Press review

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French drug regulator committee favours use of medical cannabis

PARIS, 14 Dec (APM) - An expert committee set by up France’s drug regulator, ANSM, said on Thursday night that it is in favour of the use of medicinal cannabis in certain conditions, reports Libération in a brief on Friday (p.16).
The expert committee cited some of the indications cannabis could be used in, reports Le Figaro on Friday (p.16), including certain types of severe epilepsy, palliative care and multiple sclerosis spasticity.
The paper says the next phase of discussions will start in January, if ANSM approves the committee’s reflections. It also points out that two cannabis-derived drugs are currently authorised in France, AbbVie’s Marinol for refractory neuropathic pain and GW Pharmaceuticals’ Sativex for multiple sclerosis.
Le Parisien had said on Thursday (p.12) that it had information that the expert committee was going to be favourable to therapeutic cannabis use, which could benefit between 300,000 and one million patients.

Boehringer Ingelheim to cut work force by 10% in France

Boehringer Ingelheim has announced that it will cut around 300 jobs in France, Les Echos reported on Monday (p.22). The job cuts will be split between BI France (human health based in Paris) and Merial SAS (animal health in Lyon) (APMHE 61003).
Le Parisien also reported in a brief on the job cuts on Tuesday (p.10), saying that 327 out of 2,800 posts in France will be cut.
The job cuts mean 10% of the German group’s staff will be let go, reported Les Echos on Tuesday (p.18).
“Problems getting market access for new drugs” are the reason for the job cuts, according to Boehringer Ingelheim’s management, La Croix reported in a brief on the job cuts on Tuesday (p.12). La Croix also mentioned that after buying Merial, a veterinary health company from Sanofi, Boehringer Ingelheim had guaranteed no job cuts for two years. This period has come to an end.
Boehringer Ingelheim is one of the top 20 pharmaceutical companies in the world, L’Humanité reported in a brief on the job cuts on Tuesday (p.16). The paper added that in the human health subsidiary, 120 employees would see their contracts changed, and those who refused the changes would be made redundant.
Jean Scheftsik de Szolnok, head of the French subsidiary of Boehringer Ingelheim, said the job cuts are necessary “to remain competitive in an ever more constrained market, notably in human health”, reported Le Figaro on Tuesday (p.26).

Relocation fear around acquisition of Upsa

Upsa employees are worried that the site will be relocated when the over-the-counter pharma company is sold, Les Echos reported on Monday (p.22).
Five candidates have submitted bids to acquire Upsa from Bristol-Myers Squibb, including two investment funds, CVC and PAI, and three pharmas: Germany's Stada, Italy's Angelini and Japan's Taisho Therapeutical.

Job cuts across pharma industry

Despite the industry's relative good health, job cuts in pharma in France mean that France’s finance ministry is monitoring the sector closely, reported Le Monde Economie & Entreprise (p.2) on Wednesday.
The paper mentioned the job cuts being made at two pharma companies announced over the past few weeks: 327 to go at Boehringer Ingelheim and 750 at Sanofi. Bristol-Myers’ Squibb’s sale of the over-the-counter pharma Upsa is also potentially a cause for concern as employee unions and MPs are hoping whoever buys the company will not lay off staff.

Patients to sign form before receiving Bayer’s Androcur

Patients will soon to have sign a form before receiving Bayer’s Androcur (cyproterone acetate), reported Le Parisien on Monday (p.17). Androcur is indicated in women for the treatment of hormone-related diseases and in men for some prostate cancers.
However, the drug increases the risk of developing meningioma, an often benign brain cancer. Under the measure that France’s drug regulator, ANSM, has just implemented, patients will have to sign the form every three years and it will come into effect before the end of the year.

Bayer under pressure from shareholder

Bayer is facing pressure from one of its shareholders, activist fund Elliott Management, to consider a spin-off, Les Echos reported (p.17) on Tuesday [Ed's note: On Tuesday Bayer denied these rumours - APMHE 61007].
Bayer has had a bad year, with its stock market value falling by 40% after it bought Monsanto. The money spent on Monsanto could have been invested in its own drugs, the paper continued.

Head of Roche Pharmaceuticals to become Gilead CEO

The head of Roche Pharmaceuticals, Daniel O’Day, is to leave the company to become CEO of Gilead, reported Les Echos on Tuesday (p.21).
O’Day faces the challenge of finding new growth drivers, as sales of Gilead’s hepatitis C blockbusters are flagging. Sovaldi and Harvoni meant the U.S. pharma’s sales grew from $11.2 billion in 2013 to $32.6 billion in 2015 (APMHE 60980).

Mylan’s lice treatment Prioderm no longer sold in France

Following an announcement from France’s drug regulator, ANSM, to restrict the marketing authorisation of Mylan’s lice treatment Prioderm, the pharma has announced it will no longer market the product in France, Le Parisien reported on Monday (p.17).
ANSM decided to restrict Prioderm’s marketing authorisation as the product contains malathion and terpineol, which can cause neurological problems including headaches and convulsions at excessive doses.

French scientific research centre loses staff

France’s national centre for scientific research (CNRS) has lost 1,200 staff members - 5% of its workforce - over the past 10 years, reported L'Humanité on Thursday (p.14).
These jobs have been lost despite the government saying that research is a priority. The paper added that a third more posts are set to be lost between now and 2050 as it has been announced that only 250 researchers will be hired each year, instead of the current 300.

Gut bacteria show potential in treating type 2 diabetes

Gut bacteria could help treat type 2 diabetes, according to French scientists who received a prize to finance their research, reported Le Parisien in a brief on Thursday (p.11).
The scientists have already identified 24 strains of bacteria and hope to carry out preliminary trials in 2020.
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