Press review

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Breakthrough for diabetes treatment as it emerges immune system drug can delay onset of the illness

LONDON, 14 June (APM) - A breakthrough drug can delay the onset of type 1 diabetes, according to a major study, reported in the Mail online on Monday.
Teplizumab, which dampens down the immune system, was found to allow the body to continue making insulin. This stopped diabetes developing for around two years, it said.
Unlike the type two form of the illness, type one has nothing to do with lifestyle and is instead tied to genetics.
Professor Kevan Herold who led the Yale University study said: "As anyone with type one diabetes will tell you, and particularly for children who are most commonly affected, every day you can delay this disease is important."
The researchers conducted their trial on 76 patients, mostly aged between eight and 18. All were seen as high risk because relatives had diabetes.
The teplizumab treatment - given by a drip every day for two weeks - worked by staving off the destruction of insulin-producing cells.
Dr Elizabeth Robertson of Diabetes UK said the study was "incredibly exciting" because it examined the root cause of an illness affecting 400,000 Britons, the Mail added.

Rotavirus vaccine may cut type 1 diabetes risk

A vaccine that protect babies from a potentially lethal stomach bug may also slash their risk of developing diabetes by a third, new research suggests, the Mail online reported on Thursday.
New research shows that getting fully vaccinated against rotavirus - using prophylactic drops - in the first months of life is associated with a much lower risk of developing type 1 diabetes later on.
As a group, children who received all recommended doses of the rotavirus vaccine had a 33% lower risk than unvaccinated children of getting diagnosed with type 1 diabetes - a lifelong disease with no known prevention or cure.
The University of Michigan team's study, based on insurance data, suggests that simply enforcing already existing vaccination recommendations could considerably reduce the burden of the burden of diabetes.
They said that their findings, published in the journal Scientific Reports, provide 'strong post-market evidence' that the vaccine works.
Children vaccinated against rotavirus had a 94% lower rate of hospitalisation for rotavirus infection, and a 31% lower rate of hospitalisation for any reason, in the first two months after the jab, the Mail added.

Hansoh Pharmaceutical's stock market float creates China's richest couple

Chinese capital markets have created the country’s richest couple after the public listing of pharmaceutical company Hansoh in Hong Kong pushed the wealth of its founder and her husband above $17b billion, the FT says on Friday.
Zhong Huijuan, the controlling shareholder of generic drugmaker Hansoh, which raised $1b billion in its public offering, is married to Sun Piaoyang, the founder of Hengrui Pharma, China's largest privately owned drug company.
Their combined stakes in the two companies put their wealth above China’s former top richest couple, Robin Li, founder of China’s top search engine Baidu, and his wife Ma Dongmin, who are worth about $8.8 billion.
The couple's combined wealth following the IPO would put them in the top 10 of the Chinese rich list Hurun, up from 20th position last year, according to list founder Rupert Hoogewerf. 

Simple prostate cancer test can give all-clear for life

A "once in a lifetime" test for prostate cancer could be offered to men at the age of 55 under plans being investigated in a trial at UCL, The Times reported on Monday.
Scientists think it may be possible to give men a one-off MRI scan in middle age that will either result in an all-clear — indicating no real likelihood of them ever developing a clinically relevant prostate cancer — or show that they need regular follow-ups.
Traditional prostate screening, which looks for markers in the blood, is notoriously unreliable and is now not offered in most health services as standard. It is available in Britain at GP surgeries but there is no national screening programme.
This is because the tests are "fraught with errors", said Mark Emberton, from UCL. "They miss important cancers and over diagnose cancers that don’t need to be diagnosed. You end up with a lot of men being diagnosed with cancer that isn’t destined to kill them."
He said there was good evidence that MRI scans were different and he is now part of a group recruiting 350 men to see if they can at last provide a test that works. "The good thing about this is that MRI is positively associated with nasty cancers — that means that we can see the bad ones and we can’t see the ones that don’t matter," he said at the Cheltenham Science Festival.
Ros Eeles, professor of prostate cancer genetics at the Institute of Cancer Research in London, was more cautious. "The use of MRI of the prostate will be important in general management of prostate cancer assessment,” she said. “However, currently it is not at all clear that MRI will be reliable to detect all cancers."

AstraZeneca still on hunt for transformational deals

AstraZeneca will continue to look for 'transformational' drugs to add to its oncology portfolio, as it sharpens its focus under new cancer R&D chief José Baselga, The Telegraph reported on Tuesday.
Earlier this year the drug maker paid $1.36 billion to work with Japanese pharma Daiichi Sankyo on a promising breast cancer treatment, with a further $5.54 billion to be paid to Daiichi if the drug achieves certain milestones.
The size of the deal raised eyebrows among some analysts who worry about AstraZeneca’s growing debt pile and ability to make generous dividend payments to shareholders, the paper said.
However, it is a critical part of the company's bid to beef up its ageing pipeline and a cornerstone of its new tactic to focus resources on cancer treatments that deliver major benefits rather than incremental improvements, according to head of oncology David Fredrickson.
"When we did the deal with Daiichi Sankyo, we said this was a transformational asset and that’s why we made such a bold move," he said. "If we see another transformational asset out there, it would be something we would be very interested in. I would expect a mix of developing assets in-house, buying in assets and partnerships."

GSK links up with U.S. university on genome research

GlaxoSmithKline is launching a rare partnership with an American university through which the UK drugmaker will fund more than 20 scientists at a new laboratory focused on human genome research, the Financial Times reported on Thursday. (APMHE 63322)
The pharma group is linking up with the University of California to deploy cutting-edge gene editing technology invented by professors at the campus in an attempt to find the next generation of blockbuster drugs
Under a five-year agreement, GSK and the university said they will jointly establish the Laboratory for Genomics Research, "to unravel mysteries of the human genome".

Roche's Spark deal held up as regulators seek details

Roche's planned $4.8 billion acquisition of Spark Therapeutics, a U.S. gene therapy group, may be delayed beyond this quarter after U.S. regulators demanded more information about the deal, the Financial Times reported on Monday. (APMHE 63277)
The Swiss pharma and Philadelphia-based Spark said on Monday that they had received requests for more information from the Federal Trade Commission. As a result, Roche has extended until the end of next month the deadline for Spark shareholders to tender their shares.
Roche’s February agreement to buy Spark Therapeutics was the latest example of a major pharmaceutical company paying a premium for a promising biotechnology group. Drug companies have spent huge amounts of money to outbid each other for technologies that are seeing as cutting edge, the FT added.

New drugs for Scotland

A "life-changing" asthma jab and a novel "gene silencing" treatment for people with a rare hereditary disease have been approved for use in Scotland, The Times reported on Tuesday.
The Scottish Medicines Consortium (SMC) has also accepted three new medicines for different types of cancer. (APMHE 63283)
It has licensed Fasenra (benralizumab) for the treatment of severe eosinophilic asthma, a type of asthma that is not well controlled with other treatments. Samantha Walker, director of research and policy at Asthma UK, said: "This kind of biologic medication could be a life-changing treatment that could signal hope to thousands of people in Scotland." The drug was approved in England in January this year.
The SMC has also accepted Onpattro (patisiran) for the treatment of hereditary transthyretin amyloidosis, a very rare progressive genetic disease.
New drugs have got the green light for the treatment of a rare, advanced form of lung cancer, the maintenance treatment of another form of advanced lung cancer, and to treat advanced renal cell carcinoma, the paper said.

Antidepressant concerns

The Daily Mail online on Tuesday published a report saying people taking antidepressants in middle or old age could have triple the risk of developing dementia.
Antidepressants may damage or kill crucial nerve cells in the brain, researchers claimed in a study of more than 71,000 people.
Rates of dementia were found to be 3.4 times higher among people who took the depression drugs after the age of 60.
The findings should encourage people and doctors to weigh up the risks and benefits of antidepressant treatment, the researchers said.
But one expert warned scientists are increasingly turning to believe depression may actually be an early symptom of dementia and a consequence of years of changes in the brain.
Others said there is no evidence the pills cause the brain disease - only that there is a link between the conditions - and depression treatment should not be avoided.
Researchers from Israel, Sweden and New York studied a group of 71,515 real patients in Israel between 2013 and 2017, the Mail said.

Insys bankruptcy sets up opioid test case as U.S. states seek cash

Lawyers for thousands of plaintiffs including U.S. states, municipalities and individuals have vowed to pursue the opioid maker Insys in court, despite the company’s decision to file for bankruptcy and seek an injunction on lawsuits, the FT reported on Tuesday.
Arizona and Maryland said they would press ahead with their cases against the maker of Subsys — a fentanyl spray 100 times stronger than morphine — which links the company to the opioid crisis sweeping across the U.S. 
When Insys filed for bankruptcy on Monday, the company said it would ask the judge to stop the majority of litigation against it, arguing that it would erode the "precious liquidity" and fill the “pockets of lawyers instead of creditors”. (APMHE 63290)
But lawyers for 1,800 plaintiffs, who are due to go to court in one vast case against 22 opioid manufacturers, distributors and pharmacies, said they would "actively pursue full financial disclosure for Insys and any other defendant that files for bankruptcy", the paper said. 
"The goal of the litigation is not to bankrupt these opioid companies, but to abate the current opioid epidemic and seek long-term, sustainable solutions," said the plaintiffs’ executive committee in the National Prescription Opioid Litigation, due to go to court in October.
"If any defendant files for bankruptcy, we will work through all legal avenues to see that our clients’ end goal of abating the crisis is met."
Insys is the first opioid maker to go bankrupt as a result of its huge legal liabilities — and its case will be closely watched by others who are also facing thousands of lawsuits as the epidemic has spread across the US. Purdue Pharma, owned by the Sackler family, has already said it is considering bankruptcy. 

AI study in London offers hope for MS treatment

Researchers in London have trained artificial intelligence to track responses to the treatment of multiple sclerosis, claiming the technology could improve the care of those suffering from the condition, the FT said on Monday.
Academics at University College London and King's College London conducted a study using computer algorithms to track changes in hundreds of MRI brain scans belonging to patients prescribed natalizumab, a common drug used to treat the condition. After absorbing this data, the computer was able to unearth new patterns in patients' brains.
About 100,000 people have MS in the UK, with close to 5,000 new diagnoses each year, according to figures provided by the MS Society. The life-long condition affects the brain and spinal cord, and can sometimes cause serious disability. Symptoms include fatigue, blurred vision, incontinence and muscle spasms.
The study, published in the science journal NPJ Digital Medicine on Monday, suggested AI could be used to more effectively monitor how patients respond to treatment, and improve the efficiency of new drug trials. The work was funded by the UCLH Biomedical Research Centre and the Wellcome Trust.
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