Press review

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Critical shortage of key anaesthetic propofol in Germany

BERLIN, 25 Oct (APM) - Germany is experiencing critical shortages of key anaesthetic propofol, Die Welt reports on Friday (p1 and 20)
The German hospital society (DKG) told the newspaper that a prolonged failure to deliver would have "had a significant impact on the hospital supply". The supply bottleneck in some hospitals has been known since at least 14 October.
There is no real alternative to the use of propofol because it works rapidly, has a predictable recovery time and few side effects, DKG said.
B. Braun - one of the two main propofol suppliers with Fresenius - told Die Welt that there was a "limited supply capability" for certain presentations of the drug. Fresenius stated that there had been "temporary delays in delivery" but no shortage.
However, neither B Braun nor Fresenius has told the German regulatory agency BfArM about a potential shortage. The agency asked DKG for an assessment of the situation on 16 October.

Physicians oppose flu vaccinations by pharmacists planned under new bill

German doctors' associations Deutscher Hausärzteverband and KV Westfalen-Lippe have opposed plans by ruling coalition parties CDU/CSU and SPD to introduce flu vaccinations by pharmacists under the bill on 'measles vaccination', Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (FAZ) reported on Tuesday (p4).
In regional pilot programmes, payers and pharmacists associations could negotiate a framework providing pharmacists with special training to be able to vaccinate adults. If necessary, pharmacists' professional rules would be changed so pharmacists can assume doctoral tasks, FAZ said.
The provision aims to increase the percentage of flu vaccinations among the population, which lies at 10% at present. KV Westfalen-Lippe told FAZ that the present system is working well and does not require any changes.

Evotec and Aicuris at forefront of infectious disease research

Germany's Evotec and Aicuris are among the most active biotechs in the field of infectious disease and antibiotic research, Handelsblatt said on Tuesday (p22-23).
Evotec has become a major player after it signed a cooperation agreement with Sanofi involving 10 research programmes on 'superbugs', tuberculosis and new antiviral therapies. The company now has a team of 180 scientists - including 100 who joined from Sanofi.
Aicuris, which licensed its first product letermovir to Merck & Co, has recently partnered with biotech Lysando, which develops artificial proteins called artilysins, to explore new mechanisms of action.
However, research efforts from biotech as well as bigger pharma companies are being jeopardised by the low level of pricing of antibiotics, Handelsblatt said.
While development costs are similar in cancer and antibiotics, some cancer drugs cost several hundred thousand euros while antibiotic treatments are usually priced in the low four-figure range, said Aicuris chief executive Holger Zimmermann.

Biogen raises hopes in Alzheimer's research

Biogen's announcement of a future filing of aducanumab in Alzheimer's disease renewed hopes that the drug targeted amyloid plaque might work, said Handelsblatt (p21) and FAZ (p18) on Thursday.
After Biogen ended the trial in March, the company said it is planning to file in the U.S. after fresh analysis showed promise (APMPHE 64826).
Talking to Handelsblatt, Munich-based Alzheimer's researcher Christian Haas is warning against premature optimism but considers Biogen's new data could open up new perspectives.
According to analyst firm Global Data, the market for Alzheimer's drugs could grow 17.5% a year to reach €15 billion in 2026. Some analysts even forecast sales for aducanumab of over $10 billion annually, FAZ reported.

Pharma expected to maintain growth momentum

The global pharmaceutical industry is expected to grow by a higher single-digit percentage for 2019, heading for its strongest sales growth in years, Handelsblatt said on Wednesday (p29).
Two factors combine: many western pharmaceutical manufacturers continue to benefit from China's growing demand for modern medicines while many of recently approved drugs are now delivering significant and rising revenues.
However, it is still difficult to predict whether the new growth trend will actually prove to be the beginning of a long-term boom or just a flash in the pan. Patent expirations on the U.S. market are still to come for several high-revenue products, while the debate about pharmaceutical prices in the U.S. market could become explosive in the next presidential election campaign.

Novartis raises 2019 guidance

Novartis has raised its sales and profit forecast for the full year, following better-than-expected third-quarter figures, FAZ reported on Wednesday (p19) (APMHE 64820).
Adjusted for currency effects, sales rose 13% to $12.2 billion and adjusted operating income increased 18% to $3.75 billion. The biggest boost came from heart failure drug Entresto (sacubitril+valsartan) and Cosentyx (secukinumab) for psoriasis.

New round of salary negotiations starting in chemical and pharmaceutical industry

A new round of collective bargaining for the 580,000 employees in the chemical and pharmaceutical industries is starting in Germany, Handelsblatt said on Monday (p48).
Georg Müller, Germany's head of human resources at Bayer, who is leading the delegation of chemical employers' association BAVC, has already warned that it could be a "zero round".
The German chemical industry is in the midst of a downturn and sales are expected to fall 5% this year compared to 2018.

Germany lacks doctors for drug addict substitution therapy

Germany lacks doctors who are able to treat and monitor drug addicts in substitution therapy, Die Welt said on Thursday (p4).
About 14% of doctors who offer substitution take care of half of the almost 80,000 drug addicts under therapy. The situation is particularly worrying in rural areas.
The treatment of hepatitis C infections among drug addicts is also insufficient while the virus is transmitted via intravenous drug use in 80% of new diagnosis.
"We have to sensitise the medical profession to automatically test their patients for hep C and then treat them," said federal drug commissioner, Daniela Ludwig.

Digitalisation may endanger physicians' free choice in Germany

The digitalisation of the healthcare system may endanger free choice of physicians in Germany, said Handelsblatt on Tuesday (p8)
With digitalisation in the health sector, each market stakeholder will try to steer patients along an optimised path, according to the 'Future of health' survey by Roland Berger.
This will initially affect primary care, in particular, the treatment of minor but frequent complaints, which is still usually carried out by general practitioners.
In addition, tech companies entering the health market could challenge the traditional role of doctors as well as that of health insurance companies.

Opioid settlements for Teva and three distributors

Teva and three distributors have negotiated settlements for the opioid litigation with two Ohio counties for $250 million, FAZ (p18) and Süddeutsche Zeitung (SZ) (p17) reported on Tuesday (APMHE 64824).
Israel-based Teva will pay $20 million in cash over three years to the Cuyahoga and Summit counties of Ohio and provide about $25 million worth of Suboxone (buprenorphine naloxone), a treatment for opioid addiction.
The drug distributors AmerisourceBergen, Cardinal Health and McKesson will pay a total of $215 million to the same counties.

J&J recalling baby powder due to asbestos impurities

Johnson & Johnson is recalling one batch of baby powder in "an excess of prudence", SZ reported on Monday (APMHE 64802).
The U.S. group is facing class-action lawsuits over cancer risks due to asbestos impurities in its baby powder, as well as litigation related to the opioid crisis (APMHE 64857) and breast growth in men linked to its antipsychotic Risperdal (risperidone) (APMHE 64657), grouping more than 100,000 plaintiffs in total, SZ said.
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