Press review

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AstraZeneca's strategy paying off

LONDON, 16 Aug - The Sunday Telegraph carried a feature on investing in AstraZeneca, saying that the company's 160% share price rise over the past decade hides the challenges it has faced from a loss of patents on blockbuster drugs.
While the shares have outperformed the FTSE 100 index by 100% in the past decade, its core earnings per share have fallen by 32%, said the paper.
It said the reason for investor optimism during a "highly unsuccessful" financial period for the business is the strategy it has put in place to focus on chronic conditions that is now starting to pay off financially.
This includes the delivery of five oncology medicines since 2014 that contributed to a 58% rise in the segment's sales in the first half of 2019.

AZN returns to growth

The Times on Thursday followed this with a feature on AstraZeneca's return to growth under chief executive Pascal Soriot.
The paper said: "A relentless series of late-stage trial results and regulatory approvals have helped to replenish a medicines cabinet ravaged by expiring patents for old blockbusters."
This has returned the company to annual product sales growth for the first time since 2009, it said.

Biotech growth in Cambridge

The Daily Telegraph on Monday had a feature on the strong biotech sector in Cambridge, UK.
It said the growth of life sciences in the city goes back to discovery of DNA in the city in the 1950s that "paved the way for an explosion of research to develop drugs and a range of other product".
The paper spoke to Dr Mike Anstey of venture capital firm Cambridge Innovation Capital, who said: "There’s a very strong argument that Cambridge is the leading ecosystem for life sciences and biomedical innovation in Europe, only third globally to Boston and Silicon Valley."
Cambridge is now home to around 430 life sciences companies - businesses, which according to Pitchbook, attracted $72 million (£60 million) in venture capital funding last year.

UK shortage of hormone replacement therapy

Several newspapers reported on Sunday about a national shortage of hormone replacement therapy (HRT) that could affect almost all menopausal women in the UK.
Around half of the most commonly prescribed HRT products, which replace hormones including oestrogen that naturally decline during menopause, are out of stock, said the Guardian.
Thousands of women have been forced to switch brands and some have experienced side effects such as night sweats and depression as a result, said The Times.
Lloyds' supplier AAH Pharmaceuticals has run out of 15 of the 24 HRT brands it stocks, according to figures given to the Daily Mail. The pharmaceutical retailer Alliance, which is owned by the same group as Boots, has run out of nine of 27 HRT products.

Fall in bladder cancer survival linked to shortage of drug

The Times on Tuesday covered a new study that suggests a drop in the number of people surviving bladder cancer could be linked to a worldwide shortage of a key drug known as Bacille Calmette-Guérin.
Referencing analysts, the paper said the main component of the drug is relatively difficult to produce but cannot be sold for high prices, so few pharma companies are keen to produce it.
Some companies have stopped altogether, meaning that Merck Sharp & Dohme (MSD), the main supplier in Europe and the U.S., has had to increase its production capacity but is understood to have struggled to keep up with demand.
The shortage of the drug has coincided with a fall in the proportion of bladder cancer patients in England living for at least five years after diagnosis. This figure decreased from 55.1% to 52.6%.

Scotland rejects Orkambi for NHS reimbursement

Both the Guardian and The Times reported on the Scottish Medicines Consortium (SMC)'s recommendation that Vertex's cystic fibrosis drug Orkambi should be not be reimbursed on the NHS in Scotland (APMHE 64025).
The Guardian said the SMC came to the same conclusion as its counterpart in England, saying that Orkambi and another drug, Symkevi, were not cost effective.
The Times quoted David Ramsden, the Cystic Fibrosis Trust chief executive, who said that the ruling would come as a "shock" to people with cystic fibrosis in Scotland.

Vertex set to make $21 billion profit from Orkambi and Kalydeco

The Guardian on Monday reported that Vertex Pharmaceuticals is set to make $21 billion (£17 billion) in profit from over the lifetime of its cystic fibrosis drugs Orkambi and Kalydeco.
The figures were taken from a research paper by Aidan Hollis, professor of economics at Calgary University in Canada, who disputed Vertex's claims that it has made a loss on the development of the drugs needs a price that will allow it to invest in future treatments for the disease.
The Guardian focused on Vertex's inability to agree an access deal for Orkambi in the UK, which has a list price of £104,000 per patient per year.

Value of NHS patient data

The Sunday Times carried a feature on the importance of National Health Service (NHS) data on UK patients for pharma companies.
The paper said that experts predict that patient data could be worth up to £10 billion a year if partnerships with companies such as Google, Roche and Bayer translate into real cash for the NHS.
However, the subject has raised concerns, with the paper mentioning that access to patient data "goes to the heart of the privatisation debate" and that privacy worries need to be addressed.
It quoted Sir Norman Lamb, a Liberal Democrat MP and chairman of the Commons science and technology committee, who said: "There needs to be a proper public discussion of how we protect the value of this potentially rich data."
Lamb added that ministers should "very much guard against" access to patient data being made part of any future trade deal. "We can't just open up this unique data set that the NHS represents, because there's nothing quite like it across the world."

NHS to receive £8 million from Aspen for anti-competitive practices

The NHS has received an £8 million payout from pharma firm Aspen after an investigation found that it engaged in anti-competitive practices that pushed up the cost of a drug for Addison's disease, both the Guardian and the Daily Telegraph reported on Wednesday.
The Competition and Markets Authority found that Aspen struck deals to pay two rival companies to stay out of the market for the drug, said the papers.
The FT and The Times covered the story on Thursday.

UK confirms drug supply plans in case of no-deal Brexit

UK ministers have confirmed plans for a service to get emergency medicines to the UK in the case of a no-deal Brexit, The Times said on Thursday.
The paper said the UK has signed a £25 million contract for an "express freight service" that aims to ensure medicines, human tissue, blood, organs and medical equipment could get into the country urgently if the pharmaceutical sector's contingency plans failed.

New Canadian rules on drug prices

The Canadian government has announced regulations to reduce patented drug prices that it claims can save Canadians C$13.2 billion (U.S.$10 billion) over a decade, the Guardian said at the weekend.
Under the new rules, Canada will change the list of countries the federal drug price regulator, the Patented Medicine Prices Review Board (PMPRB), compares domestic prices with, dropping the U.S. and Switzerland where prices are highest. It will also let the agency consider the cost-effectiveness of new medicines.
It will also force pharma companies to disclose some confidential discounts to the PMPRB, which sets maximum prices.
The paper described the changes involving the biggest reform to Canada's drug price regime since 1987.

U.S. patients struggling to obtain Lilly's generic version of insulin Humalog

Diabetes patients in the U.S. are struggling to obtain Eli Lilly's cheaper generic version of its branded insulin Humalog, the FT said at the weekend.
Only 3% of insurance claims for Lilly's insulin were for the generic insulin lispro compared with 97% for Humalog, said the paper, referencing data from GoodRx.
The paper said that many pharmacists do not know that the cheaper version is available and that other patients cannot access the insulin because it is not on the formulary of their insurer or pharmacy benefit manager.

U.S. lawmakers accused pharma firms of blocking drug pricing investigation

U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders and Congressman Elijah Cummings have accused Mylan, Teva and Heritage Pharmaceuticals of blocking their drug pricing investigation, the Daily Mail said on Wednesday.
Although the inquiry started in 2014, it has not yet slowed drug price hikes of which there have already been 17% more in 2019 than in 2019, with increases up to five-fold the rate of inflation, said the paper.
Mylan denied obstructing the inquiry and said it was prepared to make its case in a court of law, while Teva said it continues to fully cooperate with the investigations.

Novartis plans 50 drug submissions in China over next few years

Novartis plans to submit 50 new drug applications in China up to 2023, the FT said at the weekend in an interview with the company's head of global drug development John Tsai.
The paper said the Swiss firm is projecting that faster Chinese drug approvals could see the country overtake Europe to become its second largest market.
"We absolutely think China will be the number two market for us," said Tsai.

Novartis had fired two scientists before reporting Zolgensma data manipulation

The FT on Thursday said that Novartis placed senior scientist on administrative leave more than a month before it told the U.S. regulator that it suspected data manipulation in early studies for the gene therapy Zolgensma.
The paper covered comments from Novartis that two brothers who were scientists at AveXis, the firm that made Zolgensma and was bought by the Swiss pharma last year, had not been involved in any operations at the company since early May and have since left (APMHE 64057).

JPMorgan to earn $123 million for advising Allergan on sale to AbbVie

JPMorgan Chase will earn $123 million for advising Allergan on a planned $63 billion sale to AbbVie, the FT said on Wednesday.
The paper said it is the largest individual fee to a bank for selling a company, surpassing $120 million paid to Morgan Stanley for advising Monsanto on its $66 billion sale to Bayer in 2016.

New hope for Ebola treatment

Two Ebola drugs will be rolled out to patients in the Democratic Republic of Congo after impressing in trials, the FT said on Wednesday.
The paper said that more than 90% of patients survived when there were treated with one of the two drugs: Regeneron's EB3 and a monoclonal antibody called mAb114 (APMHE 64029).
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