Press review

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U.S. drug pricing looms big again ahead of election

LONDON, 20 Sep (APM) - The Financial Times on Thursday featured a long article on why prescription drugs cost more in the U.S. than anywhere else in the world.
The paper led with the story of Quinn Nystrom, a woman with diabetes who travels from the U.S. to Canada to stock up on supplies of insulin, paying a tenth of what she would at home.
The bus trip was arranged by U.S. Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders and that drug pricing is an issue for many politicians in the U.S., noting that President Donald Trump pledged to bring down the cost of subscriptions.
The article says that almost a quarter of U.S. patients have trouble affording their prescriptions and that drug prices have soared in recent years.
It also mentioned that pharma executive testified before congress last year, mentioning remarks from Merck & Co's CEO Kenneth Frazier that if the industry does not have a viable, predictable market wit would not be able to invest in R&D to discover mew treatments.
One of the major differences between the U.S. and other developed markets is the lack of an official health technology assessment (HT)A body such as England's NICE, said the FT, meaning that there is no body to negotiate prices and assess value for money.

Pharma cannot be expected to fund all malaria work out of 'goodness of its heart', says Bill Gates

Efforts to fight malaria must continue to be prioritised if targets to lower rates well below current levels are to be met by 2030, and pharma cannot be expected to fund all of the work "out of the goodness of its heart", Bill Gates said in an interview with the FT on Tuesday.
Gates was speaking ahead of the release of the Gates Foundation’s annual 'Goalkeepers' report on Tuesday, which measures progress towards the United Nation's sustainable development goals. He stressed that the world needs to move faster on tackling inequality in a range of areas.
On malaria, the goal is to lower cases to just over 10 cases per 1,000 people by 2030 down from current estimates of around 28 per 1,000, according to a graph published in the FT article - a "primary focus" of the Gates Foundation for years.
Though the goal is within reach, the key to staying on track is continue prioritising efforts to fight the disease, according to the interview.
"You cannot expect pharma, just out of the goodness of its heart or whatever, to fund all the malaria work. The malaria work will primarily have to be funded by philanthropy and governments because it’s billions of dollars, and once you get that product there is no significant profit potential to go with that," Gates said.

Purdue Pharma files for bankruptcy

OxyContin-maker Purdue Pharma's decision to file for bankruptcy amid a legal battle over its role in the U.S. opioid crisis was widely reported on Monday.
The Guardian, the FT and The Daily Telegraph all picked up the news, noting that Purdue faces more than 2,000 lawsuits, including actions from nearly all US states and many local governments, which allege Purdue falsely promoted OxyContin by downplaying the risk of addiction.
The chapter 11 bankruptcy filing, made on Sunday night in White Plains, New York, is designed to halt the lawsuits (APMHE 64368).

Purdue to face further action

The Times followed the news on Tuesday, saying U.S. politicians have vowed further legal action against Purdue Pharma.
Massachusetts has already confirmed that the state will pursue the Connecticut-based company in bankruptcy court, as well as continuing litigation in other courts.
"Out of business is exactly where Purdue Pharma belongs. But if they think they can use bankruptcy to escape accountability, after creating the worst public health crisis of our time, they are mistaken," said the Massachusetts attorney-general, Maura Healey.
"We will keep fighting to get all the facts out, make sure this company is shut down forever, and force the Sacklers to pay back the billions they pocketed breaking the law."
The Guardian followed this on Thursday saying that Purdue has warned the bankruptcy court that the Sackler family members who own the company "may be unwilling - or unable" to contribute billions toward the costs of the U.S. opioid crisis if lawsuits against them are allowed to proceed.

Drug companies seek removal of judge on landmark U.S. opioids trial

U.S. drug companies are seeking the removal of the judge set to preside over a landmark trial in which it will be claimed deceptive marketing and a lack of oversight helped fuel the opioid addiction crisis, The Guardian reported on Saturday.
The case joins together more than 2,000 lawsuits brought by towns and communities against some of the largest U.S. drug makers and sellers, including Oxycontin maker Purdue Pharma and distributors such as Cardinal Health, Walmart, Walgreens, CVS and Rite Aid.
A 39-page petition filed in the early hours of Saturday claimed that U.S. district judge Dan Polster's "unusual level of commitment" to reaching a settlement in the case had affected his decision-making, leading him to turn "a blind eye to the law".
The request comes after a series of rulings against the drug industry ahead of the trial scheduled to begin in Cleveland, Ohio, on 21 October.

Amyloid beta not right target for dementia R&D

The FT on Wednesday carried a future on the future of dementia R&D after several high-profile failures.
The paper said that "disappointment has followed a wave of optimism" that drugs that attack amyloid beta in the brain could treat the disease.
The FT spoke to Mark Mintun, vice president, pain and neurodegeneration R&D at Eli Lilly, who said: "The field was excited but multiple trials based on this hypothesis have been futile."
The article features comments from other researchers who believe that by the time a patient is experiencing symptoms like memory loss, amyloid is the wrong target.

Neil Woodford slashes stake in Circassia

High profile fund manager Neil Woodford has slashed his stake in Circassia Pharmaceuticals from almost 20% to less than 5%, said The Times on Wednesday.
Richard Griffiths, who set up Evolution Securities, has taken on most of Woodford’s holding and is now Circassia’s biggest investor, with a 28.5% stake worth about £20 million.

Ireland facing medicine shortages if there is chaotic Brexit

UK Brexit secretary Stephen Barclay has said that Ireland could face shortages of medicines and food while businesses in other EU countries would face significant disruption, according to The Times on Friday.
The paper said Barclay questioned claims by the European Commission that the EU was fully prepared for a chaotic Brexit, warning that there was a difference "between having legislation in place and operational preparedness".

Sertraline barely helps improves depression symptoms

The Daily Telegraph on Thursday covered a study showing that the most commonly prescribed antidepressant barely relieves symptoms of modern depression.
The study, published in the Lancet Psychiatry, found that patients taking sertraline experienced negligible improvements in mood.
Its authors said they were "shocked and surprised" by the results and called for the development of new classes of medication, said the paper.
However, in the absence of better drugs, they do not want current prescribing practice to be changed because the trial also showed sertraline is effective in reducing anxiety, which often accompanies depression.

Targeted cancer drugs could be effective in children

Both the Daily Telegraph and Daily Mail on Friday picked up a study by the Institute of Cancer Research (ICR) that found children with cancer are missing out on targeted treatments.
The study found that although 50% of children have cancers that would respond to these precision medicines, just 7% have access to the drugs, because they have only been tested on adults.
The Telegraph led with the angle that hundreds of children with cancer are being denied potentially lifesaving drugs because they are not included in clinical trials.
However, The Daily Mail had a more positive spin, saying that the study means there is "hope for children battling cancer".
The study looked at 91 mutations in tumours from 233 UK children. Of these, 51% had mutations which could be targeted by adult cancer drugs.
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