Press review

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Novartis aiming to limit M&A after Alcon spin-out

Country : China, Germany, Ireland, U.S., UK

Keywords :
LONDON, 12 Apr (APM) - Novartis is aiming to limit M&A spending as it looks to become a more streamlined company following the completion of the spin-out of eyecare business Alcon, the FT said on Tuesday.
The paper quoted the company’s chief executive Vas Narasimhan who said any deals will be limited to about 5% of market capitalisation.
It described the sale of the eyecare business as the "final step" in Novartis’ strategy to strip away its non-pharma businesses, following on from the sale of its stake in a consumer health joint venture with GlaxoSmithKline and the sale of part of its generics business Sandoz in the U.S.
Narasimhan said: "In the long run I want to be a company that’s consistently in the top half of the industry in terms of TSR [total shareholder return]. I think the companies that perform best… are the ones that demonstrated that consistency over five years, seven years, 10 years."

Merck KGaA beats off competition to agree $6.4 billion deal for Versum

Germany’s Merck KGaA has agreed a $6.4 billion takeover of chemicals firm Versum Materials, beating competition from U.S. rival Entegris, said the FT on Monday.
The paper said that Versum, which had rejected previous offers from Merck, has now agreed a $53-a- share offer that it claims is superior to a deal previously agreed with Entegris.
The agreement comes after a after a "six-week hostile campaign", said the FT, adding that Merck had previously offered to pay $48-a-share for Versum.

AstraZeneca hoping for warm reception at shareholder meeting

The Times on Tuesday carried a feature on AstraZeneca’s upcoming shareholder meeting, saying the UK pharma will be hoping for a "warmer reception" than in previous years.
The paper said the past two annual meetings were overshadowed by large investor executive pay revolts, but that this year, attention is likely to focus on business prospects after the company returned to growth.
AstraZeneca has described last year as an "inflection point" for the company, with growth driven by $2.8 billion of new medicines sales, led by a trio of promising cancer drugs — Tagrisso, Imfinzi and Lynparza — and breakthroughs in China.

Indivior shares fall on U.S. indictment

Shares in UK firm Indivior fell by more than 40% after it was indicted over an alleged fraudulent marketing scheme to push its treatment for people addicted to opioids, the Guardian and the FT said on Wednesday.
The indictment claims that Indivior sought to boost sales by illegally telling healthcare providers and programmes that Suboxone Film, which contains the opioid buprenorphine, was better and safer than similar drugs as a controllable treatment for opioid and heroin addiction, when in fact it was not.
The FT said the U.S. Department of Justice demanded at least $3 billion in fines against Indivior and that these penalties could put the company out of business.

Doctor to testify against Purdue

The Guardian on Wednesday said that a doctor who helped exacerbate the opioid abuse epidemic in the U.S. is to testify against Purdue Pharma, the maker of OxyContin.
The paper said that many experts believe Dr Russell Portenoy did more than any other specialist to erode longstanding caution within the medical profession over prescribing opioids because of addiction fears.
He has now agreed to cooperate with lawyers for cities and counties suing drug makers, distributors and pharmacies in return for dropping legal actions against him.

Jazz to pay $57 million to settle kickback claims

Jazz Pharmaceuticals is to pay $57 million to resolve claims it violated anti-kickback legislation in the U.S., said The Sunday Times.
The paper said the claims relate to laws that outlaw payments to induce federal health schemes to buy a company’s drugs.

U.S. senators accuse PBMs of harming consumers

The FT on Wednesday covered a hearing at the U.S. senate on the role of pharmacy benefit managers and their links to high drug prices.
The paper said senators from both the Republican and Democrat parties joined to accuse PBMs of harming consumers by potentially opening the door to anti-competitive activity.

Off-label use of drugs in children may lead to serious consequences

The Times on Monday carried an opinion piece from Carl Heneghan, a professor of evidence-based medicine at the University of Oxford, who said that there is little data on the use of drugs in children.
"Most evidence for drug use is based on information in adults; evidence in children is scarce, and the majority of drugs in use are frequently supported by low-quality evidence about their use beyond the usual age for puberty, or in many cases no evidence at all," he said.
He added that drugs in children tend to require off-label use, but this is a problem as "children are not small adults".
"[T]heir changing body composition requires careful dosing; their physiology creates unique challenges that increase risks, and off-label use may lead to serious and life-threatening consequences."

UK biotechs leading way in diagnosis

The FT at the weekend carried a feature on UK biotechs leading the way in early detection of diseases such as cancer and stroke.
It highlighted Angle, which has a developed a liquid biopsy technology called Parsortix that captures living cancer cells from blood without the need to cut out tissue.
Other companies mentioned include Cambridge Cognition, which is focused on computerised tests in areas such as memory and reaction to assess cognitive function.
Medica Group is a teleradiology company that provides remote reporting of medical images such as MRI and CAT scans.

FDA approves ViiV Healthcare’s two-drug HIV regimen

U.S. regulators have approved ViiV Healthcare’s two-drug HIV regimen, the FT said on Monday.
The paper said the decision gives a boost to GlaxoSmithKline, which has the majority stake in ViiV - a joint venture GSK runs with Pfizer and Shionogi. The drug, called Dovato (dolutegravir+lamivudine), is the first single-tablet, two-drug regimen authorised for adults who have not previously been treated for the disease, said the FT.
The paper added that Gilead currently dominates the overall $28 billion HIV market, with around 53% share compared with 22% for GSK/ViiV.
The Times covered the story on Wednesday, saying the approval is important to GSK's pharmaceutical division, whose performance is key to chief executive Emma Walmsley’s future. She has prioritised reviving the pharma division, in part by focusing on fewer potential blockbusters, and HIV treatments are vital to its portfolio and drugs pipeline, said the paper.

FDA approves Amgen/UCB's Evenity in osteoporosis

The Daily Mail on Thursday covered the U.S. approval of Amgen/UCB's Evenity (romosozumab) for osteoporosis (APMHE 62608).
The paper said the drug can re-grow older women's bones as fast as a teenager's.

Scotland backs Novartis’ Aimovig for migraine

The Times on Tuesday said thousands of people in Scotland who experience migraine will have access to Novartis’ Aimovig after it was backed for NHS reimbursement by the Scottish Medicines Consortium (SMC).
The paper said that Scotland is the only country in the UK to back the drug after it was rejected by NICE, the cost-effectiveness body for England and Wales.
The paper quoted Alok Tyagi, a consultant neurologist at the Queen Elizabeth University Hospital in Glasgow.
He said the potential side-effects that people faced with the standard treatments were significantly less. "People with chronic migraines will have headaches for more than 15 days a month. Apart from the headache, which is the most prominent symptom, there is also light sensitivity and dark sensitivity. We hope with newer treatments there will be a reduction in all of that."

J&J investment part of life sciences transformation in Ireland

Johnson & Johnson’s move to hire 100 staff in Limerick, Ireland, is part of a wider shift in the "evolution" of the city, according to the head of the government’s business development agency, The Times reported on Tuesday.
The paper quoted Martin Shanahan, chief executive of the IDA, the state agency, who said that the announcements were part of a transformation of the city.
"The Limerick story has developed over the last couple of years," he said. "This shift has been happening over the last two to three years and we are now seeing things coming to fruition with development on sites in the city."

Brexit contributing to drug shortages in England

Brexit has contributed to a shortage of some medicines at pharmacies in England, it was widely reported this week
The Guardian, The Times and the Daily Mail covered concerns from the Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee (PSNC), which draws up a list of so-called concession priced medicines — drugs for which the NHS will pay more than usual.
The list now features 96 medicines. Drugs are usually added when manufacturers or wholesalers increase prices because of factors such as shortages or supply issues.

UK cell therapy firm ReNeuron signs deal with China’s Fosun

UK cell therapy specialist ReNeuron has signed a licensing deal with China’s Fosun Pharma.
Fosun will license the rights to two cell therapy programmes in a deal worth up to £80 million, said the FT. One of the programmes is a treatment for vision loss and the other is for stroke.
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