Press review

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NHS chief says UK could fast track 'game-changing' CAR-T therapy to market

LONDON, 27 Apr (APM) - The UK's NHS must embrace CAR-T therapies despite their hefty cost, The Guardian quoted NHS chief executive Simon Stevens as saying.
Two of these cancer treatments - Novartis' Kymriah (tisagenlecleucel) and Kite/ Gilead's Yescarta (axicabtagene ciloleucel) - have so far been approved in the U.S. Though none are yet approved in Europe, the first decisions are expected later this year.
The cost in the US is $475,000 for Kymriah and $373,000 for Yescarta, which The Guardian noted on Thursday is far in excess of the normal NHS ceiling of £50,000 for a life-saving drug.
Still, Stevens said this is technology the NHS must embrace, the paper reported, adding that he appealed to UK pharma trade body the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry (ABPI) for fair prices.
“The NHS has a proud history of delivering pioneering treatments. As we celebrate the 70th anniversary, the NHS is working harder than ever to save lives and improve care by embracing cutting edge technology like CAR-T therapy and spreading innovation across the whole health service,” the paper quoted Stevens as saying.
“However, we can’t do this alone, and we need the help of the manufacturers to ensure we can get these treatments to patients as quickly and cost-effectively as possible.... Preparations are under way to make CAR-T, one of the most innovative treatments that has ever been offered on the NHS, available to patients, but manufacturers need to set fair and affordable prices so treatments can be made available to all who need them.”
Stevens' comments follow those of Sir Andrew Dillon, the head of UK health assessor NICE, who said companies with new and effective - but expensive - technologies like CAR-T must think “more creatively” about payment structures if they are to be affordable (APMHE 55652).
Like Stevens, he said: "clearly the right thing for the NHS to do is to pay for them”.

Shire CEO could gain £10 million from Takeda takeover

Shire's chief executive Flemming Ornskov could gain more than £10 million if Takeda's takeover of the Ireland-headquartered company goes ahead, said The Times on Monday.
The previous Friday, Takeda had made an improved proposal of £47 a share and increased the cash element of what was its fourth approach. 
Meanwhile, on Thursday, the Financial Times reported that the offer is a "make or break moment" for Takeda. It said the bid will probably go down in history as peak Abenomics — the fiscal stimulus reforms launched in 2013 by Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe (basically the opposite of Angela Merkel's austerity policy). 
Nearly five years after Japanese companies were first encouraged to spend the cheap cash offered by domestic banks to acquire foreign assets, Takeda has clearly got the message, it wrote.
The deal would be the 13th largest acquisition of all time, the FT said on Wednesday, noting it comes amid a rush of M&A deals in healthcare which point towards cost pressures in the sector.

Shire Q1 sales rise 7%, driven by immunology and new treatments

Meanwhile it was a busy week for first quarter results, including for Shire, which reported an overall 7% sales increase year-on-year in its first quarter results on the back of immunology, recently-launched products and overseas expansion (APMHE 57871), the FT reported on Thursday.
However, reported sales in its neuroscience division, whose future is being kept under review by the company pending a potential spin-off, fell by 2%, the paper noted. Sales in its rare diseases division, meanwhile, rose by 10%.

Sanofi disappoints as diabetes unit drags performance

The FT reports on Friday that Sanofi has disappointed analysts after sales continued to decline in its struggling diabetes division. The pharmaceutical company suffered unfavourable exchange rate moves in its first quarter, it added.
The French group on Friday recorded net sales of €7.9 billion and net income of €1.0 billion during the first three months of the year (APMHE 57884). That compared to expected sales of €8 billion and income of €1.4 billion in a poll of economists by Reuters, the FT writes. 
Net sales dropped 0.4% at constant exchange rates and were 8.7% lower on a reported basis, pulled down by the negative impact of exchange rate moves, which the paper said was most notable in the U.S. dollar. 
Sanofi’s diabetes franchise continues to face difficulties, it added, particularly in the U.S. where its blockbuster drug Lantus (insulin glargine) has lost patent protection and is under pressure from cheaper rivals. Sales in the diabetes and cardiovascular unit dropped 15.7% at constant exchange rates. 

AbbVie to run $7.5bn share buyback

AbbVie has announced a share buyback of up to $7.5 billion, the FT said on Thursday, noting it beat Wall Street expectations for quarterly earnings
The company makes ulcerative colitis drug Humira (adalimumab) - which the publication said generates more revenue than any other drug - and posted adjusted earnings of $3 billion, or $1.87 per diluted share, on revenues of $7.93 billion (APMHE 57876). The company marked Humira, as well as Imbruvica (ibrutinib) and Mavyret/ Maviret (glecaprevir/pibrentasvir), as big growth contributors.
Analysts had expected adjusted earnings of $2.9 billion, or $1.79 a share, and revenues of $7.6 billion on average, the FT wrote.

Stronger pound weighs on GSK revenues

GlaxoSmithKline delivered sales of £7.2bn in the first quarter of this year (APMHE 57848) but faced pressures due to the strengthening of the pound against the dollar, the FT reported on Wednesday.
It wrote that revenues were in line with market expectations, but that analysts were expressing concerns about the level of decline in sales of Advair, the UK drugmaker’s long-time respiratory blockbuster drug, which has lost patent protection. Executives discussed the concerns during their first quarter call (APMHE 57867).
GSK is now expecting sales of the medicine in the US to fall by roughly 30%, having previously expected a 20% to 25% drop, the FT noted.
GSK said, however, that its new shingles medicine Shingrix had performed well, notching up sales of £110m in North America, against consensus expectations of £40m. The company said it was on track to generate about £400 million from the drug by the end of the year.

Amgen's new products and lower tax rate lift earnings

Amgen's revenues rose 2% year-on-year to $5.6 billion in the first three months of 2018 (APMHE 57841), with strong growth for recently launched products like its Repatha (evolocumab) cholesterol medication softening a decline in sales of some of its more established ones, the FT said on Tuesday.
Net income jumped 12% to $2.3 billion for the three months ending March 31, while earnings per share came in 16% higher year-on-year to $3.25, the paper noted.
Analysts had been looking for sales of $5.43 billion and net income of $1.95 billion, or $2.82 a share, it said, citing Thomson Reuters. Adjusted for special items, earnings per share came in up 10% at $3.47.

Antidepressants, bladder medicines could be linked to dementia risk

Some antidepressants and bladder medicines could be linked to dementia, according to a team of scientists who are calling for doctors to think about “de-prescribing” them where possible, the Guardian reported on Wednesday.
Tricyclic antidepressants such as amitriptyline, which are also prescribed for pain and to help with sleeping, and one of the SSRI class, paroxetine (also known as Seroxat), are implicated by the largest ever study to look at this possible risk, it said.
As a group, these are known as anticholinergic drugs, it added, noting that there are 1.5 to 2 million people in England alone on this type of drug. It is already known that they can cause short-term confusion and raise people’s risk of a fall, The Guardian said. One in five people taking an antidepressant is on an anticholinergic drug, usually amitriptyline.
The findings were reported in the British Medical Journal and were based on a study of GP records for more than 40,000 people over the age of 65 with dementia and nearly 300,000 without dementia. The paper noted that the researchers looked back at prescribing records for up to 20 years to find whether there was a link between anticholinergic drugs dosed and dementia diagnosis.

Wide-spread antimalarial dosing could eradicate the disease

Malaria could be quickly eliminated in south-east Asia by an all-out effort to dose whole populations with drugs that treat the disease, regardless of whether or not people have symptoms or are healthy, The Guardian reported on Wednesday, quoting an Oxford University study.
It noted that an experimental programme which involved giving drugs to 365,000 people in malarial “hotspots” across 18,000 square kilometres of Myanmar has succeeded in substantially reducing and even sometimes clearing malaria completely from villages.
The radical programme may be the best way to outpace rapidly spreading resistance to anti-malarial drugs, the researchers believe.
They are now calling for urgent political and financial backing from donor governments and the World Health Organisation for the programme, The Guardian said.

'Gene map for depression' sparks hopes of new generation of treatments

Scientists have raised hopes of more effective treatments for depression after mapping out the genetic foundations of the mental disorder in unprecedented detail, The Guardian reported on Thursday.
In the world’s largest investigation into the impact of DNA on the mental disorder, more than 200 researchers identified 44 gene variants that raise the risk of depression. Of those, 30 have never been connected to the condition before, the paper reported.
By tripling the number of gene regions linked to depression, scientists now hope to understand more about why the disorder strikes some but not others, even when they have similar life experiences. The work could also help in the search for drugs to treat the condition, which affects as many as one in four people over a lifetime, it said.
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