Press review

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Italy’s hepatitis C problem due to lack of eradication plan, not drug prices - head of patients’ group

MILAN, 5 Oct (APM) - The problem of hepatitis C infection in Italy is not the prices of drugs but the lack of programmes to eradicate the disease, the head of a patients’ group said in a comment published in Wednesday’s Il Sole 24 Ore.
Ivan Gardini, who is president of Epac Onlus, referred to a recent study which estimated that there are 270,000-330,000 patients still to be treated (APMHE 59870).
Gardini stressed that access to direct-acting antivirals is not an obstacle. “All the innovative drugs are available, they work in almost 100% of cases and we buy them at more than reasonable prices (among the lowest of in industrialised countries),” he wrote.
He said one in three patients arriving in medical centres for treatment now are at a stage where, even if the HCV infection is eliminated, the course of the disease is difficult to change. He described this as “very serious” and urged the authorities to produce regional and national eradication plans as soon as possible.
According to Gardini, more than 150,000 patients have been cured so far, and this is producing huge savings for the national health service and the regions. “But none of these savings are being reinvested in plans to prepare for complete and structured eradication,” he warned.
He described complaints about drug prices as “a mantra used by people totally devoid of ideas”. He said the real problem is the lack of commitment, not costs. “The truth is that hepatitis C is hardly on anyone's agenda, it is no longer a priority and therefore not even worthy of investment (apart from to buy the drugs),” Gardini wrote.
He called on the new government and the regions to commit to curing all patients who still need to be treated, even if they are difficult to find.

Pharma reps among 11 arrested in Parma in corruption probe

Pharma reps are among 11 people who have been arrested in Parma in a corruption probe, according to Wednesday’s Quotidiano Sanità.
Police have identified 36 people and seven companies suspected of being involved in fraud aimed at persuading doctors, pharmacists and other health professionals to have certain drugs prescribed and reimbursed. Police searched the homes of 40 healthcare professionals and the headquarters of major companies including pharma. They have started proceedings to ascertain the responsibility of drug companies in the illegal activities.
According to the online publication, the operation may revolve around the head of a haematology and transplant centre at Parma’s university hospital, Franco Aversa. The aim has been to “adapt” the prescription of expensive and lifesaving therapies to the needs and the profit of pharmaceutical companies by targeting medical congresses and events, it said.
The operation is aimed at promoting the reimbursement of medicines to regional authorities for the economic benefit of pharmaceutical companies, Quotidiano Sanità added.

Private equity eyeing Mediolanum Farmaceutici

Private equity firms are eyeing Mediolanum Farmaceutici as a possible future target, according to Tuesday’s Il Sole 24 Ore.
Some of them have been in touch with the company’s management about a shareholder partnership. One is Paris-based group Ardian, which believes a capital injection would allow Mediolanum to expand significantly.
The Italian pharma, which was founded in 1972, is a business with €200 million sales. Its main therapeutic areas are cardiovascular, gastroenterology and diabetes. R&D is aimed at developing innovative treatments including vaccines against cancer, the paper said.
It suggested that private equity’s interest in the Italian sector has been prompted by CVC’s acquisition of a controlling stake in Recordati. But it is also due to the financial performance of the pharma companies, the paper added.

€1 billion increase in health funding promised by minister

Health minister Giulia Grillo has reiterated her promise that there will be a more than €1 billion increase in health funding in the Italian budget, Il Sole 24 Ore reported on Thursday.
A deputy minister at the finance ministry, Massimo Garvaglia, blamed the previous government for cutting health funding by €8 billion. “It is clear that this is a problem. The biggest part of health spending is for staff,” he said.
However, unions fear that plans to allow people to retire with full pensions earlier will mean significant increase in medical staff leaving the health service, creating even bigger problems with personnel shortages.

Boehringer appoints new production chief

Boehringer Ingelheim has appointed a new chief executive for manufacturing subsidiary Bidachem, About Pharma reported on Monday.
Maurizio Sartorato will take over from Leonardo Ambrosini, who managed the German group’s Italian site at Fornovo San Giovanni for 18 years. He said he is committed to maintaining Bidachem’s leading position in the international network as a producer of active ingredients for new drugs.
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