Press review

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No-deal Brexit will cause 'logistical nightmare' to ensure drug supply

LONDON, 13 Sep (APM) - The Daily Telegraph on Monday carried a feature on the likelihood of UK pharmacies running out of drugs, including insulin, if the UK exits without a deal on 31 October.
It featured comments from Gareth Jones, public affairs manager at the National Pharmacy Association (NPA), who said his organisation's members are already saying shortages are as bad as they have ever been, but that pharmacists have always had to deal with certain levels of shortages and have systems in place to try and mitigate the impact for patients.
Fin McCaul, who runs Prestwich Pharmacy in Manchester, told the paepr he is confident that the UK's pharmacies and other healthcare stakeholders will pull through though, even if it will take a lot of work and money.
"I suspect that if Brexit happens, we’ll have a bit of a logistical nightmare for a period of time but we will get through it. Do I see patients suffering at the end of it? Unlikely. We will always find an alternative or an alternative way of getting them what they need over the period of the change."
The paper also spoke to Novo Nordisk's Adam Burt, who said the company has been preparing for a no-deal Brexit for four years, including acquiring additional refrigerated storage space and building up 18 to 25 weeks’ supply within the UK of all of its medicines, including insulin.
The pharma company would still prefer the UK to reach a deal, however. "It would probably be remiss not to consider that a deal ... would be the most secure way of ensuring that we could get medicines to the people that need them."

Operation Yellowhammer predicts medicine supply issues in case of no-deal Brexit

The UK government's Operation Yellowhammer plan for a worst-case scenario if no Brexit deal is agreed was widely covered.
It predicts shortages of medical supplies, huge delays at the Channel crossings, disrupted fuel and food supplies and a rise in public disorder, said the Daily Telegraph.
The paper quoted BMA Council chairman Dr Chaand Nagpaul who said: "Here we see in black and white the government warning of disruption to vital medicine supplies, a higher risk of disease outbreaks due to veterinary medicine supply issues, and UK pensioners in the EU being unable to access healthcare from 1 November if there is a no-deal Brexit."
The Times said the five-page document is almost identical to one leaked to The Sunday Times last month. At the time, Michael Gove, the minister overseeing no-deal planning, claimed that it was "an old document", adding that "since it was published and circulated, the government have taken significant additional steps to ensure we are prepared to leave on October 31, deal or no-deal".

UK drug shortages caused by wholesalers withholding stock

The Mail on Sunday carried a feature that drug shortages in the UK are not being caused by Brexit issues as is commonly believed but are because drug wholesalers have been deliberately withholding stock to drive up prices.
The paper spoke to a senior source at one drug company, who said: "It is not uncommon for wholesalers to withhold supplies of medicines until the NHS agrees to pay a higher price for it. Then they suddenly have unlimited supplies. Pharmacists often complain about it."
The article noted shortages of common drugs have doubled since the end of last year. In October 2018, 45 were in short supply but today this number stands at about 100, according to health minister Seema Kennedy.

Report warns on rising prescriptions rates in England for potentially addictive drugs

A Public Health England (PHE) report on the use of potentially addictive medicines was widely picked up on Tuesday.
It found that nearly 12 million people are taking one of five drugs that can lead to dependence, including opioid painkillers, benzodiazepines for anxiety and insomnia, Z-drugs for insomnia, gabapentinoids for neuropathic pain and antidepressants (APMHE 64295).
Papers that covered the report included the Guardian, Daily Telegraph, Daily Mail and The Times, all of which covered comments from doctors that are concern about the high use of these drugs, especially when prescribed over a long period of time.
The Daily Mail said that UK ministers have ordered an inquiry into the scale of the addiction with fears of a US-style opioid crisis, with the UK at the third fastest-growing rate of opioid use.

NHS back use of drug for Batten disease ahead of court battle

Both the Daily Telegraph and Daily Mail on Wednesday said the NHS in England has agreed to fund BioMarin's Brineura as a treatment for children with Batten disease, a rare degenerative condition (APMHE 64328).
The Telegraph said the decision comes just weeks before two sets of parents of children with the condition had been due to take their fight for access to the drug to the High Court.
NICE had previously said it could not be certain the drug was value for money.
The Daily Mail said officials have now agreed a ‘fair price’ for the drug, which has a list price of around £500,000 per patient per year.

Scotland agrees access deal for Vertex's cystic fibrosis drugs

The Scottish government has agreed a deal with the Vertex for access to cystic fibrosis drugs Orkambi and Symkevi, it was reported in both the Guardian and The Times on Friday.
The papers said about 400 patients could benefit from the drugs, which will be made available for five years at an undisclosed discount.
Vertex has agreed to data being collected to show how well the drugs work in real life as opposed to clinical trials, said the Guardian.
The drug remains unavailable for routine reimbursement in England, said the papers.

UK using patient data to search for new treatments

The UK is about to start using information about millions of NHS patients’ medical histories to boost the search for new treatments, said the Guardian on Thursday.
The paper said seven new data hubs are set to "revolutionise" medical research by giving doctors, scientists and academics access to unprecedented data about who gets ill and who responds best to treatment.
The hubs are overseen by Health Data Research (HDR) UK, a non-profit-making body, independent of the government.

Antibiotics cut survival time for cancer immunotherapies

The Guardian on Friday covered a study that says taking antibiotics in the month before starting immunotherapy dramatically reduces a cancer patient’s chances of survival.
The study by Imperial College London looked at nearly 200 cancer patients in two NHS hospitals. It found that patients who had taken broad-spectrum antibiotics for just a few days for common problems such as chest infections survived for a median of two months after immunotherapy, compared with 26 months for those who had not been on antibiotics.

UK identifies new superbugs resistant to treatment

Public Health England has identified the 19 new forms of potentially deadly superbugs in the UK that are resistant to conventional antibiotic treatment methods, both The Times and Daily Telegraph said on Wednesday.
In each of the cases, doctors were able to save patients’ lives by using either unlicensed drugs, an experimental combination of existing medicines, or extra-high doses to fight the bacteria, said The Times.
PHE warned that unless healthcare system tackle growing levels of resistance is addressed, the situation could become far worse.

UK venture capital fund raised $50 million to invest in advanced therapies

London-based venture capital firm 4Bio Capital has raised the first $50 million for a new $150 million fund to invest in advanced therapies, the FT said on Monday.
The paper said the fund is expected to start investing next month and that the full $150 million will be reached next year.

Purdue reaches tentative agreement to settle opioid marketing claims

Purdue Pharma's tentative $12 billion settlement over the role it played in the U.S. opioid addiction crisis was widely covered on Thursday (APMHE 64331).
Lawyers representing more than 2,000 cities, counties and other plaintiffs suing Purdue, along with 23 states and three US territories, were said last night to be on board with an offer from the company and members of the Sackler family, said The Times.
The story was also picked up by the Guardian, The Daily Telegraph and the FT.

Uncertainty over opioid payouts as Purdue expected to file for bankruptcy

Earlier in the week, The Observer on Sunday had reported that settlement talks had broken down between Oxycontin maker Purdue Pharma and U.S. states suing the company for its role in the country's opioid crisis, meaning a potential payout is now "clouded in uncertainty".
Nearly every state and about 2,000 local governments have sued companies in the drug industry over the toll of opioids, which have been linked to more than 400,000 deaths in the U.S. over the last two decades, said the paper.
Two state attorneys general leading settlement negotiations with the company, the Tennessee Republican Herbert Slatery and North Carolina Democrat Josh Stein sent an email to their colleagues saying talks were at an impasse and that they "expect Purdue to file for bankruptcy protection imminently".
Bankruptcy would mark a major shift in the multi-district litigation, said the paper.
The Guardian on Monday followed this with comments from Dr Andrew Kolodny, founder and executive director of Physicians for Responsible Opioid Prescribing, who said that no-deal was better than a bad deal as the proposed settlement would have left Purdue Pharma profiting from future sales of Oxycontin.

Amgen's ambitions to target KRAS mutation

The FT on Monday featured an analysis of Amgen's work on developing cancer drugs that target the KRAS mutation, saying it is present in about 13% of lung cancers and in many colon cancers.
The paper said that sales for a first product on the market in this area could peak at $2 billion, citing analyst Citi.
Amgen provided data on the drug at the weekend, reporting that it shrunk the tumours of about half of the lung cancer patients it was tested on, although this was slightly below expectations, causing shares to open 3% down on Monday.
The FT said Amgen has several rivals working in the space, including Mirati Therapeutics, a small biotech that has seen shares grow 1,663% over two years.

GSK and AZN shares hit by moves in U.S. to tackle drug prices

The Daily Telegraph on Monday said healthcare stockers were the worst performers on the FTSE 100 that day, with both AstraZeneca and GlaxoSmithKline impacted by reports that U.S. politicians are cracking down on drug prices.
The paper said that Nancy Pelosi, house speaker, is preparing to unveil drug pricing legislation "as early as this week".
AZN shares fell 3.5% and GSK shares were down 2.1%.
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