Press review

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German pharma 'no longer leads the world'

BERLIN, 11 Jan (APM) - BERLIN, 11 Jan (APM) - The most recent deals in the pharma industry have once again shown that German manufacturers are out of the M&A game, writes weekly Manager Magazin on Friday (p11).
German champions Bayer, Merck KGaA and Boehringer Ingelheim have not been involved in major takeovers for years, and promising therapies such as gene or cancer immunotherapies are being developed outside of Germany, whereas the country used to be called "the pharmacy of the world".
German manufacturers "have missed the boat", acted too hesitantly and are currently not in a position to invest: Bayer can no longer make any major financial moves following its acquisition of Monsanto; Merck is currently recovering from major acquisitions in other fields; and the financial reserves of the Boehringer family are limited, it writes.

Pharma strategy under criticism

Sueddeutsche Zeitung (SZ) sharply criticised the pharmaceutical industry in two comments published on Monday (p4) and Thursday (p4).
German politicians should not listen to lobbies promoting accelerated drug approvals, it wrote on Monday. Accelerated drug approvals are contrary to the principles of evidence-based medicine and pose a threat to drug safety.
In the second comment, the journalist also criticised the pharma industry marketing strategy that "invents diseases" in order to market new drugs to treat them.
The pharma industry is only trying to cover up its own crisis because the time of blockbuster drugs is over, the paper added.
The industry sends 16,000 pharma representatives to doctors in Germany as well as sponsoring continuing medical education events to influence doctors, and awareness campaigns for patient associations to influence patients, SZ added.

Lilly to acquire Bayer's oncology partner Loxo

The US pharmaceutical company Eli Lilly announced the $8 billion acquisition of U.S. biotech Loxo Oncology, already linked to Bayer in a partnership on two major drugs, Vitrakvi (larotrectinib) and LOXO-195, reported Handelsblatt (p17), Die Welt (p10), SZ (p17), Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (FAZ) (p19) on Tuesday (APMHE 61318).
Lilly's management said the company plans to continue that partnership, while a Bayer spokesperson said no impact on its contract with Loxo Oncology is expected for the time being.
Viktrakvi was approved in the U.S. in 2018 and will be marketed by Bayer and co-promoted by Loxo.

Ex-Green politician appointed head of public affairs at Bayer group

Matthias Berninger, a former Green politician, was appointed head of public affairs at Bayer group from 1 January, reported FAZ on Sunday (p25).
"A Green now defends Monsanto" which is "the 'number one enemy' of all pro-environment organisations" as the producer of weedkiller glyphosate, the paper wrote.
Berninger, Parliamentary State Secretary for consumer protection, food and agriculture between 2001 and 2005, had already been criticised when he left politics in 2007 to join U.S. food producer Mars, well-known for its chocolate bar, as a lobbyist.

Bayer's share price up on positive news on glyphosate trial

Bayer share price was up 6% on 4 January on positive news for a trial of weedkiller glyphosate, FAZ wrote on Saturday (p27).
A federal judge overseeing lawsuits on glyphosate granted Bayer unit Monsanto's request to split an upcoming trial into two phases. He also declined to reconsider a ruling that limits evidence the plaintiffs in the litigation consider crucial to their cases.
This decision appears to alleviate fears of excessively high-cost lawsuits, wrote FAZ.

Roundup toxic for Bayer

"Safe or not, Roundup is toxic for Bayer", wrote Der Spiegel on Saturday (p61-64) in a 4-page feature article on the "Monsanto Merger Migraine".
Bayer has underestimated the litigation and reputational risks of acquiring Monsanto, and 2018 was "one of the most difficult in Bayer Group's 155-year history" as the company has lost more than €30 billion from its market capitalisation since its acquisition in summer 2018.
None of the measures to cut costs or reduce debt have had the desired effect so far and 2019 could prove to be even more turbulent, Spiegel wrote.

BioNTech reinforces cooperation with Sanofi, prepares for further alliances

BioNTech has strengthened its ongoing cooperation with Sanofi, reported FAZ on Saturday (p26 and 44) and Handelsblatt on Monday (p23) (APMHE 61301).
The German biotech last week announced an €80 million investment in equity by Sanofi and the co-development of a cancer immunotherapy candidate entering clinical testing in multiple solid tumours.
BioNTech is preparing for new alliances through a change in its legal form, from a German 'AG' to a 'European society' (SE). This will "expand the range of strategic options in future partnerships and capital procurement," the biotech said.

New patient representatives appointed

Claudia Schmidtke, an MP from conservative party CDU and professor of cardiac surgery, has been appointed patient representative for the federal government, reported FAZ (p20) and SZ (p4) on Thursday.
Schmidtke fulfils "all the prerequisites for a responsible role as patient representative," said Health Minister Jens Spahn (CDU). As a doctor, she knows the needs of patients, and as a politician she masters federal politics issues, he said.
The position of patient representative was created in 2004. Since 2018 it has been split in two, with one person representing patients and the representing other disabled and dependent people.

Health agency published 'biased' information on vaccines

Information published by the German national health agency BZgA on human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccines indicating that there are no side-effects is biased, said Ingrid Muehlhauser, an expert on evidence-based medicine and healthcare professor in Hamburg, in an interview published in Die Welt on Wednesday (p24).
All information on vaccines - advantages as well as disadvantages - should be accessible for patients, even if this could work in favour of anti-vaxxers, she said.

Studies on cannabis meds not valid

Many studies conducted to prove the efficacy of cannabis pharmaceuticals for pain or spasms do not match the requirements of evidence-based medicine as they include a small patient population or do not include a control group, Die Welt reported on Sunday (p21).
However, the side-effects of the treatment are well-documented: paranoia, euphoria or lethargy, Die Welt wrote.

Epidemiology network set up to track STIs

The Institute for HIV research at the University of Duisburg-Essen has set up a network (Stipnet) to better track sexually transmitted infections - especially gonorrhoea, which is spreading rapidly in Europe, reports FAZ on Friday (p7).
Unlike the UK, France or Italy, Germany does not systematically report cases of gonorrhoea, the paper says.
The German team started in 2018 the Brahms study in which 1,000 people at particular risk of contracting HIV or other sexually transmitted diseases are tested every three months on 13 viruses, bacteria and protozoa. So far gonorrhoea has been found in 10% of participants.

Takeda defends acquisition of Shire

Takeda chief executive Christophe Weber has defended the $60 billion takeover of Irish pharmaceuticals company Shire, saying that none of the 10 largest pharmaceutical companies in the world has been created without acquisitions or mergers, reported FAZ on Tuesday (p20).
Talking a day before the deal was officially completed, Weber said he intends to reduce the debt burden rapidly (APMHE 61360). In about four years, Takeda wants to have reduced it from 4.8 times earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortisation to the more industry-standard ratio of 2.

Lawsuit on BMS's experiments on humans will move forward

A U.S. federal judge has decided that a lawsuit against experiments on humans conducted by pharma company Bristol-Myers Squibb, the Johns-Hopkins University and the Rockefeller Foundation can proceed, Die Welt reported on Monday (p20).
774 patients and their relatives are seeking $1 billion in compensation because researchers infected them with syphilis to test if antimicrobial penicillin could stop the disease during experiments in Guatemala in the 1940s and 50s.
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