Press review

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UK government requests Brexit gagging orders for pharma

LONDON, 9 Nov (APM) - Pharma companies are being told to sign gagging clauses before discussing contingency plans for a no-deal Brexit with the government, The Sunday Times said (APMHE 60435).
The paper said that the Department for Health and Social Care is requesting non-disclosure agreements so that officials can talk to them “in confidence” and ensure that “any requests of them are clear, appropriate and deliverable”.

UK tax cuts threaten health spending, Scottish First Minister warns

Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has warned that the UK Chancellor’s budget bonus for Scotland’s health service will be “wiped out” if the Scottish National Party (SNP) follows his lead and cuts taxes for high earners.
The story is reported in The Times on Friday. It notes that the Scottish government is in line for an extra £550 million for the NHS as a result of an uplift in health spending announced in the UK budget last week.
It says the UK Chancellor Philip Hammond also announced that he would raise the threshold for higher-rate taxpayers to £50,000 in other parts of the UK. The equivalent threshold in Scotland is £43,431, meaning that Scots earning £50,000 will pay about £1,300 more tax than English workers earning the same.
The Scottish Conservatives have urged Scotland's finance secretary Derek Mackay to target the growing tax gap in his own budget, insisting Scotland had become “a high-tax country which punishes aspiration and drives away wealth”.
However, The Times reports that, when asked about lowering taxes for the highest earners in line with the UK at First Minister's questions, Sturgeon said: “We have given a commitment to pass on all revenue consequentials to the NHS.
“Those consequentials are not just a gift from the UK government — they come from Scottish taxpayers’ money that goes to the Treasury before it comes back to Scotland. Those consequentials would be wiped out if we were to give tax cuts to the richest, as the Tories want us to do.”

Democrats take over U.S. House but lose Senate seats

Democrats took control of the U.S. House of Representatives in a victory that sets the stage for a contentious two-year battle with Donald Trump, but lost ground in the Senate, the Financial Times reported on Wednesday.
The results come from the U.S. midterm elections (APMHE 60489), which decides which party takes charge of the two houses of Congress, through which legislation needs to pass.
The vote could have an effect on some of the Trump administration's sweeping healthcare reforms.
The Guardian reported on Wednesday that the Democratic victory may stonewall Republican promises to pursue further tax cuts and changes to popular government programmes, such as Medicare, Medicaid and social security. Trump's administration also pledged to repeal and replace Barack Obama’s healthcare law, which the Guardian branded a years-long quest that will assuredly fail with Democrats now holding one of the chambers.
Another FT article on Tuesday summarised Wall Street views on the midterms. It said analysts at Goldman Sachs expect a Democratic sweep would leave pharmaceuticals especially vulnerable, as healthcare legislation would become a top priority.
“Investors are expecting legislative gridlock to prevent reforms that could reduce Pharma’s profitability. This leaves scope for downside to pharma stocks, while other parts of the sector that are less sensitive to policy (eg MedTech) could fare better.”

Drug price reform high on U.S. agenda

Meanwhile, drug price reform is one of the issues high on the U.S. political agenda as legislators look for policy proposals that can be salvaged from Tuesday’s midterm elections, the FT reported on Thursday.
On Wednesday, President Donald Trump identified this as a potential area for collaboration as he spoke of a “beautiful bipartisan type of situation” with the Democrats. The newspaper said both Trump and the Democrats have talked about policies to lower drug prices.
Trump’s preferred solution is to base what the U.S. government pays for drugs under its Medicare programme on the prices charged by companies in other countries. Most global pharmaceuticals companies charge premium prices in the U.S.

Former Celgene chair loses senate election bid

The former executive chair of Celgene, Republican Bob Hugin, lost his bid to take the New Jersey Senator position from Democrat Bob Menendez, the FT and the Guardian reported on Wednesday.
Hugin spent more than $30 million of his own money on his campaign, the FT noted, "much of it lavished on blistering advertisements".

NHS set for worst cancer waiting list times on record

The UK's NHS is on course for its worst annual cancer waiting statistics on record, The Guardian reported on Thursday, citing official figures.
In eight out of nine published cancer targets, between April and September, the health service treated the lowest or joint lowest percentage of patients since the standards were introduced, it said. They show that with half the year gone, 133,843 cancer patients have not been treated within the relevant standards.
This means 77% of patients were treated outside the standard in the previous 12 months, which is greater than the total in each of the first three years that all nine standards - introduced in 2012-13 - were in operation.

AZN sells three drugs to Covis for $350 million

AstraZeneca has sold three respiratory drugs to Covis Pharma for $350 million, the FT said on Tuesday.
The paper said the move is part of a shift in focus to new medicines to drive profit growth.
The products include Alvesco for asthma and Omnaris to treat symptoms of rhinitis, both of which were acquired by AZN less than three years ago as part of a $575 million acquisition of Takeda’s respiratory portfolio. The third drug is Zetonna for allergy symptoms.

Mylan has ‘mixed’ Q3

Mylan reported “mixed” financial results for the third quarter of 2018, the FT said on Monday (APMHE 60460).
The paper said net income was up to $176.7 million, although total revenue was down 4% to $2.86, billion, impacted by a decline in EpiPen sales.

FDA approves opioid painkiller Dsuvia

The U.S. FDA has approved AcelRx’s opioid painkiller Dsuvia, the Daily Mail said at the weekend.
The paper said the drug is a fast-acting, super-potent opioid tablet that can be taken as an alternative to IV painkillers used in hospitals.
The approval comes despite objections from critics who fear the pill form of sufentanil, which is 1,000 times more powerful than morphine, will be abused. (APMHE 60440)

Demand for Clinigen’s medicine distribution services set to grow

The Sunday Times carried a feature on Clinigen, a medicines distributer specialising in transporting tablets and vaccines to patients who cannot get access to the drugs through normal channels.
The paper said demand for the company’s services is set to surge in the next decade as patients become more aware of the availability of treatments in different parts of the world and demand their doctor supplies them.
It added that it could be a valuable partner to pharma companies in case of a no-deal Brexit.

Anti-vax campaign’s advert banned for child death claims

A Facebook advert that warned parents vaccines can “kill your child” has been banned, the Independent reported on Wednesday.
In a ruling published on Wednesday, industry watchdog the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) said the campaign by a group called Stop Mandatory Vaccination made unsubstantiated claims.
The post, which claimed doctors would blame deaths supposedly caused by jabs on sudden infant death syndrome, was also ruled to have caused “undue distress”, it said.

AZN returning to growth, says CEO

AstraZeneca’s CEO Pascal Soriot said the company’s third quarter results mark the beginning of a return to growth, according to The Times on Thursday.
The UK-based firm posted a 13% decline in revenues to $5.3 billion for Q3, while operating profit fell 26% to $1.3 billion.
Soriot, however, emphasised sales growth from new drugs and its performance in China and the U.S. - two leading markets. (APMHE 60499)

Hikma partners with Vectura to develop Ellipta generics

Hikma Pharmaceuticals and Vectura Group have signed a new agreement to produce a generic range of GlaxoSmithKline’s Ellipta asthma medicines, the FT and The Guardian reported on Thursday (APMHE 60507).
The new products will take advantage of Vectura’s proprietary dry powder inhaler technology, and net sales of Ellipta products are expected to reach $4 billion in the U.S. by 2024, the FT said. GSK’s patents on Ellipta products begin to expire in 2021, before which generic alternatives cannot be sold.
London traded shares in Hikma and Vectura rose 7% and 11% respectively on Thursday morning, the newspaper wrote.
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