PARIS, 22 Mar (APM) - Novartis' chief executive Vas Narasimhan is making more sweeping changes to the company, including a pipeline shake-up, splitting off Alcon, new key investments and more staff cuts, France's Challenges magazine reported on Thursday (p.58 -59).
Since Narasimhan has taken the reins, the pharma has remodelled its portfolio, sold its stake in the consumer healthcare joint venture to GlaxoSmithKline and is set to spin-off its eyecare specialist division Alcon.
Following Narasimhan’s aim to upgrade the machine to generate cash to invest elsewhere, Novartis is concentrating on more promising projects. Last year four of its drugs became blockbusters, and it has announced 10 more between now and 2020. Novartis is focusing on three main areas which will represent 20% of its business in five years’ time: genetic therapy, nuclear medicine and cellular therapy.
However, Narasimhan’s desire to streamline the company has come at a cost for some: job cuts have been made with 2,200 posts being lost out of 13,000 in Switzerland. By 2022, Novartis’ global workforce is set to go from 130,000 to under 100,000.
Sanofi looking for CEO successor
Sanofi is thinking about who will succeed its chief executive Olivier Brandicourt who will have to step down from the position when he turns 65 in February 2021, Les Echos reported on Tuesday (p.18) (APMHE 62309
Rumours suggest that discussions on the subject have been heating up over the past few weeks, with both internal and external candidates in the running. Brandicourt has a mixed record as CEO, with several failed attempts in his acquisition strategy and a disappointing share price performance. Challenges magazine also reported on the topic on Thursday (p.106).
Sanofi is ready for the worst with Brexit
After the UK's leave vote in 2016, Sanofi started to prepare for the worst-case scenario, said managing director of Sanofi UK and Ireland in the magazine L’Express on Wednesday (p.67). The pharma started by moving its quality control and marketing authorisation departments, previously based in the UK, to Ireland and France.
It has also increased its UK-based stocks by 60% in the hope that this will be enough to prevent stocks running out while the UK government lays out a new market access policy. However, the issue that will affect Sanofi most is the depreciation of the pound.
Hugo Fry pointed out that the prices of vaccines and reimbursed drugs were set by the state, and so the more the pound falls, the more money the pharma loses. L’Express pointed out that the pound has already lost 15% of its value compared to the euro in two years.
Biogen’s shares slump after failure of Phase III for Alzheimer’s
Biogen’s share price in the U.S. fell 29% on Thursday after it announced the failure of its Phase III trial in Alzheimer’s, reports Les Echos on Friday (p.17) (APMHE 62348
The U.S. pharma said it was stopping its Phase III trials on aducanumab which it was carrying out with its Japanese partner Eisai.
This is the latest failure in the fight against Alzheimer’s, the economic daily continues, pointing out that other pharma have recently thrown in the towel in the attempt to find a cure for the neurological disease, including Merck, Pfizer, AstraZeneca and Janssen.
Biogen itself is in trouble, as it has heavily invested in a treatment for Alzheimer’s and its lead product for multiple sclerosis Tecifdera (dimethyl fumarate) could face competition from new products launched by Novartis and Roche.
Stallergenes Greer growing again
Allergy specialist Stallergenes Greer saw its sales grow last year by 6% to €227 million, reports Le Figaro on Friday (p.22). For the first time in three years, the pharma has positive net results.
This is due to continued growth in southern Europe and the U.S. but also the launch of Actair, its house-mite allergy treatment, in New Zealand and South Korea.
The company has had a difficult few years, after France’s drugs regulator ANSM filed an injunction against its factory to the west of Paris in 2015 for substantial shortcomings. However, chief executive Michele Antonelli is quoted in the paper as saying the company is back as one of the market leaders. He expects sales of between €290 million and €300 million this year.
Janssen’s invitation to the public to discover how drugs are made
Janssen unveiled ‘Janssen Window’ on Tuesday, a virtual reality experience showing the public how a drug is made, Les Echos reported on Tuesday (p.29).
With a virtual reality helmet, a member of the public will see how the whole process unfolds, from product conception to its distribution. Initially the experience was designed for healthcare professionals, but the low level of trust the French have in pharma companies, revealed in the survey carried out by Ipsos on behalf of French pharma body Leem in November 2018, pushed Janssen to open it up.
Janssen said the experience will be available on its YouTube channel, but it will not be as immersive as the helmet experience.
Patient association head disagrees that Novartis’ Ritalin is over-prescribed in France
The president-founder of patient association TDAH Partout (ADHD Everywhere) Fred Schenk said that contrary to what some specialists say, Novartis’ Ritalin (methylphenidate) is not over-prescribed, reported Le Parisien on Monday (p.17).
He added that actually less than 10% of the 600,000 children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) in France have been diagnosed. According to Schenk, doctors do not make an ADHD diagnosis easily but use a long list of criteria.
He added that parents should not fear Ritalin as an untreated person with ADHD is six times more likely to get involved with drugs.
InBrain Pharma to test dopamine pump for Parkinson’s in 2020
French medical start-up InBrain Pharma is to start trials for its dopamine pump for Parkinson’s disease in 2020, reported Les Echos on Monday (p.29).
The pump, based on the insulin pump to treat diabetes, will be implemented in the abdomen to administer dopamine directly to the brain. This means the drug can be administered continuously instead of just once a day and that the dose can be adapted depending on the sex, weight and age of the patient.
The pump would hold 20 ml or 40 ml and would initially be filled at the hospital before refilled at home, the paper continued.
Will drugs soon be prescribed in pharmacies?
Part of the Health bill currently being debated by the French government would see pharmacists having the right to prescribe drugs for everyday diseases such as tonsillitis or cystitis, reported Le Parisien on Tuesday (p.8).
The rapporteur behind the bill, MP of the governing party La République en Marche! Thomas Mesnier says that giving pharmacists the right to prescribe these kind of drugs and to automatically renew drug prescriptions for diseases such as hay fever will make up for the fact that more doctors are retiring from the profession in France than joining it.