Press review

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High prices of new cancer drugs do not match high efficacy

PARIS, 4 Oct (APM) - The monthly prices of new cancer drugs are almost twice those of their reference medicines, but they are far from being twice as effective, according to data presented at the European Society for Medical Oncology (ESMO), reported Le Figaro on Monday (p.11).
The average monthly price of new cancer drugs is €4,616 compared with €2,314 for reference drugs. However the former only improves life expectancy by 35% and quality of life by 10%.
Health economist Patricia Marino said in her presentation that not all new cancer drugs were breakthroughs. However, she added, this does not mean they are not useful for certain patients, for example, those who cannot tolerate reference treatments.
But she believed it is time for doctors and patients to stop thinking something was a lot better just because it was new.

Former Servier number two denies harm caused by Mediator was intentional

The former number two at Servier Jean-Philippe Seta denied that the harm caused by Servier's drug Mediator (benfluorex) was intentional, as the trial on the responsibility of the pharma and France's drug regulator ANSM continued this week, reported L'Humanité on Wednesday (p.14).
While Seta cried about the harm unintentionally done to patients and their families, ANSM head Dominique Martin, who was not in charge at the time of the scandal but is representing the regulator in court, said ANSM was not going to ask for acquittal, adding that Mediator's marketing authorisation should have been suspended a lot earlier than 2009.
Representatives from France's social affairs inspectorate, Igas, gave evidence in the trial, stating that the information in favour of Mediator was weak from the start, that it was incomprehensible that it was withdrawn from the market in 1999 and that the old system heavily favoured pharma companies.
Le Monde also reported on the ongoing trial on Thursday (p.13), as did Libération on Friday (pp.18-19).

New boss, new style for Sanofi

The arrival of new chief executive Paul Hudson on 1 September has already had an impact on how Sanofi operates, reported Les Echos on Wednesday (p.18).
Hudson is already seen as being more open to communication, saying in a press conference on Tuesday that he listens a lot and he does not take himself seriously.
He told reporters that his first job is to establish the group's priorities and ensure that the resources to support and set them up are there. He added that there were opportunities across all of the sectors in which Sanofi is present, but that a choice to concentrate on some of them needed to be made.
Hudson was positive enough about Sanofi's R&D but added that the group must do better in finding drugs that could change medicine. By that, the economic daily continued, he means finding blockbusters such as Dupixent (dupilumab).
Hudson also believes Sanofi should focus more on the digital sector and what the company can do with it to increases patient adherence and treatment efficacy.
Le Figaro also reported on the topic on Wednesday (p.21).

Novartis signs AI agreement with Microsoft

Novartis has signed an artificial intelligence (AI) agreement with Novartis, with the aim of reinventing medicine through AI, reported Le Figaro on Wednesday (p.31).
The company is planning to use AI in various different ways, the paper continued, firstly to analyse the data it has collected new drugs and find new ways for the its employees to use the data. It also planning to use AI to make its drugs more effective, by making them more personalised.
However, Novartis also sees AI as playing a role in diagnostics, using deep learning to develop algorithms to recognise cancer lesions and differentiate between different types of tissue.

Trial to evaluate impact of immunology drugs in elderly

A clinical trial evaluating the impact of immunology drugs in people over the age of 70 has just started, reported La Croix on Monday (p.7).
Even though 62% of cancer cases in France affect those over the age of 65, they are often excluded from clinical trials, with no trials to date having involved elderly patients.
The explanation for this is simple; pharma companies want to get the best results possible for the drugs, so they are more likely to be approved and elderly patients are more likely to have additional health problems such as kidney or liver issues which will affect how the drugs work.
However, this is exactly why trials in the elderly need to be carried out, continued the paper, so doctors know whether they should alter the dose of the drug to avoid unbearable toxicity.

PARP-inhibitors attract attention at ESMO

The new class of cancer drugs PARP-inhibitors attracted a lot of attention at the European Society for Medical Oncology (ESMO), reported Les Echos on Tuesday (p.22).
AstraZeneca's Lynparza (olaparib) is already used as a treatment for ovarian cancer and in June showed promise in some pancreatic cancers, while it could soon be marketed for prostate cancer, following Phase III results presented on Monday.
For ovarian cancer alone, the PARP inhibitor market was estimated to be worth $888 million in 2018 and is predicted to reach $5.2 billion by 2025.
AstraZeneca is not the only pharma hoping to take part of the market, with GlaxoSmithKline, AbbVie and Pfizer also investigating the potential impacts of their own drugs: Zejula (niraparib), veliparib and Talzenna (talazoparib).

Blockchain could revolutionise drug research

Blockchain could revolutionise drug research by guaranteeing the reliability of drug research data, reported Le Figaro in its Le Big Bang Sante supplement on Tuesday (p.33).
Blockchain means that instead of drug research data being held by just one stakeholder and therefore open to the possibility of being hacked to speed up a drug's launch on the market, they would be held centrally by several stakeholders. If any change is made to the blockchain-held data, all stakeholders would be told about it.
As a result, data can be confirmed to be reliable a lot more easily. Although blockchain is not yet used in the health sector in France, it is used by patients in Estonia to identity which doctors they can consult.

Paracetamol only available behind pharmacy counter

France's drugs' regulator ANSM has ruled that paracetamol, ibuprofen and aspirin will soon only be available in the country behind the pharmacy counter, reported Le Figaro on Thursday (p.11).
According to head of pain medication at ANSM, Philippe Vella, these drugs are the most consumed in France and are effective and safe when they are used correctly. However they can be dangerous if used incorrectly.
Velle hopes that by moving these drugs behind the pharmacist counter, patients will be reminded that they are not harmless and curtail their use of them.
Les Echos (p.22), La Croix (p.6) and Libération (p.17) also report on the topic on Friday.
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