Press review

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AstraZeneca's R&D shakeup pays off

Country : China, France, Spain, Switzerland, U.S., UK

Keywords :
PARIS, 6 Sept (APM) - AstraZeneca's R&D shakeup - launched by chief executive Pascal Soriot five years ago - is paying off, reported Le Figaro on Wednesday (p.23).
The UK pharma giant reported sales of $22.1 billion in 2018, a year which saw growth in four consecutive quarters - the first time since 2014.
It came after the company refocused its R&D on three major therapeutic areas; oncology, cardio-vascular diseases and kidney, metabolic and respiratory diseases. AstraZeneca is quickly making up ground after a long period in ''the desert'', unable to launch a blockbuster that would replicate the sales of its previous key product Crestor (rosuvastatin), the newspaper reported.
However, Farxiga (dapagliflozin), whose clinical results for heart failure presented Sunday night at the European Society of Cardiology (ESC) congress in Paris drew rounds of applause, is one of five drugs that could become a blockbuster this year. Analysts predict that it could have sales of $2.6 billion by 2023, especially in China where AstraZeneca has just dethroned Pfizer as market leader.
Moreover, AstraZeneca has other growth drivers in its pipeline, including diagnostic blood tests, and a breast cancer drug resulting from a $7 billion 50-50 partnership with Daiichi Sankyo.

Sanofi welcomes first non-French CEO

Sanofi's first non-French chief executive Paul Hudson took over from Olivier Brandicourt on Sunday 1 September, reported Les Echos on Monday (p.21) (APMHE 64214).
The former head of Novartis pharmaceuticals has his work cut out for him, the economic daily continued. French pharma Sanofi needs to reorganise to become a truly international company and needs to find growth drivers for its pipeline. The latter means the pharma will need to invest in other therapeutic areas apart from diabetes, rare disease, inflammatory diseases and vaccines where it is already present.
The paper added that Sanofi needs to sign agreements with other stakeholders, noting that no pharma group can operate in today's market alone.
Brandicourt had some successes during his tenure, the paper noted, with the sale of Sanofi's veterinary division to Boehringer Ingelheim. He also mitigated the loss of patents for Sanofi's key diabetes product Lantus (insulin glargine) which had previously represented 20% of the group's sales.
However, his attempts with the group's pipeline have not been as successful. Zynquista (sotagliflozin), which was developed under a joint collaboration with biotech Lexicon as a replacement for Lantus, was dropped following disappointing Phase III results, it noted. Sanofi is also still facing the fall-out from issues associated with Dengvaxia, its dengue fever vaccine, which has been accused of causing deaths in the Philippines.
Le Figaro also reported on the story on Monday (p.26), Le Monde covered it on Tuesday (p.12), and La Croix reported it on Wednesday (p.12).
Le Figaro reported on Wednesday (p.25) that Sanofi's share price on France's CAC 40 increased by 1.91% to reach €81, its highest in two years.

Novartis' investment in AI means it can follow clinical trials in real time

Novartis' substantial investment in its artificial intelligence (AI) project 'Sense Bridge' means it can follow the real time development of 550 clinical trials involving more 80,000 people across 70 countries from its headquarters in Switzerland, reports Les Echos on Friday (p.23).
By following these data in real time, Novartis can anticipate delays and react in real time. It also means the company can save time in getting a drug to market - particular valuable when said drug is a potential blockbuster, capable of generating up to $3 million a day, pointed out project head Luca Finelli.
Sense Bridge is just one of the ways Novartis is making use of the rise in digital technology since the arrival of chief executive Vas Narasimhan in 2018. In addition to Sense Bridge, Novartis has set a digital programme called Data 42, which is looking to enhance data from clinical trials carried out in the past 20 years.

Pharma industry set to do well on stock market - investment analyst

The pharma industry is likely to do well on the stock market in both the long and short term, said Ken Fisher in L'Opinion (p.9) on Thursday.
The U.S. investment analyst pointed out that over the past three years shares in the pharma industry have grown twice as fast as global shares (79% compared to 30.7%) and the trend is likely to continue.
Fisher pointed out the increase in life expectancy in both developed and developing countries, and the accompanying increase in age-related diseases, such as cancer and dementia, as one of the major drivers for growth in this sector.

FarmaQuimica Sur drug mix up causes werewolf syndrome in Spanish infants

A mix up with a FarmaQuimica drug intended for gastric reflux in children saw infants across Spain develop so-called werewolf syndrome - hypertrichosis - reported Le Parisien in a brief on Monday (p.15).
A packaging mix up meant children were giving minoxidil, used to treat hair loss, instead of omeprazole.

Call for post of European Commissioner of health to be retained

French think tank Santé mondiale 2030 called for the post of European Commissioner for health to be retained in a Wednesday opinion piece in the Science and Médecine supplement of newspaper Le Monde (p.7) (APMHE 64248).
The think tank argued that the commissioner is vital for the health of Europeans, pointing out that although each member state is responsible for implementing its own healthcare and services, there are some issues, such as harmonising legalisation and promoting the fights against obesity and tobacco, that require a European co-ordinated response.
There are currently 28 commissioners within the European Commission (EC) - one for each member state. However, logic dictates that after Brexit - set to happen on 31 October at time of publication - that this number will drop to 27.
The think tank fears that the role of health commissioner will be dropped, as it is already criticised by some players.
The think tank argued that the most important reason the post must be maintained is to counter the pharma lobby ''which has never been as powerful as it is today'' and that the health commissioner post is vital to ensure the interests of private individuals never take over those of public health.
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