Press review

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Will 2019 be the year of NASH treatments?

PARIS, 25 Jan (APM) - While 2013 was a key year for hepatitis C treatments, 2019 looks to be the same for NASH (nonalcoholic steatohepatitis) treatments, Les Echos reported on Thursday (p.20).
According to data presented at the Paris Hepatology Conference, 25% of men have NASH, and 3% have severe NASH. By 2025, the NASH market is set to be worth $22 billion, said the economic daily.
Three companies are set to commercially launch their NASH treatments in 2020: U.S. pharma Intercept with Ocaliva (obeticholic acid), French pharma Genfit with elafibranor and U.S. pharma Gilead with selonsertib.
All three target severe NASH, and the paper said their launch dates and side effects will determine their future success.

OK to get no money if drug not effective - Roche

Roche France president Jean-François Brochard said the company is ready not to be paid when a drug does not work for a patient, in an interview on Monday with L’Opinion (p.11).
In the interview, Brochard said Roche is suggesting that the French government set up a system where the pharma is not paid in the “10% or 15% of cases when our drugs do not benefit the patient”.
He pointed out that such a system already exists in Austria and in Belgium. He also said that France risks missing out on “the personalised health train” despite its excellent researchers.
He added that delayed compensation for hospitals, partially obsolete evaluation criteria for new drugs and long waits for market access are holding France back.

Authorities 'should come down harder on stockout pharmas'

France Assos Santé, the health system users’ union, is asking the French authorities to take a harder line with pharmas on stockouts, reported L’Humanité on Wednesday (p.4).
The union is reacting to the ever-growing number of drug stockouts and supply tensions in France - which increased by 30% between 2016 and 2017 according to France’s drug regulator ANSM - and the results of a survey which showed that one in four French people has been affected by a drug shortage.
Drug shortages are due to ever more globalised production which is concentrated in a small number of factories, said the left-wing paper. As a result, when a factory has its production halted because it does not conform to regulations - as was the case with the factory manufacturing Merck Sharp & Dohme’s Sinemet Parkinson drug in the U.S. - the resulting supply tensions and stockouts can last months.
Alain-Michael Ceretti, president of France Assos Santé, said ANSM’s decision to fine MSD €348,623 was a first step, but that such a sum was modest for a giant such as MSD (APMHE 61438).

Who should pay for Depakine scandal?

Despite the initial opinions from Oniam, the French authority in charge of compensation of medical accidents, stating that 30% of the responsibility for the Depakine scandal lies with the State and 70% with Sanofi, the pharma has refused to participate in the victim compensation fund, reported Le Parisien on Monday (p.14) (APMHE 61521).
Depakine (sodium valproate), an epilepsy drug marketed by Sanofi, is said to have caused malformations and neurodevelopmental problems in children exposed to it in utero. Sanofi is claiming it is not responsible, saying the authorities refused to change the information given to patients despite Sanofi’s alleged requests to do so.
Marine Martin, president of association for parents of children with anticonvulsant syndrome (Apesac), asked ironically if it was up to taxpayers to pay for the mistakes made by a pharma company.

GSK chair steps down ahead of Pfizer OTC merger

Philip Hampton is stepping down as GSK chair ahead of the pharma’s merger with Pfizer to create a vast over-the-counter (OTC) entity, reported Le Figaro on Tuesday (p.19). Officially, Hampton wants to leave to allow “a new chair to oversee this process through to its conclusion over the next few years” (APMHE 61502).
In reality, the paper said, GSK’s statement hid disagreement with this merger, organised by GSK’s CEO Emma Walmsley. The company’s board has started looking for someone to replace him, reported Les Echos in a brief on the same subject on Tuesday (p.16).

AstraZeneca expands Dunkirk plant

AstraZeneca has expanded its Dunkirk plant in northern France, reported Les Echos on Tuesday (p.26). The plant manufactures the pharma’s asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) drugs (APMHE 61529).
In 2015, AstraZeneca announced it was investing €135 million in the site and that the investment has created 130 posts in total.

MSD’s baldness treatment Propecia should be pulled - patients

The French patient association, “Help for victims of finasteride” (AVFIN), is calling for Merck Sharp & Dohme’s baldness treatment Propecia (finasteride) to be withdrawn from the market, reported Le Monde Science & Médecine on Wednesday (p.2).
The testosterone-lowering drug was initially approved in 1992 for benign prostatic hyperplasia but is now prescribed for baldness in men. However, Propecia is linked to severe side effects: loss of libido, depression and suicidal thoughts. This is why AVFIN is calling for the drug to be withdrawn from the market.
Medical opinion is divided as to whether Propecia is responsible for the symptoms sometimes shown by the patients who take it, with some doctors saying it is one of few options for baldness and they have never had problems, while others say they would never prescribe it.
France’s drug regulator ANSM has highlighted the risks of depression, suicidal thoughts and low libido, saying any mood changes must be monitored or treatment stopped. Yet MSD, says it has not noticed anything regarding particular on potential side effects.

French start-up announces Microsoft deal on Q&A app

Posos, which makes an app designed to respond to healthcare professionals’ questions on drugs and thus help avoid the 10,000 deaths each year in France due to medical error, has announced a partnership with Microsoft, reported Les Echos on Wednesday (p.28). (APMHE 61379)
The app was developed by a team of pharmacists and automatic natural language processing experts and thanks to its algorithm is able to answer nine out of 10 questions asked, meaning it can provide 12 billion different responses. The app is currently being trialled in Amiens university hospital and English and Spanish versions of the tool are in the pipeline.

OpenHealth Company raises funds for real-time sales stats solution

OpenHealth Company has raised €5 million in a second funding round, reports Les Echos on Friday (p.27). The company collects and analyses data enabling pharma companies to see their own sales and those of competitors in real time.
Health authorities can also use the platform to manage crises.
The company is planning to expand into patient behaviour, the paper said, to work out in a precise and anonymous way whether drugs are being used appropriately or not, for example if pregnant women are using a non-recommended product, or if certain drugs are being prescribed to children despite a contraindication.

Flu vaccination in pharmacies

From next autumn, French pharmacists will be able to administer the flu vaccine to people who are recommended to get it, reported Le Parisien on Wednesday (p.10).
French health minister Agnès Buzyn made the announcement on Tuesday, the paper continued. Around 700,000 vaccinations have already been administered in pharmacies since the measure was rolled out in a test phase across four regions in October.
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