Press review

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Bayer completes financing of Monsanto acquisition

BERLIN, 22 June (APM) - Bayer has successfully completed the financing for its approximately $64 billion acquisition of U.S. seed giant Monsanto, reported Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (FAZ) (p23) and Sueddeutsche Zeitung (SZ) (p20) on Wednesday and FAZ again on Thursday (p27).
Bayer has sold $15 billion and €5 billion of bonds, the papers said. Demand for the new Bayer bonds was high, SZ added.
"This confirms our excellent reputation and the high level of trust that Bayer enjoys on the capital markets," said Bayer's CFO Wolfang Nickl. "With this transaction, we have successfully completed the financing of the Monsanto acquisition," he added.

Merck KGaA partners with China's Alibaba Health

Merck KGaA has partnered with China's Alibaba Health to help combat drug counterfeiting and distribute its products through the Alibaba Health digital platform, FAZ (p42) and Die Welt (p11) reported on Thursday.
Alibaba Health is a subsidiary of China's largest online commerce company, Alibaba. It is larger than Ebay and Amazon combines, the paper said. The Chinese market is attractive and difficult for Merck because while it is projected to grow to $900 billion by 2020, large numbers of counterfeit medicines in the market harm manufacturers' sales and damage brand identity, it said.

Roche pays $2.4 billion to take control of Foundation Medicine

Roche has bought the remaining stake in U.S. diagnostics firm Foundation Medicine (FMI) for $2.4 billion, FAZ reported on Wednesday (p22).
FMI is one of several new diagnostics companies developing new procedures in personalised medicine to identify tumour types and underlying conditions more precisely, the paper said.

Boehringer streamlines drug production

Boehringer Ingelheim has put its Spanish production site up for sale as part of "the optimisation of the chemical production network", FAZ said on Tuesday (p22) (APMHE 58585).
The sale of the pharma's Malgrat de Mar production site, in the Barcelona province, is "currently underway with the aim of finding a buyer before the end of this year", Boehringer said.
The plant mainly produces active chemical ingredients for cardiovascular drugs such as anti-hypertensive medicines Micardis (telmisartan) and Twynsta (telmisartan+amlodipine), whose sales are declining following loss of patent protection.

Sanofi and Evotec finalise agreement on infectious disease unit

Evotec and Sanofi have signed an agreement to transfer Sanofi’s infectious disease unit to the German biotech, FAZ reported on Tuesday (p24).
The transaction, first announced in March (APMHE 57226) will be closed in the coming weeks and remains subject to customary approvals and conditions, including the approval by regulatory authorities in France.
Sanofi will license more than 10 infectious disease assets to Evotec and transfer approximately 100 employees to the biotech.

MorphoSys/Roche's gantenerumab in new Phase III in early Alzheimer's

German biotech MorphoSys has announced the start of a Phase III study on gantenerumab in an early form of Alzheimer's disease, a compound developed in collaboration with Roche, reported FAZ on Saturday (p25).
Gantenerumab is a monoclonal antibody directed against amyloid-beta generated by MorphoSys and now developed by Roche.
Roche failed a few years ago with gantenerumab in Phase III, but decided to try it again at a higher dose.

Safety of CRISPR Cas9 cast in doubt

The safety of CRISPR Cas9 gene editing has been cast into doubt after the publication of two studies linking the method with an increased risk of cancer, Die Welt reported on Thursday (p21).
The studies, both recently published in Nature Medicine, were conducted independently of each other by the Stockholm Karolinska Institute and Novartis, the paper said.

Prominent U.S. surgeon named CEO of Amazon healthcare partnership

Atul Gawande, a practicing U.S. surgeon, professor at Harvard medical school and well-known critic of the U.S. healthcare system, has been named chief executive of the Amazon healthcare partnership, Sueddeutsche Zeitung reports on Friday (p16).
The non-profit organisation was formed in January by Amazon, JP Morgan Bank and Warren Buffet's holding company Berkshire Hathaway to reduce healthcare costs for their U.S. employees (APMHE 56679).

Greens want to strengthen drugs' regulator

The Green party filed a draft bill to strengthen the rights of Germany's drug regulator BfArM, reported FAZ on Tuesday (p21).
Requirements on drug safety issued by BfArM should be applicable immediately, even if the manufacturer files an appeal, it said.
The Greens highlighted the case of Bayer's over-the-counter (OTC) plant medicine Iberogast indicated against stomach ache. In 2008 and again in 2017, BfArM requested an additional safety warning added to the label for pregnant and breastfeeding women and people with a previous liver disease. Bayer subsequently filed a lawsuit against BfArM effectively squashing any changes, FAZ reported.
In the past 10 years, 47 similar warning requests were ignored by pharmaceutical companies, the party said.

Pharmaceutical industry sponsors doctors with €605 million

Pharma companies in Germany provided €605 million of financial support to doctors and medical institutions in 2017, 7% more than in 2016, reports FAZ on Friday (p22) (APMHE 58610).
As in previous years, research accounted for the largest share with €398 million whereas training and lectures were supported with €105 million, events, congresses or the work of medical institutions with €102 million euros. The survey is based on declarations from 55 companies, covering 75% of the German pharmaceutical market.

Stada shareholders demand more money

Minority shareholders of generics drug maker Stada are demanding more money from financial investors Bain and Cinven, Die Welt (p10) reported on Wednesday.
The private equity firms acquired Stada in August 2017 for €5.3 billion and now hold two thirds of the shares (APMHE 54349). Shareholders have filed a suit in the Frankfurt Regional Court that the €74.40 per share offered to them does not adequately reflect the value of Stada. The fair value per Stada share should be "above 95 euros", the paper said.
The annual compensation payment of €3.82 per share for shareholders who do not tender their shares to financial investors is also too little, it added.

Ibuprofen to get expanded warning label

The German health ministry has ordered an expanded warning label for over-the-counter painkillers such as ibuprofen and paracetamol, Die Welt reports on Friday (p22).
The warning will read: "In case of pain or fever, do not use without medical advice for longer than directed in the package insert." It is intended to curb extended use of the drugs as they can lead to severe kidney and liver damage, the paper said.
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