Press review

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French family association highlights increasing prices of OTC drugs

PARIS, 18 Apr (APM) - An organisation representing families in France has said that the prices of 14 over-the-counter (OTC) drugs have increased on average by 9% over the past eight years, reported Le Parisien on Tuesday (p.14).
According to the study carried out by Familles rurales in September and October 2018, the prices of Reckitt Benckiser’s Nurofen (ibuprofen) and Strepsils increased by 24.66% and 18.89% respectively since 2010.
Pharmacies were authorised to sell products OTC in 2008 to make them cheaper, the paper continued, but Familles rurales said that it was impossible for consumers to know how much something costs before they pay for it.
They are cited in the paper as saying that pricing transparency is hindered as 75% of boxes do not have any prices; half of these drugs are located behind the pharmacy counter, despite being OTC; and only just over a third of pharmacists give a receipt.
Pharmacists in turn point out that the inflation rate between 2010 and 2018 was 10.5%, and that VAT went up from 5.5% to 10% during the period.
Chair of the federation of French pharmaceutical unions (FSPF) Philippe Besset said that despite these factors, the average public prices of the drugs studied only increased by 6%. He also said that the change in prices was caused by pharma companies, stating that the catalogue price of 12-capsule box of Janssen’s Imodiumcaps (loperamide hydrochloride) had increased by 7.2%.
Les Echos also reported on the topic in a brief on Wednesday (p.19) as did Le Figaro (p.26)

Servier’s extensive influencer network

The extend of Servier’s extensive influencer network will come to light during the Mediator (benfluorex) trial in September, La Croix reported on Tuesday (p.16).
The paper highlighted three people in prominent positions who worked as counsellors or consultants for Servier while Mediator, now known to cause heart-related adverse events, was being prescribed.
They are a civil servant at the economic and social council who then joined France’s national audit office as senior counsellor; a high-up in the country’s drug regulator (then known as Afssaps); and a toxicologist working for the ministry of health.
These people, who were paid by Servier, organised meetings with decision-makers and copied and pasted reports written by the company without checking them.
There were others who, after leaving Servier to work elsewhere, continued to be employed by the pharma as consultants. One of these was a pharmacologist, who continued to call Servier's founder Jacques Servier ''boss'' well after leaving. When asked years later why he continued to use the term, he said the name went with the job. It would have been ''like no longer calling [my] father, father,'' he said, according to the paper.

Ketamine-based drugs offer hope for resistant depression

Les Echos on Monday (p.12) covered the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s approval of Janssen’s Spravato (esketamine), saying it is the first antidepressant drug that works on a different part of the brain than standard antidepressants (APMHE 62146).
The drug has shown efficacy other antidepressants have failed and therefore is a real hope for the 30% of cases, representing 90 million patients, who have treatment-resistant depression, said the paper. The drug will only be used as a third-line treatment. Studies showed that 71% of patients were in remission within 24 hours of taking the drug, compared to fewer than 14% on conventional treatment.
However, the drug has its limits, reported Le Monde Science & Médecine on Wednesday (p.3). Its effects fade after seven to 10 days, so it needs to be administered repeatedly. In clinical trials its side effects seemed to be mild and transitory: they included an increase in blood pressure and corporal disassociation.
The drug is similar to party drug ketamine, which is classed as a narcotic, and at high doses can cause hallucinations. The European Medicines Agency (EMA) is hesitating over whether to approve the drug, said Le Monde Science & Médecine. It also has a negative impact on developing brains, so women of procreating age should think about contraception before taking it, says the FDA, who bans its use in pregnant and breast-feeding women.

Gilead and Novo join forces on NASH

Gilead and Novo Nordisk have announced a partnership to develop a treatment for non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH), reported Les Echos on Monday (p.21) (APMHE 62659)
The disease is often linked to diabetes and obesity and affects 10% of the population in developed countries. There is currently no treatment available, yet the market is estimated at being worth $22 billion.
The partnership will see Novo Nordisk’s GLP-1 analogue Ozempic (semaglutide), which is approved in diabetes, combined with Gilead's cilofexor and firsocostat, both of which are in the pipeline for the treatment of NASH.
Novo’s Ozempic is also being tested as an obesity treatment, said the paper.

EMA recommends use of Sanofi’s Lemtrada for MS be restricted

The EMA has recommended that the use of Sanofi’s Lemtrada (alemtuzumab) for multiple sclerosis be restricted, Le Parisien reported in a brief on Monday (p.15) (APMHE 62664).
This is due to severe side effects: thyroid, bleeding and kidney disorders, heart and blood vessel problems including deaths.
Les Echos also reported on the subject in a brief of Monday (p.19).

Senior VP of Sanofi Genzyme Asia moves to Pierre Fabre Médicament

Jean-Luc Lowinski, formerly senior vice-president of Sanofi Genzyme emerging markets has moved to France to head Pierre Fabre Médicament, reported Le Figaro on Wednesday (p.28) (APMHE 62305).
Les Echos also reported on the subject on Thursday (p.29).
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