Press review

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HPV vaccination results in Sweden taken as example of what should be done in France

PARIS, June 15 (APM) - Tuesday’s Libération (p14) published an article on the positive results obtained by Sweden in human papillomavirus vaccination thanks to the extension of immunisation to boys, and asked if France should do the same.
The article said the technical commission of the French committee on vaccines has recently told the newspaper that the authorities should put the topic on its agenda.
Libération said there are several obstacles to this move, notably the cost of the product and the need to start immunisation before sexual activity begins, which is not always easy as parents need to explain this reasoning to their children.
Moreover, some argue that the interest of vaccination is weak, which does not facilitate the promotion and adoption of such a campaign.
In France, the immunisation rate in young girls is barely 20%, compared to the national cancer plan's target of 60%.
"The interest of extending immunisation to boys would be to desexualise the debate," a National Aids Council spokesperson told Libération.
But the latest official position taken on the matter in 2016 by the French committee on vaccines said that a universal immunisation campaign based on the same modalities as the one for young women "is not suitable in terms of public health".
"To put it clearly, the question is open, but the strategy remains undefined," Libération concluded.

AbbVie gains reimbursement for Venclyxto in France

AbbVie has gained reimbursement approval from French authorities for its chronic myeloid leukemia treatment Venclyxto, reported Les Echos (website). (APMHE 58478)
The product secured a reimbursement price of €5,250 for a four-week treatment course, and will be prescribed to patients who do not respond to other treatments.
Pierre-Claude Fumoleau, head of AbbVie France, told the newspaper that reimbursement registration came more than 18 months after the marketing approval.
Between 1,000 and 3,000 patients could benefit from the drug every year in the country, with an average treatment duration of between 24 and 27 months, he added.
After noting that the product is in competition with Gilead’s Zydelig and Novartis’ Arzerra, Les Echos said that analysts estimate potential annual peak sales of $1.5 to 2 billion.
The article also pointed out that this drug is one of the key elements of AbbVie’s strategy to compensate for the loss of exclusivity on Humira, which is expected in 2023.

Sanofi wants to regain position in cancer market

Sanofi still believes it can take a significant share of the cancer treatment market, despite having missed the first wave of immunotherapy products, wrote Les Echos on Thursday (p20).
While Sanofi's last major approval in the field was Zaltrap (ziv-aflibercept), launched seven years ago, the company gave a press conference in which it presented its two potential champions, cemiplimab and isatuximab.
The former is expected to be filed with the FDA at the end of this year, while the latter is in Phase III in multiple myeloma.
"In these two cases, our aim is not to compete with Merck & Co.'s Keytruda, but to bring proof of efficacy, in order to allow them to be used in combinations," said Joanne Lager, oncology development manager at Sanofi.
The company is also targeting patient populations that do not respond to existing immunotherapies.

AFM-Téléthon asks government to support industrial biomanufacturing investment

French association AFM-Téléthon, which finances actions for patients suffering from rare diseases, is appealing for France to support industrial investment in biomanufacturing capacities, in order to make gene therapy and biotherapies more accessible to patients, Les Echos (p22) reports on Friday.
At a press conference, chairwoman Laurence Tiennot-Herment called on the authorities to launch "an ambitious and strong policy allowing the creation of a French biotherapy industry".
The organisation, which finances the development of innovative biotherapies, with a R&D portfolio of eight products in clinical phases, faces difficulties in finding available manufacturing capabilities for viral vectors used in gene therapies, it noted.
"AFM-Téléthon has financially supported small-scale projects, but now needs to go a step further and estimates that a €120 million budget is required to build a commercial-scale unit," Les Echos wrote.
The association also shared its worries about the government's perception of the cost of innovative biotherapies, as treatment with gene therapies could reach between €400,000 and €1 million.
"We hear that at that level, no reimbursement will be possible, and that is worrying," added Tiennot-Herment.

AZN, Lilly fail in Alzheimer's

Tuesday’s Le Figaro (website) reported on the announcement made by AstraZeneca and Lilly of the failure of their Alzheimer candidate treatment lanabecestat in Phase III trials.
The article noted that this marked another unsuccessful attempt by pharma companies to find a new treatment for this disease, after previous failed attempts form Roche, Merck & Co. and Axovant.
In another article on the topic the same day, Les Echos (website) noted that the cost of the disease is set to soar.
"The cost of care is currently mainly borne by the relatives of patients," said Les Echos, and is currently around €20 billion in France.
The newspaper, citing a recent report from the OECD, wrote that governments need to take care of the situation - and not only in France - as it is also currently estimated that 50% of people suffering from Alzheimer's are not diagnosed.

Cellnovo launches commercial-scale manufacturing of its insulin cartridges

Thursday’s Les Echos (brief p25) and Investir (website) announced that biotech Cellnovo has launched industrial-scale manufacturing of its first insulin cartridges, destined to be used with its proprietary miniaturised insulin pumps.
The cartridges are produced by its Austrian partner Flex.
Investir noted the announcement was followed by a 14% increase in the company’s stock value.

Depakine forbidden for pregnant women with epilepsy

Thursday’s Le Figaro (brief p14) briefly noted that French drug watchdog ANSM has announced that valproate-based drugs, which include Sanofi’s Depakine, will now also be banned for pregnant women suffering from epilepsy.
This new measure was taken after the agency had already taken a similar measure for women suffering from bipolar disorder in July 2017.
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