Press review

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Nestlé, Unilever and Coca-Cola bid for GSK's Horlicks unit

Country : Australia, China, Denmark, U.S., UK

Keywords :
LONDON, 21 Sept (APM) - Some of the world's biggest consumer companies have submitted bids for GlaxoSmithKline's nutrition business as competition intensifies to secure the company’s prized Horlicks malted drink brand ahead of an auction later this year, the Financial Times reported on Tuesday.
Even though Indian shoppers have lately been pressured by currency devaluation and goods and service taxes, the country’s growing population and rising wealth make it attractive for companies trying to offset weak growth in western markets.
The vast majority of Horlicks sales come through the company’s Indian subsidiary, GlaxoSmithKline Consumer Healthcare, in which GSK has a 72.5% holding.
The FT said GSK is expected to produce a shortlist of bidders in the next two weeks. It said bids for GSK's shareholding have been in the $2.5 billion to $3 billion range.
GSK sold its Horlicks franchise in the UK last year. The paper said Horlicks holds a special place in Indian life.

Oxfam report accuses pharma companies of avoiding tax

Johnson & Johnson, Pfizer, Merck & Co and Abbott avoided paying about $215m in taxes in Australia annually over three years, according to a report by Oxfam that was picked up by the Guardian on Tuesday.
The report claims the four firms “systematically stash their profits in overseas tax havens”.
In Australia, Pfizer was accused of avoiding the most tax at $94m a year, followed by J&J ($92m), MSD Australia ($22m) and Abbott ($7m). That equates to “almost the full cost of Medicare’s urgent after-hours home visits service in 2015-2016”, said the paper.
Oxfam has also accused the companies of avoiding taxes in other countries (APMHE 59744)

Pharmas to have access to Australian patient data from health record system

Pharma companies working in Australia will be allowed to apply for data from the controversial My Health Record system, a Senate committee hearing has been told.
The Guardian covered the story on Tuesday, saying that Caroline Edwards, the deputy secretary of the Department of Health, told the committee that third-party access arrangements would allow medical and public health researchers access to de-identified data.
She added that the system could not be used for commercial purposes - but pharma companies were not precluded from applying.
My Health Record has been in operation on an opt-in basis since 2012. The system will create a record for everyone who does not actively opt out by 15 November.

Tilray soars to $20 billion valuation on cannabis product approval

Tilray, a loss-making cannabis producer with less than $10 million of sales in its latest quarter, shot to a market capitalisation of $20 billion on Wednesday, the FT reported.
Its shares, valued at $17 when it floated on Nasdaq two months ago, rocketed up to $300 in New York on Wednesday.
The paper said it was propelled by news the previous day that Tilray had received approval from the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration to import a capsule form of one of its products for use in a clinical trial to treat neurological disorder essential tremor.

Scottish health board asks patients to buy own cheap painkillers

A Scottish health board has urged people to buy their own cheap painkillers, claiming that the cost of prescribing widely available drugs is threatening its budget, The Times said on Monday.
NHS Borders is looking at restricting the prescription of some “low clinical value medicines” such as paracetamol and ibuprofen, said the paper.
A spokesman for NHS Borders said: “Prescribing costs are rising faster than our annual budget uplift.

U.S. DoJ clears Cigna’s $67 billion takeover of Express Scripts

The U.S. Department of Justice has cleared U.S health insurance firm Cigna’s $67 billion takeover of pharmacy benefit manager (PBM) Express Scripts, the FT said on Monday.
The deal now requires approval from regulators in 13 states before it can be completed, said the paper. Shares in both companies were up on the news.

Public Health England under fire for not publishing vaccine trial data

Data transparency campaigners have called out Public Health England (PHE) for not publishing results of three major studies into vaccines for children, The Telegraph said last weekend.
The group, led by Dr Ben Goldacre, said PHE has breached the law by failing to add the findings to the EU Clinical Trials Register (EUCTR), which was set up to allow the scientific community to scrutinise the outcomes of trial carried out in the region.
The omissions by PHE forms part of a bigger picture of widespread disregard for the registration law, said The Times (APMHE 59665).
Goldacre’s research via his EU.trialstracker.net website shows that over the 7,274 trials where results have been due, only 49.5% reported the results.

Scientists discover why Alzheimer's drugs fail

A “vicious feedback loop” at the heart of Alzheimer’s disease may explain why so many drug trials hoping to treat this condition fail, according to a new study reported in the Independent on Thursday.
The same research found that a clinically approved drug that appears to break this cycle has the power to protect against memory loss in mice, providing hope for a future treatment.
Using nerve cells grown in a dish, the researchers found that beta-amyloid - which causes the brain degeneration in Alzheimer’s - boosts its own production whenever it destroys a brain connection.
This means that drugs created to try and clear up beta-amyloid could effectively be fighting a losing battle.
"We show that a vicious positive feedback loop exists in which beta-amyloid drives its own production," said Dr Richard Killick of King’s College London, who led the research.
"We think that once this feedback loop gets out of control it is too late for drugs which target beta-amyloid to be effective, and this could explain why so many Alzheimer's drug trials have failed."
Overproduction of beta-amyloid results in the destruction of brain connections, or synapses, and so this substance has been a natural target for scientists seeking a cure for this devastating disease.

Activist investor increases stake in Horizon Discovery

The California-based investment fund ValueAct is nearly doubling its 5% stake in UK-based gene editing company Horizon Discovery by buying shares from fund manager Neil Woodford, The FT said at the weekend.
The paper said the increased stake will help ValueAct in its efforts to lobby for a board seat.
It added that activist investors like ValueAct are targeting small and mid-cap companies in the UK as they are seen to be under-researched and under-valued.

Novo sheds 400 staff

The FT online on Tuesday reported on Novo Nordisk's move to axe 400 jobs in Denmark and China as it refocuses its R&D efforts.
Novo employs more than 43,000 people worldwide, it said. (APMHE 59739)
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