Press review

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Pharma trying to ‘rip off taxpayers' – UK health secretary

LONDON, 14 Sep (APM) - UK heath secretary Matt Hancock has slammed pharma companies for trying to “rip off taxpayers” in an interview with The Times published at the weekend.
He told the paper that he is “not going to let big pharmaceutical companies hold the NHS to ransom”, referencing an ongoing debate with Vertex over the cost of cystic fibrosis drug Orkambi, which has a list price of £104,000 a year.
Hancock said the NHS had “given the biggest offer in its history” to Vertex, offering half a billion pounds over five years, but accused the company of being “engaged in a highly politicised campaign — directly campaigning to MPs to tell the NHS to pay more for an important drug that they are already making a tidy profit on”.
He added: “They are trying to rip off the taxpayer. I think that the offer they’ve got is incredibly generous, I think that they are attempting profiteering off the back of the NHS and they need instead to accept the deal and supply the drug right now.”
A spokesperson for Vertex said: “We have made an offer to NHS England that is the best in the world, for all of our medicines and all patients, and their response has been to offer us a fraction of what other countries pay for our medicine.”

NHS patients denied access to Roche’s Ocrevus for primary progressive MS

Patients in England with primary progressive multiple sclerosis (MS) should not have NHS access to Roche’s Ocrevus (ocrelizumab), according to new NICE guidance, the Daily Mail reported on Monday (APMHE 59614).
The paper said that NICE did not consider the drug to be cost-effective - it has a £9,600 list price for each six-monthly dose, meaning it costs £19,200 per patient per year.
NICE is likely to approve it for the other form of MS - the relapsing-remitting type, which affects about 85% of all people with the disease.

Vectura warns Brexit could disrupt supply chains

UK pharma company Vectura has warned that Brexit threatens to increase costs and disrupt supply chains, The Times said on Wednesday.
In an update to investors with its half-year results yesterday, Vectura said that uncertainty had increased because of the prospect of a no-deal Brexit (APMHE 59637).

Nostrum CEO defends price hike and agrees with Shkreli

The head of Nostrum Laboratories has defended the company’s decision to raise the price of an antibiotic from $474.75 to $2,392 and said he agrees with the much-criticised former Turing CEO Martin Shkreli when it comes to drug pricing, the FT said on Tuesday.
Nirmal Mulye told the paper that the increase for nitrofurantoin - an antibiotic used to treat bladder infections - was down to market dynamics, saying it is a “moral requirement” for businesses to make money where they can.
He added that he was responding to a price rise from Casper Pharma, which makes a branded version of nitrofurantoin known as Furadantin.
Mulye also defended Shkreli, who received widespread political and media condemnation for increasing the price of an off-patent drug known as Daraprim from $13.50 to $750.
He said: “If he’s the only one selling it then he can make as much money as he can. This is a capitalist economy and if you can’t make money you can’t stay in business.”

Billionaire Sackler family owns second opioid drugmaker

The billionaire Sachler family, which has been blamed for fuelling the U.S. opioid addiction epidemic, owns a second drugmaker that churns out millions of addiction painkillers each year, the Financial Times said at the weekend.
The Sacklers are best known as the owners of Pardue Phama, the privately-owned drug maker that makes the now infamous painkiller OxyContin, which has been described as "heroin in a pill".
However, an FT analysis of company registration documents has now established that the family also owns Rhodes Pharma, a little-known Rhode Island-based drug maker that is the largest producer of off-patent generic opioids in the U.S.
The Sacklers have made billions of dollars from the sale of opiate painkillers. In 2016, Forbes calculated their combined wealth at $13 billion, almost all of it derived from their drugmaking interests, and said the fortune was shared among 20 family members, the FT said.

Takeda family brands Shire deal 'a disaster'

A leading member of the family that founded Japan's Takeda has spoken out for the first time in opposition to its $62 billion takeover of Dublin-based rare diseases specialist Shire (APMHE 59616).
In an interview published in The Sunday Times, Kazu Takeda, a member of a group of shareholders fighting to overturn the deal, said the takeover would have "disastrous" consequences for the business and risked distancing it from the corporate philosophy of "Takeda-ism", which holds that profits come from making people happy.
The group of small shareholders, operating under the name Thinking about Takeda’s Bright Future (TTBF), wants to block what would be the biggest international takeover by a Japanese company in history. It would create a global behemoth with combined annual sales of $31.2 billion and 49,230 employees, the paper added.

Scotland can be leader in precision medicine

Scotland can be a world leader in precision medicine, first minister Nicola Sturgeon has told a national conference, The Times said on Tuesday.
Sturgeon announced £4.2 million of funding for precision medicine over three years.

Azathioprine linked to skin cancer

Arthritis drug azathioprine could be a factor in causing skin cancer, according to researchers at Dundee University.
The Times on Tuesday said scientists have found a link between the drug and a mutation signature found in a common form of skin cancer called cutaneous squamous cell carcinoma (cSCC).
It was already known that use of azathioprine leads to increased photosensitivity to UVA light.
Charlotte Proby, a professor of dermatology in the school of medicine at Dundee, said: “We recommend all physicians give appropriate advice on UVA avoidance including year-round sun protection for their patients on azathioprine.”

BTG acquires Novate Medical for $150 million

UK pharma BTG has acquired medical devices firm Novate Medical in a deal worth up to $150 million, The Times said at the weekend.
Novate is developing a product called Sentry, which aims to prevent pulmonary embolism, a blockage of an artery in the lungs.
BTG said it plans to launch Sentry in the U.S. in the second half of its 2018-19 financial year.

Teva delays launch of generic Suboxone Film

Teva Pharmaceuticals has agreed to delay launching in the U.S. a generic version of Indivior's Suboxone Film for opioid dependency, The Times said on Thursday. (APMHE 59671)
The paper said that Teva is awaiting the outcome of a court case involving Dr Reddy's, which is also looking to bring a generic product to market.

AZN's blood cancer drug Lumoxiti approved in U.S.

The Times on Friday covered the U.S. approval of AstraZeneca's Lumoxiti for hairy cell leukaemia (APMHE 59690).
The paper said the approval could be seen as another coup for AZN's CEO Pascal Soriot, who took over in 2012 and has pumped money into four key areas of research, one of which is oncology.
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