Press review

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Italian study of vaccine raises hopes of effective new treatment for HIV infection

MILAN, 15 Feb (APM) - An Italian trial of a vaccine has had promising results in the treatment of HIV infection by inducing progressive immune restoration in patients, Il Sole 24 Ore reported on Wednesday.
A team from the Italian national health institute Istituto Superiore di Sanità (ISS), led by Barbara Ensoli, has been conducting the research which targets Tat, an HIV virulence protein produced in the early stages of infection.
The vaccine induces protective antibodies to neutralise the Tat protein produced by different subtypes of the virus. The administration of the Tat vaccine to patients in antiretroviral therapy (cART) showed it was able to "drastically" reduce the “reservoir of latent virus" which was unaffected by drug therapy alone, the paper said.
The results of a follow-up of patients immunised with the Tat vaccine, over eight years, were published in open access magazine 'Frontiers in Immunology'.
Ensoli described the results as raising hopes of a "functional" treatment for HIV which can control the virus even after antiretroviral drugs have been stopped.
It could lead to long-term clinical management of people with HIV, reducing drug-related toxicity and improving adherence and quality of life, which are important issues, especially in children and adolescents. It raises the prospect of eventually being able to eradicate the virus, Ensoli told the paper.
The study is the result of independent research entirely financed through public funding, including resources to conduct trails in South Africa, the paper said. A total of €26 million has been invested in the project, which has now conducted five trials of the vaccine.

Direct-acting antivirals reduce cancer, mortality risk in hep C - study

Results from a study published in the Lancet have confirmed that direct-acting antivirals reduce the risk of cancer and mortality in hepatitis C patients, La Repubblica reported on Wednesday.
More than 10,000 patients in 32 centres in France, around three-quarters of whom were treated with DAAs, were observed. It was shown that those who were treated with DAAs had a 52% lower risk of premature death and a 33% lower risk of developing hepatocellular carcinoma.
According to the paper, the results demonstrate the benefit of Italy’s strategy to eradicate hepatitis C. Carlo Federico Perno, professor of microbiology at Milan university, told the paper that the government’s decision to provide access to DAAs to everyone who needs them has been vindicated by the study.
“Now we have proof that the system works and that a universal strategy gives concrete results. Our health system continues to be at the forefront and to allow life-saving treatments for everyone. This is not the case in other countries that sometimes we look to as models,” he told the paper.

Farmindustria launches strategy to combat antimicrobial resistance

Italian pharma association Farmindustria has launched a strategy to combat antimicrobial resistance, according to Tuesday’s Il Sole 24 Ore.
The lobby group’s president, Massimo Scaccabarozzi, held a meeting with WHO expert Ranieri Guerra to discuss the plan, the paper said.
He highlighted how 11,000 people in Italy die every year from infections caused by bacteria which are resistant to antibiotics, one of the worst rates in Europe. It has been estimated that the cost for the country will be around €13 billion over the next 30 years.
Scaccabarozzi told the paper that companies were once discouraged from making new antibiotics, which has resulted in the current emergency. Now, there are 59 new antibiotics being tested, 17 of which are for serious infections.
The Farmindustria chief said that more than 85 pharma companies and nine industrial associations have signed a commitment to lobby governments and business to support global action against antimicrobial resistance.
Scaccabarozzi highlighted the importance of vaccines in the strategy. In France, use of an anti-pneumococcal vaccine significantly reduced the use of antibiotics.

Chiesi wins rare disease award

Chiesi has won a Eurordis Black Pearl award for its achievements in research into rare diseases, Gazzetta di Parma reported on Wednesday.
The award from the European Organisation for Rare Diseases acknowledges the company’s commitment to the field and its strong pipeline for bringing to market a wide range of treatments, including products for extremely rare diseases, the paper said.

Merck KGaA recognised as Top Employer in Italy

Merck KGaA has been recognised as a top employer in Italy for the third year running, Il Sole 24 Ore reported on Monday.
The Top Employers Institute assesses more than 1,500 companies in 118 countries. Merck was recognised as one of 20 Top Employers in Europe and globally, the paper said.
The Italian subsidiary’s head of human resources, Francesco Luchi, said: “For several years we have been working to make our company more employee-friendly and it is in that framework we introduced smart working.”
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