Press review

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Jeremy Hunt would back no-deal Brexit

LONDON, 7 June (APM) - Former UK Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt said he would back a no-deal Brexit if required should he replace Theresa May as Prime Minister, the Guardian said on Monday.
Previously, Hunt had said a no-deal Brexit would be "political suicide" (APMHE 63133).
On Monday, The Guardian reported Hunt's comments from an interview on BBC Radio 4's Today show where the pro-remain politician was asked whether he would support a departure from the EU without a deal.
"My position on this hasn't changed at all. I’ve always said that in the end, if the only way to leave the European Union, to deliver on the result of the referendum, was to leave without a deal, then I would do that," said Hunt, who is now Foreign Secretary.
"But I would do so very much as a last resort, with a heavy heart, because of the risks to businesses and the risks to the union."

Pfizer withheld data showing Enbrel could reduce risk of Alzheimer's

The Daily Mail on Wednesday said Pfizer deliberately buried data showing one of its arthritis drugs could cut the risk of Alzheimer's.
The paper said that the pharma company kept its finding on Enbrel under wraps for more than three years because it didn't believe the evidence was strong enough.
The link was found by Pfizer when analysing medical insurance claims in the U.S. These data showed that people taking Enbrel, an anti-inflammatory used to treat rheumatoid arthritis, appeared to be 64% less likely to develop Alzheimer's.
The Daily Mail's source for the story was the Washington Post, which obtained documents from Pfizer.

Families desperate for cystic fibrosis drug import cheaper version from Argentina

British families desperate to get medicine for their children with cystic fibrosis have taken inspiration from the 2013 movie, Dallas Buyers Club, the Daily Mail online reported on Wednesday. The story was also covered in the Guardian (APMHE 63234).
Orkambi (ivacaftor+lumacaftor) works by regulating the balance of salt and water in the lungs of cystic fibrosis patients, whose lungs gradually fill with mucous, the paper said.
Although approved for use in the UK, therefore legal to use, the drug is not available on the NHS because it is so expensive, it added.
Left with no alternative while the U..S manufacturer and NHS lock horns in a price war, parents have resorted to importing medication from Argentina.
They have banded together to ship a generic version of the drug over from South America, which is thought to be more than 80% cheaper.
The turn of events echoes the Oscar-winning film in which Matthew McConaughey played an HIV patient who smuggled drugs into the U.S. to help himself and others with the disease, the Mail added.

Pharmas partner with AI firm on drug discovery

Ten large pharma companies including J&J, AstraZeneca and GSK are collaborating with Owkin on using a secure, blockchain-based system to trawl competitors' data without reveal commercial secrets, the FT said on Tuesday (APMHE 63216).
The paper said the machine-learning algorithm could accelerate the drug discovery process.

Keytruda survival data

The FT at the weekend reported on new data on Merck & Co's Keytruda presented at the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) meeting in Chicago.
The drug dramatically improve survival rates for people with non-small cell lung cancer, said the paper. It said that 23.2% of patients who had not receive previous treatment survive after five years, compared with a historical average of 5%.
For patients who failed to response to previous treatment, the survival rate was 15.5% after five years.

AstraZeneca cancer strategy

The FT at the weekend carried an interview with AstraZeneca's chief executive Pascal Soriot at the ASCO meeting where he said the company's strategy of pushing into early-stage treatments for cancer is paying off.
He commented on new technologies, such as liquid biopsies, which can detect cancer earlier, potentially making a "huge difference" in treatment.
Soriot told the FT many other companies are focused on improving survival rates for stage four cancers but his company is looking at earlier stages where the likelihood of survival is higher and cures might be possible.
"If you're diagnosed early, in stage one, two, then your survival rate is 80 85%. So then you can lift that and potentially cure patients."
The article also mentioned data on AZN's Imfinzi presented at ASCO that showed the drug prolongs the lives of lung cancer patients who had reached the third stage of the condition.
The study showed 57% of people were still alive after three years compared with 43.5% on placebo.

Bayer selling off animal health business

Private equity firms are looking to compete to buy Bayer's animal health business, the FT said at the weekend.
The paper said the German pharma is selling the division as part of a reorganisation and cost-cutting plan designed to win back confidence after the troubled purchase of chemicals group Monsanto.

More states take legal action against Purdue Pharma

Oxycontin maker Purdue Pharma now faces lawsuits from nearly every U.S. state for its role in the country's opioid abuse crisis, the Guardian said on Tuesday.
The paper said California, Maine and Hawaii joined dozens of others accusing Purdue of falsely promoted OxyContin by downplaying the risk of addiction.
In addition to the three states, the District of Columbia also sued Purdue on Monday.

Study suggest controversial gene editing technique can lead to early death

Researchers have raised concerns that gene editing techniques used by a Chinese scientist to protect them against HIV infection could increase the risk of dying early, the FT said on Monday.
The paper covered research by the University of California, Berkeley, which suggest that the DNA mutation created by He Jiankui in the genetically edited set of twin girls born last year raises the carrier's risk of dying before their mid-70s by 21%.
The FT said the study is likely to intensify the outcry into Jiankui's research, which involves using the DNA editing technique known as CRISPR on human embryos.

Amgen targets 'undruggable' gene mutation

Amgen has discovered a drug that can target a supposedly 'undruggable' gene mutations, said the FT on Monday, potentially leading the way for new cancer treatments.
The paper covered research by Amgen presented at ASCO looking at drugging the protein made by the KRAS gene, which is known as a 'master switch' that turns a cell cancerous.
Researchers have been hit by difficulties for years in trying to target the gene but Amgen has now shown progress in the area by using X-ray crystallography to target one of the rarer types of KRAS mutation known as G12C, which is found in 14% of non-small cell lung cancers and 2-5% of other tumour types.

AZN's Lynparza shows promise in prostate cancer

AstraZeneca's Lynparza (olaparib) has shown positive results in prostate cancer, reported The Times on Wednesday.
The paper reported on data presented at ASCO that showed men with key genetic mutations found that olaparib stopped their tumours growing for an average of eight months, with a third seeing cancer frozen for more than a year.
The treatment is likely to be available within two years and could benefit about 4,000 men a year in the UK, said the paper.

Industry tackling counterfeits

The Guardian on Wednesday carried a feature on how the industry is fighting counterfeit medicines worldwide.
The paper spoke to Cynthia Genolet, an Africa policy expert at the International Federation of Pharmaceutical Manufacturers and a member of Fight the Fakes, a campaign group launched in 2010 to raise awareness of the problem among pharmacists and industry.
She said law enforcement and legislation is needed, strong pharmaceutical regulation has to be in place and well-trained healthcare professionals are essential.
The paper also said that campaigners hope emerging technologies such as blockchain and artificial intelligence, have the potential to help, saying that some start-ups are focusing on tracing medications on blockchain-type technologies, as well as arming consumers with instant information about what they’ve bought.

Insys to pay $225 million to settle charges related to marketing of opioid spray

Opioid maker Insys has agreed to pay $225 million to settle U.S. criminal and civil cases related to illegal conduct when promoting Subsys, a fentanyl-based spray, said the FT on Thursday.
The paper said the drug is designed only for the most serious cancer pain but was prescribed much more widely.
The U.S. Department of Justice said Insys will plead guilty to five counts of mail fraud, paying a $2 million fine and $28 million in forfeiture. It will also pay $195 million to settle civil allegations.
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