Press review

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Sanofi refuses to contribute to Depakine victim fund

Country : France, Germany, Italy, UK

Keywords :
PARIS, 18 Jan (APM) - Sanofi is refusing to contribute to the fund set up to compensate the victims of its epilepsy drug Depakine, Les Echos reported on Thursday (p.15).
The economic daily added that Sanofi is also seeking to appeal against the almost €3 million fine it was ordered to pay to victims by the Orléans court of appeal in civil charges filed by victims.
Depakine has led to deformities in 2,150 to 4,100 children and neuro-developmental problems in 16,600 to 30,400 others since 1967, according to health authority estimations, La Croix said in a brief on Thursday (p.10).
The risks of Depakine during pregnancy were first established by scientists in the 1980s, and at the end of June 2018 its use was banned during pregnancy and for women of child-bearing age, the paper said.
Sanofi says the compensation mechanism does not take into account the fact that it transparently told "the [French] authorities... about the available data, in line with the applicable regulation," reported Le Figaro in a brief on the same subject on Thursday (p.11).
The president of the association for parents of children with anticonvulsant syndrome (Apesac), Marine Martin, points out in L’Humanité on Friday (p.21) that Oniam, the French authority in charge of compensation of medical accidents, had reached the conclusion that although the French state was 30% responsible, 70% of the responsibility for these defects and malformations lies with Sanofi.

Pharma companies to concentrate on targeted acquisitions in 2019

Pharma companies will concentrate acquisitions on small and medium-sized targets in 2019, according to a report by EY consulting firm, reported Les Echos on Monday (p.19).
A survey carried out by EY among 22 managing directors in the pharma industry showed that companies worth less than €10 billion are attracting the most interest. Large mergers and acquisitions are less popular today than they were in the 2000s, as an increasing number of pharma companies are concentrating on narrower therapeutic indications and selling off secondary activities such as veterinary health.
According to EY, companies for whom at least 50% of sales come from a single therapeutic indication have the best performance, with five-year growth rates seven times higher than others and 12% higher margins.
Biotechs are particularly attractive targets, reported Le Figaro on the same subject on Tuesday (p.20). More than 71% of drugs in clinical development in 2018 came from biotechs. Buying a company that has one or more products which have been launched or are ready to be launched means big pharma companies can reduce their R&D spending.
There is also a chance that their culture of innovation might spread through the purchasing company, the paper continuing, citing the example of Sanofi’s acquisition of Genzyme in 2011.
Biotechs also win in the transactions, said Maryvonne Hiance, president of the France Biotech association quoted in the article. “Biotechs bring their capacity for innovation and their agility. But they don’t necessarily have the resources to carry out Phase III trials and then market their products.”

AstraZeneca’s management team seeking pastures new

Over the past few weeks, three AstraZeneca employees with key positions have left for new positions, leaving Les Echos to ask on Wednesday (p.21) if there is a crisis at the company.
The departures of Bahija Jallal, Mark Mallon and Sean Bohen came after AstraZeneca’s president, Pascal Soriot presented his new plan reorganising the company into two bodies, Oncology and BioPharmaceuticals (APMHE 61401, APMHE 61435).
Soriot said the new plan means the company can consolidate and build on the growth it finally achieved in the last quarter of 2018. While it is doubtful that an R&D crisis caused the three men to resign, the paper continued, the departure of three people well-known for their professionalism is never to be taken as a good sign.

Generic drug sales stagnating in France

Sales of generic drugs are stagnating in France, reports Le Figaro on Friday (p.29). For the first time since they appeared on the market 20 years ago, generic drug sales fell in 2017, and then again by 0.7% last year.
This fall is linked to price cuts, valued at €160 million last year and expected to be around €100 million in 2019. A representative of Gemme, the generics manufacturers’ union, was quoted in the article saying that the price cuts pushed generic drugs below the profitability level - set at 10 cents per tablet - and therefore weakened the sector's economic balance.
Generic penetration is lower in France than in other European countries, 37% compared to more than 70% in Italy, Germany and the UK, the paper said.
France’s health minister Agnès Buzyn wants to increase this level to 50% by 2020. To achieve this goal, Gemme has suggested setting up bonuses for doctors. From 2020, patients who refuse generic substitution without medical justification will already have to pay the price difference between the generic and the brand-name drug.

Batches of Arrow’s irbesartan recalled in France

Batches of Arrow’s irbesartan are being recalled in France, reported Le Parisien on Monday (p.17). Just like valsartan, batches of which were recalled from July 2018, irbesartan is used to treat high blood pressure and contains a potentially carcinogenic substance, NDEA.
France’s drug regulator ANSM said that Arrow discovered the presence of NDEA when carrying out tests. The potential presence of NDEA does not pose a severe health risk for patients, but ANSM has asked pharmas marketing sartan-based drugs not affected by the quality defect to increase production.

One in four French people affected by drug shortages

One in four French people has come face to face with a drug shortage, according to a survey commissioned by France Assos Santé, the health system users’ union, reported Le Parisien on Thursday (p.12).
As a result, 45% of them had to delay, modify or stop their treatment, leading to further consequences, with symptoms worsening for 14% and hospitalisations for 5%.
According to France Assos Santé, pharma companies and their dubious financial strategies are largely responsible for these shortages.

Shared medical file scheme continues to grow in France

More than a million and a half shared medical files (DMPs) have been opened in France since 6 November, Le Figaro reported on Monday (p.26). DMPs are a type of digital health ID card, which healthcare professionals can use to access a patient's medical history. Over 3.5 million have been opened in total, according to France’s national health insurance fund for employees Cnam.
Figures show that the majority (42%) of DMPs are created by pharmacists, who are reimbursed €1 for each file they set up. Nurses will also shortly be reimbursed €1 by France’s health insurance for each file they set up, following negotiations which are set to end in February.
The final battle will be getting doctors to update and enter information into the DMPs. Hospitals are starting to use them, but community doctors are lagging behind, as they are in no hurry to update the software which would let them edit the DMPs.
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