, the Daily Telegraph and the Daily Mail all cover the CancerSEEK test, which had an accuracy rate of about 70% overall in a study of 1,005 patients with cancer.
Cancers were detected in the ovaries, liver, stomach, pancreas, oesophagus, colorectal, lung and breast.

3D printer for drugs

Scientists have developed a 3D printer for drugs that they say could make treatments cheaper and more personalised, The Times is reporting on Friday.
The prototype, designed by researchers from the University of Glasgow, is able to follow digital instructions and choose the sequence of reactions necessary to make complex drug molecules from standard chemicals.
The team used it to make three different active ingredients: one used to treat epilepsy, one to treat pain and stiffness and a third to combat gastric ulcers.



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