Press review

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The success of immunotherapy is enticing more pharma into the previously Roche-dominated cancer field

PARIS, 12 Apr (APM) - The success of immunotherapy means more pharma companies are getting involved the cancer space, a field which was previously dominated by Roche, Les Echos reported on Thursday (p.13).
The cancer treatment market is set to be worth between $190 billion and $270 billion by 2024, driven by immunotherapies, whose own market is set to worth between $120 billion and $150 billion by the same date.
But the rise of this new field of therapy - which has seen the approval of 16 new cancer treatments, thousands of clinical trials and a Nobel prize - is not just increasing the worth of the cancer treatment market, it is also changing the competitiveness of the market.
Beforehand, Roche dominated the cancer market, and it continues to lead with sales of $56.4 billion in 2018. However, Merck Sharp & Dohme and Bristol Myers-Squibb are snapping at its heels, recording sales of $42.3 billion and $22.6 billion respectively in the same year.
The sales of the latter two are primarily down to immunotherapies, which “take the brakes off the immune system to target […] mutations in tumours” said analyst at Bryan, Garnier Jean-Jaques Le Fur. Hence the spectacular results of these drugs are seen in 20% of patients, Les Echos noted.
The desire to get similar results for the remaining 80% has led to investments in combining these immunotherapies with traditional treatments such as chemotherapy.
Pharma companies have realised that whichever company has the latest approved immunotherapy treatment, or treatment combination included immunotherapy, dominates the market - at least for a while. Hence the increased competition to find the next ‘it’ drug.
Big pharma such as Novartis, which does not have any cancer treating immunotherapies on the market, have gone one step further and are investing in cell and gene therapies, which are “still at the prototype stage” said one researcher interviewed by the paper, marking his astonishment.
This revolution, fired by pharma who desperately want to remain competitive, has only just begun.

Servier’s Mediator scandal sees the pharma pay out €115.9 million to victims

Servier has paid out €115.9 million to 3,600 patients who had adverse events after taking its drug Mediator (benfluorex), Le Parisien reported on Wednesday (p.2-3, APMHE 62619).
Mediator was initially approved in Europe in 1978 for diabetes, but was pulled from the market in 2009 after being suspected of causing 500 deaths and serious health problems in thousands of people.
Doctor Irène Frachon who was the first to raise the alarm on the serious adverse events Mediator caused said the pharma was acting in calculated way by paying off victims, as it wants to improve its image before the trial against it starts in September 2019.
However, she continued saying that pharma has no choice but to compensate patients generously, as more and more scientific proof is coming to light on the damage Mediator caused.
Moreover, she noted that if the pharma refuses to compensate a patient, the French authority in charge of compensation of medical accidents (Oniam) will do so, only to claim back the sum and an extra 30% from the pharma in court. La Croix also reports on the subject on Friday (p.6).

Sanofi cuts price of insulin in the U.S.

Sanofi cut the U.S. price of its diabetes drugs to $99/month on Wednesday, just before one of its directors had a hearing on diabetes drug pricing in the U.S., Le Figaro reported on Thursday (p.25, APMHE 62622).
Eli Lilly and Novo Nordisk, the other two heavyweights on the U.S. diabetes market, were also involved in the hearing. All three pharma are being criticised for high drug prices by both the Democrats and the Republicans in the U.S. in a rare case of bipartisan support, the newspaper continued.
Over the last five years the cost of insulin has increased by 150% with the price per vial going from $178 to $300 and that for a box of pens going from $235 to $563.
Pharma companies are defending themselves saying that the high prices are down to the discounts imposed on them by powerful middlemen - the pharmacy benefit managers. The pharma companies say that these 30% to 40% discounts have to be added to drug prices.
Sanofi pointed out that while the public price of its insulin has increased 126% over the last six years, its net price has actually dropped by 25%. Yet, if a pharma company does not go through a pharmacy benefit manager, it loses almost a third of the market.
The figures support the pharma industries, reports Les Echos on Fridya (p.18). Sanofi reported sales of €4.5 billion for its diabetes activities, down 13.8%. In 2015, it reported sales of €7 billion.
Looking at these figures, the economic daily noted that it is not surprising that Sanofi is preparing to cut 400 marketing jobs after the 500 jobs cuts it made in 2016. In 2017, Lilly cut 3,500 posts.

Sanofi and Alnylam end collaboration

Sanofi and Alnylam have ended their collaboration, reported Les Echos on Tuesday (p.20).
The collaboration has resulted in three drugs, one of which, Onpattro (patisiran) is now marketed for a rare disease, hereditary transthyretin (hATTR) amyloidosis in adult patients with stage 1 or 2 polyneuropathy (APMHE 62576).
The agreement between the two pharma was revised in January 2018 to initially set out the marketing rights of each company. Sanofi will get the rights to fitusiran for haemophilia, while Alnylam will get those to Onpattro and vutrisiran, both for hATTR. Each company will get royalties for the drug for which it does not own the marketing rights.
Sanofi will still be involved in an ongoing Alnylam research project for an undisclosed rare disease. If it reaches the clinical research stage, Sanofi will take over development and the marketing rights and pay royalties to Alnylam.
Les Echos pointed out that this is the second collaboration Sanofi has finished since John Reed took over as global head of R&D. He also ended Sanofi’s collaboration with Regeneron last January, which had lasted 12 years. The economic daily suggested this could be the prelude to more investment over in-house R&D or new partnerships.

Indivior shares plummet following accusations from U.S. Department of Justice

Indivior’s shares had plummeted by 71.6% when the stock market closed on Wednesday, Les Echos reported in a brief on Thursday (p.36). The pharma has been accused by the U.S. Department of Justice (DoJ) of aggressively pushing its opioid overdose treatment.
The DoJ is now demanding it pay $3 billion, three times its stock market capital before the affair kicked-off, the economic daily continued (APMHE 62616).

Funding round for NH TherAguix’s AGuIX

NH TherAguix is hoping to target and increase the efficacy of radiotherapy to better treat solid tumours with its injected nanodrug AGuIX, reported Les Echos on Thursday (p.29).
The company has raised €13 million in an initial funding round to further develop this drug which is injected intravenously (IV) several days before radiotherapy to maximise its effects by artificially increasing the radiotherapy dose in tumour tissues. After a Phase I test in patients with brain metastases, the company is started a multi-centre Phase II involving 100 patients.
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