Press review

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Boris Johnson and former UK Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt last ones standing in race to be Prime Minister

LONDON, 21 June (APM) - The fight to be the next Conservative leader and UK Prime Minister will be between Boris Johnson and Jeremy Hunt after Tory MPs on Thursday voted for them to contest a run-off to succeed Theresa May, the FT reported on Thursday.
The story was widely reported across a host of other publications, including The Guardian, The Telegraph, The Times, The Independent and The Daily Mail.
Conservative party members will now make the choice between Johnson and Hunt in a postal ballot, with the result being declared next month, the FT noted.
Johnson currently looks almost certain to be the UK's next Prime Minister, it added.
Meanwhile on Thursday, The Guardian reported that EU leaders had concluded the UK is heading for a no-deal Brexit on 31 October, unless outgoing Prime Minister Theresa May's Brexit deal is ratified or the new premier calls a second referendum or general election this summer.
The Irish prime minister, Leo Varadkar, speaking at a summit in Brussels, said that there was now "enormous hostility" among the EU27’s heads of state and government to any further delay to Brexit.

UK Health Secretary endorses Boris Johnson in Conservative leadership race

The UK's Health Secretary Matt Hancock backed Boris Johnson to become the next Prime Minister in a commentary published in the Sunday Times (APMHE 63347), shortly after Hancock stepped down from the leadership race.
The news was carried in a host of other newspapers, including the FT, which reported that Hancock is a "prominent Europhile". Johnson was one of the primary drivers behind the Brexit campaign.

Life sciences industry issues more warnings over no-deal Brexit inaction during leadership race

The head of the UK's BioIndustry Association (BIA) Steve Bates has warned again that a lack of government guidance on plans for a no-deal Brexit is putting the sector at risk, The Telegraph reported on Tuesday.
Bates said the government had worked with the industry well ahead of the earlier March Brexit deadline and had put plans in place to, for example, use alternative trade routes, fly goods in on chartered aeroplanes in emergencies and procure ferry companies to help keep medicines flowing, should there be a delay at the border.
"Last time around we were formally written to 113 days in advance that they were working to ensure there was sufficient roll-on and roll-off capacity," Bates said.
"Now, 134 days before the new Brexit deadline, we have yet to see any action from the government in terms of securing the additional transport capacity, such as the provision of additional routes using ferries. That was fundamentally important last time around."
Meanwhile, Bates joined a panel of expert witnesses in a Brexit select committee hearing on Wednesday, which unanimously warned that vital medicine supplies in the UK are at risk in the event of a no deal Brexit (APMHE 63408). The story was carried by The Guardian on Wednesday. The Times on Thursday quoted the panel as warning drug shortages could occur within a fortnight of leaving the European Union without a deal on October 31.

Mutual suspicion blocking NHS collaboration with life science industry

Mutual suspicions are preventing the UK's National Health Service (HS) and life sciences companies from working together effectively, the FT reported on Wednesday, citing a new report (APMHE 63391).
Research by the NHS Confederation and the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry (ABPI) found that some NHS managers are actively telling staff not to deal with industry, while others keep joint projects with life sciences companies "below the radar" because of fears about private sector involvement in the taxpayer funded system.

Bayer/ Loxo's Vitrakvi and Roche's Rozlytrek could be fast‑tracked into English hospitals

Patients in England could be among the first in the world to receive revolutionary "tumour agnostic" cancer drugs after the NHS chief executive calls for the treatments to be fast-tracked into hospitals (APMHE 63392), The Times and The Telegraph reported on Wednesday.
Simon Stevens believes the drugs offer “potentially huge” benefits to patients, by providing a new front through which doctors can attack cancers that have often been left behind by research.
The drugs target common mutations in tumours, meaning that rather than being designed for a specific type of cancer, such as breast or prostate, they attack a feature irrespective of location. Two drugs that do this - Bayer and Loxo Oncology's Vitrakvi (larotrectinib) and Roche's Rozlytrek (entrectinib) - are due to come on to the market within months, The Times noted.

Unsafe medicines stolen in Italy 'entered NHS supply chain'

Medical authorities in the UK have launched an internal inquiry after unsafe medicines for common conditions were stolen from Italian hospitals, sold to UK pharmacies and potentially reached patients, The Guardian reported on Sunday.
Criminal gangs linked to the mafia infiltrated the NHS supply chain in 2014, which resulted in prescription medicines for prostate cancer, epilepsy and schizophrenia being imported into the UK, the newspaper noted. More than 10,000 units of stolen drugs had arrived in the UK by 2014, according to an investigation by Channel 4 Dispatches, with four types of unsafe medicine sold to pharmacies.
The medicines were not counterfeit, but given the time they spent outside of the regulated supply chain they were classed as "falsified". The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA), which did not alert the wider public at the time, said it believed the risk to public health was low since they were legitimate medicines.

Sanofi ties-up with Google

Sanofi has signed a new partnership with Google establish a virtual innovation lab (APMHE 63365), the FT reported on Tuesday, noting it is the latest example of technology advances being embraced by the traditionally slow-to-adopt life sciences sector.
Combining Sanofi’s science and data with Google’s cloud computing and artificial intelligence should accelerate discoveries, and advance the push for more personalised medicines by matching the right drug to the right patient, the companies said.

Google life sciences sister company to launch data-driven opioid addiction centre

Verily, Google’s life sciences sister company, will open a centre this summer to bring a data-driven approach to treating patients with opioid use disorder, the FT reported on Tuesday.
The centre - named OneFifteen after the 115 fatal opioid overdoses a day in the U.S. - will collect data on its patients far beyond the strictly medical to better understand what are known as the "social determinants" of addiction.
The insights it gains from the 1,000 annual outpatients it hopes to treat at the centre will transform the care of the more than 2 million Americans suffering from opioid use disorder.
OneFifteen will also respond to overdose emergencies and treat inpatients in a rehabilitation unit, and will later expand further to include a sober living facility.

Trump pushes Janssen's Spravato for U.S. veteran use

Sources inside the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) say staffers were essentially told by a senior U.S. official to drop everything in March and accelerate availability of Janssen's Spravato (esketamine) because President Donald Trump had expressed enthusiasm for the depression drug, The Guardian reported on Tuesday.
The President's personal interest in the controversial anti-depressant appears to have put it on a fast track at the VA, shoving aside usual protocols, the newspaper said, even though experts inside and outside the government have serious concerns the drug is effective and say it may be dangerous.
Questions have also been raised about a trio of Trump friends who have been working on veterans' issues and interacting with Janssen's parent company, Johnson & Johnson, regarding programmes for troubled vets, The Guardian noted.
The stakes are high for J&J, The Guardian added, because the drug could be a blockbuster. One analysis estimates Spravato could earn $600 million for the company by 2022.

Drug companies sue Trump administration over new price reveal rules

Amgen, Merck & Co and Eli Lilly have together with the Association of National Advertisers sued the Trump administration in response to the President's recent mandate that they must disclose the pricing of their drugs in television advertisements, the Independent reported on Saturday (APMHE 63350).
Under the new policy, which is set to take effect this summer, drug manufacturers with medications that are priced at more than $35 (£28) for a one-month’s supply with Medicare or Medicaid coverage will have to disclose the pricing in TV adverts.
It serves as an attempt to dissuade companies from inflating the cost of drugs as paid by insurers, and thereby bring down patients’ out-of-pocket expenses. It came as the price of drugs like insulin rose prohibitively, with some US citizens driving to Canada to obtain it.

Pfizer boosts cancer portfolio with $11.4 billion Array acquisition

Pfizer has agreed to pay $11.4 billion for Array BioPharma, The FT reported on Monday (APMHE 63352), the latest move in an arms race between large pharmaceutical groups to assemble potentially blockbuster cancer treatments.
The deal - the first major transaction under Pfizer’s new chief executive Albert Bourla - will see Pfizer take control of Braftovi (encorafenib) and Mektovi (binimetinib), which when combined treat metastatic melanoma. The Guardian also reported the story in its 'business live' column on Monday while The Times covered it on Tuesday.

UK's leading mouse genetics centre faces closure

Britain’s leading centre for mouse genetics is facing closure in a move that critics say will undermine crucial research on serious diseases and threaten the standing of UK science, The Guardian reported on Thursday.
The Medical Research Council has told staff at its Harwell Institute in Oxfordshire that an internal strategy board recommended the closure of all academic work at the site, threatening research on diabetes, neurodegenerative disease, child deafness and other conditions.

DNA testing could reveal 'invisible' UK population with heart risk who could take statins

Hundreds of thousands more adults in the UK could benefit from taking statins because their genes put them at high risk of heart disease, research suggests.
Speaking on Wednesday at the UK Biobank conference in London, Professor Sir Peter Donnelly, the founder of the company Genomics Plc, warned of an "invisible population" who are not identified as at risk by current screening programmes because their blood pressure and cholesterol do not raise red flags.

Poor countries pay up to 30 times more for medicines

The world’s poorest countries are paying some of the highest drug prices, with everyday medicines costing up to 30 times more than in rich nations, the FT cited a study as saying on Sunday.
The Washington-based Center for Global Development examined billions of dollars in spending by developing countries, concluding that low and middle-income countries were paying 20 or 30 times more for medicines such as omeprazole, for heartburn, or paracetamol, a common pain reliever.
Pharmaceutical and healthcare markets "don’t work for the poorest countries, especially in South Asia and Africa," according to Kalipso Chalkidou, one of the report’s authors.

Poorer countries have more confidence in vaccines

Confidence in the safety and efficacy of vaccines is greater in poor than wealthy regions of the world, according to the largest survey ever undertaken of attitudes to science and health, the FT and the Guardian reported on Wednesday.
In east Africa, 92% of respondents to a survey commissioned by the Wellcome charity agreed vaccines were safe, rising to 95% in south Asia. However, the figure falls to 59% in western Europe and just 50% in eastern Europe, reflecting doubts about vaccinations and a growing "anti-vax" movement.
The most sceptical country is France, where only 47% agreed that vaccines were safe - a level that varies little with education, age, gender, urban or rural status and even whether the respondents have children. Thirty-three per cent said they were not safe and the rest were unsure.
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