Press review

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Spain the most important EU country in terms of R&D - Merck & Co chief

MADRID, 16 Nov (APM) - Merck & Co’s management sees Spain as the most relevant EU country when it comes to R&D, the company’s general manager in the country told financial Cinco Días in a Monday interview.
Ángel Fernández said the company is leader by sales in Spain (€1.04 billion in 2017), in close competition with Novartis. Diabetes medicines, immunotherapies and treatments for autoimmune diseases areas are the firm’s biggest sellers in the country, he added.
Fernández told Cinco Días that Merck & Co plans to make big investments in clinical trials set in Spain in the near future. “Spain is the first EU country by participation in Merck & Co’s clinical studies, second globally. We will maintain this position because of the high quality of Spain's research teams and healthcare system,” he said.
Asked by the financial what the firm would ask of recently appointed health minister María Luisa Carcedo, Fernández said certainty and stability are key for pharma, so minimising uncertainty [about taxes, for instance] is important. He would also like to tell Carcedo that improving access to innovative drugs is crucial, he said.
Fernández said improved access to innovative drugs is the most important challenge for the pharmaceutical industry.
He presented Keytruda (pembrolizumab) as the most promising of Merck & Co’s new drugs, “because it has been approved in two indications and studies are ongoing in 30 different kinds of tumours”. Vaccines, HIV and diabetes medicines will also be key in terms of sales in the future, Fernández added.
Asked about the high prices of some new drugs, Fernández said follow-up studies to evaluate new products and personalised medicine with a focus in outcomes will contribute to the sustainability of the healthcare system. Besides, he added, the drug lifecycle is ongoing, with patent expiries of blockbuster drugs which reduce costs.
According to Fernández, more risk-sharing agreements would also be good, but in this context shared information and big data are needed . He thinks efficient drugs save money, which could allow innovation to have its place without it being a problem.
Fernández said pharma needs to make an effort to ensure that society understand its contribution. “When we talk to patients who have improved because of our treatments they thank us for our work, but in society as a whole, criticism still exists. We must keep working to make the value of our medicines known”, he said.

GSK presents six pharmacoeconomics studies at ISPOR Barcelona

Six studies on pharmacoeconomics carried out by GlaxoSmithKline have been presented at ISPOR in Barcelona, medical journal Acta Sanitaria reported on Thursday.
The studies addressed key therapeutic areas and GSK’s products, including four in respiratory diseases: two on Trelegy (fluticasone furoate/umeclidinium/vilanterol), one on Anoro (UMEC/VI) and one on Relvar (FF/VI).
An analysis of data from the Salford Lung Study in the context of asthma patients in Spain was also presented in Barcelona. Another study analysed GSK’s HPV vaccine Cervarix and yet another focused on lupus erythematosus treatment Benlysta (belimumab), the journal said.
The Salford Lung Study suggested that asthmatic patients treated in primary care settings with poor control despite receiving the standard treatment significantly improved with FF/VI, with positive results from week 12, Acta Sanitaria added.
Based on these results, GSK representatives at ISPOR said that increased use of FF/VI would save the Spanish healthcare system €4.9 million annually, the journal noted.

Only 2% of cancer research funds devoted to third biggest killer

On Friday, daily El País carries a lengthy story about pancreatic cancer, telling the story of survivor Juan Carlos García Calvo. The newspaper quotes García as saying: “Nobody cares about this tumour, because there are not a lot of patients, and that [big patient populations, Editor's note] is how pharmaceutical companies make their money”.
Pancreatic cancer kills 95,000 patients in Europe annually. Mostly, these are fulminant cases, El País reports.
After being diagnosed, average survival is four and a half months, according to a report by United European Gastroenterology. Within five years after being diagnosed, 97% of patients with pancreatic cancer die, El País adds.
The newspaper quotes the report as saying: “Even though this is the third biggest killer tumour in Europe, only 2% of cancer research funds are devoted to pancreatic cancer”.
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