Press review

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MP and health experts call on UK government to review effectiveness of statins

LONDON, 6 Sep (APM) - Liberal Democrat MP Norman Lamb is calling on the government to review whether statins actually reduce a patient's risk of heart disease, said the Daily Mail on Tuesday.
Statins lower 'bad' cholesterol but have been linked to a host of side effects, including muscle pain, liver damage and an increased risk of diabetes.
A group of 20 leading health professionals have written to the former health minister urging him to ask for the review, saying statins were 'overhyped'.
"All are strongly of the view that such confusion, doubt and lack of transparency about the effects of a class of drug that is so widely prescribed is truly shocking and must be a matter of major public concern," says the letter.

UK to allow pharmacists to sell statins over counter

Meanwhile, the UK's decision to allow statins to be sold over the counter by pharmacist was widely reported on Thursday.
The news, which was picked up by the Daily Telegraph, the Guardian, The Times and the Daily Mail, was announced by Simon Stevens, chief executive of NHS England who said the decision could deal with an "unmet need" that exists for the drugs.
The Guardian led with the comments from the Royal College of GPs that the change could lead to people being misdiagnosed and wrongly treated by pharmacists.
The paper added that the British Heart Foundation is also thought to have concerns about whether it is appropriate to give people statins in such circumstances, before they have discussed their health with their GP, and whether pharmacists are the right people to take on this new role.

The Medicines Company's twice-yearly injection as effective as statins

The Medicines Company's twice-yearly jab inclisiran could soon replace statins for hundreds of thousands of people with high cholesterol levels, The Times said on Tuesday.
The paper reported on a global trial of 1,700 people, led by Imperial College London, showed inclisiran safely cut cholesterol by 50%, which is at least as effective as a high-dose statin.
It added that The Medicines Company is expected to apply for a medicine licence in the U.S. next year and in the UK within two years,

Long wait for HRT products

Women could be forced to wait up to ten months for some HRT products to return to the shelves, the Daily Mail reported at the weekend.
GPs and pharmacies are struggling to supply many leading brands due to manufacturing shortages and supply problems, said the paper.
Among the products expected to be out of stock soon are those manufactured by the companies Resource Medical, Themex and Mylan. Experts warn some might not be available again until 'mid-2020'.

Brexit will lead to drug shortages in Scotland - BMA

The Times on Tuesday reported comments from the chairman of the British Medical Association in Scotland that patients are already facing medical shortages due to Brexit.
The paper quoted Lewis Morrison's interview on Good Morning Scotland on BBC radio in which he said: "We already have shortages [of medicines]. You can’t stockpile certain medications. To be honest, it does actually make me afraid about how we might supply medications. We don’t see the plans that show how the NHS will not be harmed."
He added that the falling value of the pound would make the cost of medicines more expensive, again affecting supplies.

Doctors warn that no-deal Brexit is 'biggest threat' NHS has faced

The Sunday Times said it has seen confidential files from NHS England in which senior doctors warn the NHS to brace itself for the "biggest threat it has ever faced" if the UK crashes out of the EU on October 31 without a deal.
The files include a list medicines that have been impossible to stockpile, including for schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, epilepsy and the chronic pain condition trigeminal neuralgia.
The documents, which show the drugs categorised according to the expected impact of shortages, also set out suggested measures for combating supply problems including flying the drugs in, said the paper.

Thousands of patients buying fake drugs from unlicensed online pharmacies

The Sunday Times featured the results of an investigation showing that thousands of UK patients are purchasing drugs from unlicensed online pharmacies. Many of the drugs are fake, said the paper.
It referenced one expert who said that illicit providers often make pills stronger by mixing them with other chemicals.
The pharmacies tend to be registered to anonymous Russian owners and hosted by web servers in China. The products they supply include genuine tablets that have been improperly obtained; generic versions of medicines not licensed for sale in the UK; and fakes that may be too strong or cut with other substances, said the Sunday Times.

NICE backs Novartis' gene therapy Luxturna for form of vision loss

Both the Daily Telegraph and the Guardian on Wednesday reported on new NICE guidance backing Novartis/Spark Therapeutics' gene therapy Luxturna (voretigene neparvovec) to treat people with a rare form of vision loss (APMHE 64232).
The Guardian said the list price for the drug is "high" at £613,410 per patient" but the NHS has done a deal with Novartis to supply the drug at a lower price and that the number of patients needing treatment is low at less than 100.
Both papers quoted NHS England's chief executive, Simon Stevens, who announced the guidance at the Health Innovation Expo conference in Manchester.
"For previous generations, curing blindness would literally have been seen as a miracle. Now modern medicine is making that a reality for our patients," he said. "Once again the NHS is at the forefront of the genomic revolution with patients in England among the first to benefit from this revolutionary new form of treatment."

New CAR-T shows promise in acute lymphoblastic leukaemia

A CAR-T cancer therapy developed by University College London has had "very promising results" in a clinical trial in children with leukaemia, the FT said on Monday.
The paper reported on research at Great Ormond Street Hospital in London, which treated 14 children with incurable acute lymphoblastic leukaemia (ALL).
The results, published in Nature Medicines, showed that 12 out of 14 patients cleared their disease within three months. There was some recurrence in seven patients, while five have remained free of leukaemia. Two did not go into remission.
The CAR-T therapy, known as CAT-19 or Auto1, is being commercialised by Autolus, a spinout of UCL.

UK's Achilles Therapeutics raises extra £100 million to support cancer trials

The FT on Tuesday reported on UK biotech Achilles Therapeutics, which has closed a £100 million series B funding round that gives the company an evaluation close to £190 million.
Achilles is focused on personalised immunotherapy. T is a spin-out from the Francis Crick Institute and UCL. The funding will support two clinical trials for new treatments in lung cancer and melanoma.

AZN shares up on Farxiga success in heart failure

The Times on Tuesday said AstraZeneca shares were up 3% to a record £75.33 following positive trial results for diabetes drug Farxiga as a treatment for heart failure.
Phase III trials show Farxiga cut mortality rates or any worsening of heart failure by 26% said the paper.
The paper said the trial data followed the publication of more evidence of the efficacy of AZN's cardiovascular drug Brilinta when mixed with aspirin, while cancer medicine Lynparza has also had recent test success.

Opioid legal battle eroding trust in J&J

The FT on Thursday carried a large feature on Johnson & Johnson's legal battles over its role in the U.S. opioid abuse crisis and the impact on public trust in the company.
The paper said the company's reputation as a "trusted consumer and pharmaceutical brand" is under threat following a ruling by a judge in Oklahoma last month that the company needs to pay $572 million claims it fueled the crisis through its marketing practices.
The FT added that this is just the beginning of "what could be years of lawsuits".

Private equity firm PAG pays $540 million for stake in Chinese biotech

The FT on Thursday said Hong Kong-based private equity firm PAG has paid $540 million for a controlling stake in the biotech division of Chinese state-owned pharma company Hisun BioRay Biopharmaceutical.
The paper said the deal to buy a 58% stage in the company illustrates "strong investor interest" in life sciences in China.
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