Press review

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German government considers banning discounts on drugs by mail order pharmacies

BERLIN, 15 Mar (APM) - The German government is planning to ban discounts on prescription medicines by mail order pharmacies, reported Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (FAZ) on Thursday (p18).
The new regulation would be a defeat for Health Minister Jens Spahn who proposed to allow mail order pharmacies to give up €2.50 euros discount per pack as part of a deal with pharmacists (APMHE 61581).
By doing that, the government would be set for a conflict with the European Commission, which warned the government to implement the two-year-old ruling of the European Court of Justice allowing such discounts (APMHE 62176).

German Parliament passes comprehensive health policy package

The Bundestag passed a comprehensive health policy package on Thursday, FAZ (p1 and 15), Süddeutsche Zeitung (SZ) (p7) and Die Welt (p10) report on Friday. The aim is for patients to be seen more quickly by community doctors and to accelerate digitalisation in the healthcare system.
From 2021, all health insurance customers will also be entitled to a digital patient file. "This law will make care faster, better and more digital," said Health Minister Jens Spahn
Health insurers have criticised the law because it is likely to result in higher costs.

CureVac set to float in U.S.

The stock flotation of German biotech CureVac will take place in the U.S. but not in Germany, leading investor Dietmar Hopp told FAZ on Sunday (p19).
"There are people [in the U.S.] who are willing to give the money for it. Not in Germany", he said. "The problem is that very few people in Germany are willing to provide venture capital for start-ups."
The problem lies in the German tax system because the tax loss carry-forward rule is too limited, Hopp said.

Pharma lobby vfa to have single management

The current chair of German pharma lobby vfa , Han Steutel, country manager of Bristol-Myers Squibb, will soon also be its managing director, FAZ reported on Thursday (p24) (APMHE 62231).
The aim is to increase the association's creative power in the health, economic and research policy discussions.
The association has decided a strategic alignment as its current managing director Birgit Fischer is retiring at the age of 65 at the end of April.

Merck KGaA in patent dispute with Japanese competitor on liquid crystal mixtures

Merck KGaA has set aside between €10 and €100 million ("a double digit million euro amount") because of a patent dispute on liquid crystal mixtures with its Japanese competitor JNC, FAZ reported on Tuesday (p18)
Merck's sales in that business are likely to decline in 2019 because of expected price pressure.

Grünenthal targets U.S. pain market

German pain specialist Grünenthal is planning to increase sales of launch pain patch Qutenza (capsaicin) and to launch neridronate in complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS) in the U.S., chief executive Gabriel Bartschi told FAZ on Wednesday (p18) (APMHE 62250).
Grünenthal has based its growth strategy on two pillars : the development of innovative drugs in the pain area; the marketing of more mature products in previously untapped markets, Baertschi said (APMHE 62250).

Merz Pharma fully focused on aesthetics

Merz Pharma is focusing its business on aesthetic products, a shift decided more than five years ago in anticipation of the loss of patent on its former best-selling Alzheimer's drug Axura (memantine), FAZ reported on Tuesday (p33).
In 2018, Merz total sales were slightly over €1 billion euros with Axura generating only €122 million.

Roche and AC immune stop development of crenezumab for Alzheimer's

Roche and AC immune have stopped development of Alzheimer's drug candidate crenezumab (APMHE 61634), Sueddeutsche Zeitung (SZ) reported on Tuesday (p14).
Pharma companies have invested in research and development for more than 100 compounds so far, with most of these compounds targeting amyloid beta protein deposits in the brain.

Sandoz' CEO resigns

Sandoz chief executive Richard Francis has unexpectedly resigned and will leave the Novartis group at the end of March, reports FAZ on Friday (p) (APMHE 62255).
Novartis immediately appointed Francesco Balestrieri as interim CEO.
Francis' resignation may be related to Novartis's plans to reshape the generics division, FAZ says.

Big data, AI and Crispr in medicine trigger hopes and fears

The use of big data analysis, artificial intelligence and genetic engineering generate major hopes and fears, reported Handelsblatt on Monday (p16-17).
The Crispr technology may be "the end of genetic diseases" and some types of cancer as gene defects could be repaired, said Fyodor Urnov, head of research at the Innovative Genomics Institute (IGI) at the University of Berkeley at SXSW conference in Austin.
Its combined use with AI application to identify which part of the DNA they need to remove could speed up the process.
However, a strict worldwide regulation is needed to restrict the use of these technologies for treating patients. It is "absolutely possible that one day rich people with access to the new technologies will try to optimise their children so that they have a better immune system, for example," said futurologist Amy Webb.
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