Press review

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Spanish newspaper picks most remarkable drugs based on marine organisms

MADRID, 27 Apr (APM) - On Thursday, daily El Mundo carried a lengthy story about PharmaMar and other firms’ marine-based compounds with the headline: “Marine pharma: this animal cures cancer”.
El Mundo quoted Fernando Reyes, head of the chemistry division of the Medina Foundation, as saying: “The world needs new drugs, antibiotics most of all, and it needs them urgently”. According to Reyes, misuse is creating a serious problem of antimicrobial resistance, causing 700,000 deaths each year.
This concern was at the heart of the creation of the PharmaSea’ initiative‘ in 2013, in an attempt to find new compounds to face that challenge and also treat neurological conditions such as epilepsy and Alzheimer’s disease. With the support of the EU and other institutions, the foundation has collaborated in this line of research.
Most of the compounds identified under the PharmaSea initiative are components of seaweed and sponges. María Jesús Uriz, from the Spanish Superior Center of Scientific Research (CSIC) and researcher for PharmaMar, said sea organisms are unique when it comes to defence mechanisms. The newspaper says that PharmaMar’s products, which come from sea organisms, are therefore unique too.
Luis Mora, director of Oncology at PharmaMar, told El Mundo that there are higher chances of finding new drugs in the sea.
The firm’s crown jewel is “without a doubt” Yondelis (trabectedin), the first cancer drug found in the sea. It was approved by the European Commission in 2007 and is currently sold in 80 countries, the newspaper reported. Similar cancer products include Bedford’s Cytosar-U (cytarabine), Eisai’s Halaven (eribulin) and Seattle Genetics’ Adcetris (brentuximab vedotin).
Pharmaceutical companies such as GlaxoSmithKline, Boehringer Ingelheim, Aventis, Novartis and, “most outstandingly, Spain’s PharmaMar”, are some of the firms with a focus on sea-based compounds.

Major drop in prescription of opioids in the U.S.

The number of opioid prescriptions dropped 12% in 2017 in the U.S., the steepest fall registered in the country since 1992, daily El País reported on Saturday.
 
According to a report by Iqvia consulting, increased control of opioids use in the U.S. both by healthcare authorities and physicians has resulted in the biggest fall in the use of these drugs since records began. This is good news in the context of a true “epidemic” of abuse which has been linked to over 150 deaths each day, the newspaper reported.
 
Over the past few years, the country has struggled to understand how it is possible that opioids have caused more deaths than traffic accidents each year, or those of U.S. soldiers in the Vietnam war, which lasted more than a decade.
 
Addiction to opioids has its origins in the 1990s, when these potent analgesics started to be widely prescribed. Millions of patients sought illegal, dangerous substitutes when prescriptions stopped or they felt the need to increase doses, El País said. 
 
Besides a lack of control by healthcare authorities, many have accused doctors and pharma of deceiving the public about the risk of addiction to these medicines. It is estimated that the U.S. accounts for 30% of the global opioids market, despite accounting for only slightly over 4% of the world’s population, El País noted.

The role of innovative drugs

On Tuesday, daily La Razón carried an editorial signed by a renowned Spanish physician, Bartolomé Beltrán, about the role of innovative drugs.
According to Beltrán, innovative pharma is a strategic industry for Spain and its future economic development. It generates over 200,000 jobs and exports, which amount to 27% of Spanish high-technology products sold overseas.
Beltrán quoted data from the Weber report about the social value of drugs, supported by Spanish branded pharma lobby Farmaindustria, as saying new drugs have been responsible for 73% of the increase in life expectancy from 2000 to 2009.
He added that according to recent research, using the most innovative drugs is linked to increased survival, fewer social and physical limitations and better quality of life.
Spending money on the newest drugs is an investment in the medium and long terms, because of their benefit to society as a whole in terms of lower healthcare expenditure and increased productivity, he wrote.

Foundation demands access to Orkambi

The Oliver Mayor Foundation against cystic fibrosis has denounced lack of access to Vertex Pharmaceuticals’ Orkambi (lumacaftor/ivacaftor), daily 20 Minutos and a number of regional newspapers reported on Tuesday.
 
Despite its being approved in the EU for two years and being the only drug which treats the cause of the disease instead of merely alleviating its symptoms, it has not been approved for reimbursement in Spain, 20 Minutos reported.
 
The newspaper quoted pneumologist Antonio José Aguilar as regretting that the 200 cystic fibrosis patients with two copies of the F508del mutation who could benefit from this therapy will continue to receive palliative care and antibiotics and face the possibility of having to undergo a lung transplant.

Pfizer’s Mylotarg approved in the EU

Pfizer’s Myotarg (gemtuzumab ozogamicin) has been approved in the EU for acute myeloid leukaemia, medical journals Diario Médico, IM Médico Hospitalario and Acta Sanitaria reported on Wednesday. (APMHE 57805)
 
Diario Médico quoted Cecilia Guzmán, medical director of the oncology division in Pfizer Spain, as saying: “This great advance is the result of the collaboration between Pfizer and scientists from all over the world”. 
 

New drug prevents metastases in colorectal cancer

An experimental drug developed by researchers has successfully prevented liver metastases in mice with colorectal cancer, daily ABC reported on Wednesday.
 
The research, carried out by a team at the Sanford Burnham Prebys Medical Discovery Institute (SBP) in California, has been published in the journal Cell Reports, ABC added.
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