Press review

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Monsanto heritage represents heavy burden for Bayer

Country : Germany, U.S., Europe

Keywords :
BERLIN, 17 May (APM) - Monsanto heritage, including the U.S. glyphosate lawsuits and former business practices, is a heavy burden for Bayer, several newspapers reported this week.
Bayer now faces huge penalties that could jeopardise its future and damage the company's reputation, while its management in under pressure to find ways to turn the tide quickly, Handelsblatt reported on Wednesday (p1, 4-5, 33).
The company underestimated multiple risks related to the Monsanto takeover and ignored warnings that were expressed before the acquisition was completed, Handelsblatt, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (FAZ) (p1, 8, 22) and Die Welt (p3) said on Wednesday.
French prosecutors opened an inquiry last week after French media reported that Monsanto - before being acquired by Bayer in 2018 - compiled a file of 200 names, including journalists and lawmakers, in the hope of influencing their positions on its glyphosate weed killer Roundup, reported on Monday FAZ (p24), Handelsblatt (p16-17), Süddeutsche Zeitung (SZ) (p1, 17) and Die Welt (p9) (APMHE 62952).
As Bayer announced an internal review as well as an external audit, its newly-appointed head of public and governmental affairs Matthias Berninger warned that similar files could be discovered in other countries, said FAZ (p26), Handelsblatt (p1, 19) on Tuesday (APMHE 62952).
The third U.S. verdict in the Alberta und Alva Pilliod case, asserting Bayer's liability, on Tuesday was an additional blow, even if the $2 billion damages will probably be reduced, Handelsblatt, FAZ (p1, 8, 22), SZ (p15) and Die Welt (p3) on Wednesday said (APMHE 62966).
Weekly Wirtschaftswoche on Friday (p54-55) carries an interview with two jury members in the first lawsuit. They said that Monsanto lawyers made several mistakes, in particular not providing convincing arguments to invalidate the potential danger posed by glyphosate.

Several potential bidders for Bayer's animal business

Private equity firms CVC, KKR, Blackstone, EQT, Bain Capital and Cinven have shown interest in buying Bayer's animal health business, Handelsblatt on Monday reported (p16-17) (APMHE 62955).
According to financial circles, a price tag of between €6 and €7 billion is expected.

New HTA procedure for digital health apps

Germany plans to introduce a dedicated health technology assessment (HTA) and reimbursement procedure for digital health apps carried out by regulatory agency BfArM, SZ (p6), Handelsblatt (p11) and FAZ (p15) reported on Thursday (APMHE 63010).
The body currently in charge of HTA on drugs and medical acts, G-BA, is not involved in the procedure.
With this draft law, the Ministry wants to support innovation by digital health start-ups, for which G-BA's procedures that are complex pose a major obstacle, a source close to the Ministry told Handelsblatt.

German payers concerned about lobby influence on European HTA

German payers are concerned that European drug HTA standards currently in discussion at the European Commission would be lower than in Germany, chair of umbrella payer group GKV-Spitzenverband (GKV-SV) Doris Pfeiffer told SZ on Monday (p15).
GKV-SV is worried that a harmonised HTA could be negative for drug safety and could mean more pharma lobby influence, SZ said.
However, a European framework would offer many advantages for patients, for example for implants, Pfeiffer said.

Grünenthal restructuring R&D

German pain specialist Grünenthal announced a restructuring programme under which the company is reviewing its R&D, finance and human resources staff at its German headquarters in Aachen, FAZ reported on Saturday (p20) (APMHE 62922).
Chief executive Gabriel Baertschi plans to focus the pipeline on medication for post-surgical and chronic pain. Moreover, he wants the number of compounds under development to double and include biological drugs, cell and gene therapies, FAZ said.

Fresenius considers selling transfusion technology business

Fresenius has commissioned investment bank Goldman Sachs to review the selling of its transfusion technology business, FAZ reported on Saturday (p24).
The business, part of the "medical technology products/transfusion technology" subdivision at Fresenius Kabi division, reported sales of almost €1.1 billion in 2018. It was acquired in 2012 by buying U.S. company Fenwal.
Reviewing Fresenius performance in 2018, Handelsblatt on Friday (p20-21) says that the company remains solidly positioned even if it is not progressing as well as before in the clinic business Helios. Fresenius share price lost 35% of its value in 2018.
In an interview with Die Welt on Monday (p14) ahead of Fresenius' annual meeting on Friday, chief executive Stefan Sturm said again he was not satisfied with the evolution of the share price.

Merck KGaA suffers earnings blow in Q1

Merck KGaA group's net profit tumbled more than 40% to €189 million in the first quarter, mainly because its pharma division lacked one-off effects, such as last year's milestone payment from BioMarin, FAZ reported on Wednesday (p19) (APMHE 62971).
However, with net sales rising 7.5% to €3.7 billion, Merck will still pursue its growth targets during the upcoming quarters, FAZ wrote.
Merck KGaA created 130 jobs at its headquarters in Darmstadt and 27 jobs at its Gernsheim site in 2018, FAZ reported in its regional section on Wednesday (p33). 11,432 employees are working in Darmstadt and 617 in Gernsheim.
On a global level, however, Merck's total employee numbers are 1,200 down at the end of March from the same month in 2018 when staff numbers totalled 52,140.

German biotech targets personalised therapy against depression and anxiety

German biotech HMNC Brain Health has resumed development of vasopressin inhibitor nelivaptan for depression and anxiety, Handelsblatt said on Wednesday (p52).
HMNC Brain Health, co-founded by Florian Holsboer, has in-licensed nelivaptan from Sanofi, which stopped the development after studies showing it was not more efficient than placebo.
It wants to introduce personalised medicine by developing tests to identify which patients would respond to nevilaptan.

High drug residues in Mecklenburg-West Pomerania

Traces of 39 drugs have been detected in running water, coastal waters, ground water and
waste water according to a study made in Mecklenburg-West Pomerania, Die Welt reports on Friday (p20).
Traces of diclofenac, beta-blockers, drugs for epilepsy and X-ray contrast agents were the most frequently detected. The regional Ministry of Environment called consumers to reduce releases into the environment.

Teva and others accused of fixing U.S. prices

Some 44 U.S. states have taken legal action, accusing Teva's U.S. business of orchestrating a sweeping scheme with 19 other drug companies to inflate drug prices, FAZ (p21) and SZ (p18) reported on Monday (APMHE 62951).
According to the filed lawsuit, the companies engaged in illegal conspiracies to divide up the drug market and, in some cases, conspired to either prevent prices from dropping or to raise them.
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